Facing Disappointment with Courage: Luke 8:26-39

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In our last episode, we ran out of time before covering all I wanted to cover, so this episode will pick back up where the last one left off. We were looking at the miracle where Jesus heals the man who had a “legion” of demons in him, and who was living outside of society on the far side of a lake.

Let’s read the whole event and miracle first to give us context, then focus in on what we didn’t have time for in our previous episode. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 26, Luke tells us that:

26 [Jesus and His disciples] sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

In our previous episode, we focused on how Jesus made this trip for one particular person. He arrived on shore in a place where only one person lived, and here at the end of the passage, the people from that region ask Jesus to leave, so Jesus leaves. On the surface, this trip might look like a failure, since only one person was healed – and Jesus doesn’t even let that person join the ranks of followers before being asked to leave. This was at least partially because Jesus allowed the demons to kill the pigs. However, Jesus simply allowed the demons to enter the pigs, Jesus didn’t tell the demons to run the pigs off the cliff.

We then might ask the question, why let the demons enter and kill the pigs. Jesus could have cast them out without letting them possess anything else. While I don’t know all of God’s reasons, one likely reason in my mind was to alert those in town to Jesus’ presence. A miracle like this would definitely turn heads, and it would cause those present to discover the crazy guy they feared was now sane and healed – and that Jesus was the source of that healing. A miracle like this could have prompted those in the area to have faith in Jesus’ God-given miraculous ability and bring all the sick and hurting people to get help. Instead, those who owned the pigs only saw Jesus as someone who was to be feared more than the formerly-demon-possessed man and they ask Jesus to leave.

This event appears to be a failure on many levels. Jesus was only able to heal one person before being asked to leave. Those in the region lost a herd of pigs. Those in the region also missed out on the opportunity of receiving more of God’s help through Jesus. And the man Jesus healed wasn’t allowed to follow Jesus.

However, while we might consider this entire event a failure, Jesus had something else in mind, and this other thing was not what those who were fearful expected. Jesus had just healed and commissioned one of His greatest evangelists. While Luke concludes this passage by saying that “the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him,” Mark’s gospel shares a little more detail.

In Mark, chapter 5, verse 20, Mark concludes this miracle and event by saying, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” The name Decapolis means the Ten Cities, so while those in Gerasenes did not accept Jesus because of this miracle, the man was from a very populated area. In one of the next places the gospel writers mentions the Decapolis, we discover a unique miracle that takes place – which is the focus of one of our future episodes.

The miracle of the healed demoniac is an amazing miracle. While those who owned the pigs felt that their loss was greater than the healing of an outcast, in the big picture, the healing of this man represented so much more in the eyes of God.

In this miracle, and in all the disappointment that happened, we discover that in our own lives, things don’t always go as planned, and sometimes, we don’t get what we want or ask for. However, just because we experience failure, disappointment, or a “no” answer to prayer doesn’t mean that God dislikes us. All it means is that God’s plan is bigger than we realize, and that He is working in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine.

While the man experiences disappointment because Jesus didn’t let him join the group of disciples, we discover that this man became a much better evangelist sharing what Jesus had already done for him. In our own lives, when we receive disappointment, we can trust that God has something bigger in mind, and that when we look back on our lives, while some things might not make sense, and while we will have experienced plenty of disappointments, we will likely agree that God’s plan was better than ours.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and trust Him with the path He wants you to walk through life. If we experience disappointment because God has closed a door, trust that the time isn’t right, that there is a better door further down the path, or that we have something more we need to do, learn, or help with where we are at right now. Let’s trust God with our disappointments, and trust that His big picture plans are better than our limited perspective.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow personally towards God. Let God teach you through the Bible and use the Bible as your filter for life. While other people can give you ideas to think about, always filter what you learn through what the Bible teaches to know whether it aligns with God’s truth.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 19: After healing a man who was possessed by a legion of demons, Jesus does not let him join the group of disciples. Instead, Jesus has a different task for this man. Discover how this man pushes past his disappointment and into the plan God had for his restored life.

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