DANCING, RUNNING, AND WALKING
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 17, 2017
26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. 34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
— Luke 8:26-39, ESV
Which is harder, dancing, running, or walking? You’d likely answer in that order, since so few of us can dance, most of us can run if we have to, and almost all of us can walk. But what if I told you that all three are easy at first, until they become complicated and considerably harder over time.
If you’re confused, I don’t blame you. So was this guy from the Gerasenes. He started a dance with the devil, and downhill it ran. It ran so fast that a pack of pigs were pushed off a cliff. Then, the man was left with only Jesus, holding out His mighty hand and offering to take him on the walk of a lifetime. He was eager to go with Jesus, but walks with the Lord can get complicated and difficult, too. Let’s take a good look at all of these steps and missteps in the order in which they occurred.
Dancing with the Devil
The Baptists I grew up with thought all dancing was of the devil. They’d be right in this case. This man started a simple two-step with one devil and then a “legion” of them cut in. A legion in the days of the Roman Empire consisted of six thousand men. That’s a boatload of trouble, and the sight of the possessed man must have made the windstorm that had just passed seem like a summer breeze. How the possessed man got this way we are not certain, but I would wager he did not put himself into this predicament overnight.
The devil doesn’t look scary at first. Paul wrote, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (ref. 2 Corinthians 11:14). He comes on like a blond-haired, blue-eyed dance partner. The dance may be sexual, maybe drug related, or can be any number of other things that are very tempting but forbidden by the word of God. It seems easy in the beginning, even exciting, making you feel like a real winner. Then the losses begin to pile up.
This man lost his clothes, his home, his voice, his health, his mind, all taken by demons who had taken up residence in him. Not all homeless and mentally ill people are demon-possessed, and not all demon-possessed people are homeless and mentally ill. But this man was both. Harder still was his lost reputation and respect, lost money and means of making a living, lost family and friends. Overall I’d say he was a deeply lost soul, all over his flirtation with Satan and sin. I know it is an old cliche, but sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
It all started with a little dance with the devil. It was all so easy, until it the hardship became unbearable. There is little doubt that had not Jesus passed by, the man would have died in this dreadful condition. But the Lord sailed through a storm to get to him, and that’s when his dance with the devil turned into a running of the pigs.
Running with the Pigs
Hogs are sacred in Arkansas, but not so much around the rest of the world, even though everybody loves bacon. The Old Covenant considered swine unclean, of course, so Jewish sensibility thumbed its nose and never called the hogs. The ancient region of Gadara must have been Gentile territory, for it housed a very large pig farm. This man and his devils got knee-deep in their mud and muck.
Now I’m for giving the devil and demons their due, for they are extremely intelligent and powerful beings. But their power pales in comparison with our great God and sovereign Savior, Jesus Christ. Satan lives on a chain held by the hand of God, and he can only go as far as the Lord allows. With this poor man, Jesus drew a line in the mud. Our Lord commanded the devils to leave. They had no choice, but they did make one request of God. “They begged Him to let them enter these [pigs].”
The legion knew they could not stay in the man after being exorcised by Jesus. They doubted the Lord would allow them to enter any other person in His presence. So they took the easy way out, or so they thought, until the pack of pigs ran and leapt over a cliff to their demise. I don’t believe demons die, so they lived to fight another day. But what seemed like an easy getaway fell onto hard times, literally, even for the devils.
There was an even more significant tragedy in the aftermath of the “hog”-icide. It was the easy decision made by the hard hearts of the pig farmers. Instead of being joyful about the deliverance of the demon-possesses man, they were upset about the destruction of their pigs. Instead of wanting to see more of Christ’s power and hear more about the good news of God’s deliverance, they had the audacity to ask Jesus to leave. It would be easier, they thought, to hang on to their profits if Jesus did not hang around. Our Lord, being the perfect gentleman, granted their request. Jesus got back in the boat and got out of Dodge, ostensibly never to pass that way again.
Beware of the hard, reprobate heart. When truth comes knocking on your door, when Christ appears through the preaching of the word of God or the witness of a Christian friend, and you send Him away, God may never, ever come back. He certainly does not have to return. He didn’t even have to show up in the first place. And every easy rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ makes the next presentation harder to accept.
Walking with Jesus
Now comes the totally easy and absolutely hard part. It is not dancing, not running, but walking with the Lord. It is easy at first, for it is all of God and all of grace. But then tough decisions and hard work are required.
Look at what this man brought to the table. He was naked on the outside, possessed by devils on the inside, wholly lost in sin and degradation. He was alienated from God and man until the man of God, the Son of God, God incarnate, came to his rescue. The man probably intended to roll Jesus and His disciples and rob them of whatever they had on the boat, but Jesus rocked his world and took some things from him instead.
Jesus took his devils and cast them out. Jesus took his troubled mind and gave him peace. Jesus took his many sins and carried them away, all the way to the cross. The one thing Jesus would not do is take him in the boat when He left, in spite of the man’s earnest plea. Getting saved is easy, for God does all the work. But being a disciple is hard.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you cannot go where you want to go, you must go where God calls you to go. This man wanted to go with Jesus. Jesus told him to go back home, face the people he had hurt, beg their forgiveness, and offer them the forgiveness that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When the Lord saved me and called me to be a pastor-teacher, all I wanted to do was go home. But the Lord told me to leave home and go to other cities and other churches. Grace is easy, faith is a gift, but being a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ requires commitment that often comes with discomfort. Having Jesus as the eternal Lord of your life, however, is worth infinitely more that the fleeting sacrifices a true follower of Jesus makes on earth.
So what do you want to do? Do you want to dance, run, or walk? Any one of them seem easy at first, but the hard part will come. When it does, do you want to be dancing with the devil, running with the pigs, or walking with the Lord Jesus Christ?
Copyright © 2017 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org