So, as a last resort, they wake Jesus, their Teacher and Lord. "Master, Master" they cry out, "we're going to perish!" (Luke 8:24 — literal translation) — Luke says they said it twice. And they use a special word to call to Jesus, "Master" (epistata), that shows they are absolutely dependent upon him and his power. They can't kneel at his feet because of the churning of the waves, but they do so verbally, begging for help because the circumstances are beyond their ability to manage, much less control!
And Jesus acts. But the Lord's actions are very simple, as if the situation is no big deal and that everything really is under his control. "Chill!" is basically what Jesus says to the wind and the waves. "Chill out you storm, take a chill pill you waves, be calm, be chill." And just like that, the winds and the waves were... calm, peaceful, chill.
Whoa! These experienced sailors are shocked… blown away, but not by the wind, but by the One who can control the wind and waves with just a word. So they looked at each other, terrified to realize who is in the boat with them. They realize that the One they've admired all this time is this powerful. "Who is this?" they ask among themselves (Luke 8:25).
This question, along with the question of Jesus' critics, "Who does this guy think He is? He has the audacity to claim the authority to forgive sins?" (Luke 7:49 The Voice) and John the baptizer's question, "Are You the Promised One, or shall we keep looking for someone else?" (Luke 7:19 The Voice) help us focus on the truth Luke wants us to see in three consecutive events in Jesus' ministry — the stilling of the storm (Luke 8:22-25), the episode with the demon possessed man (Luke 8:26-39), and the two events in one with the raising of Jairus' daughter wrapped around the woman with a bleeding problem (Luke 8:30-56).
Together, these three events form a powerful declaration that Jesus is God, the One who has power over:
- The Deep — what we fear about nature when it turns powerful and violent.
- The Demonic — what we fear from Satan and his minions (Ephesians 6:12).
- The harm of Diseases — the afflictions that keep our prayer lists long and hearts troubled.
- The finality of Death — the big one that breaks our hearts and makes us hurt and leaves us lonely.
Only God has power to help with these problems!
Only God can control those powers!
And this is precisely what Luke wants us to realize. Jesus is God visiting and caring for us in human flesh (Luke 7:16).
So the question then is, how do we respond to this Jesus? And, how do we access his power? And, how are we supposed to react as his disciples, his true followers, to Jesus with these powers?
We can answer that in any of the three events that follow, but we will focus on only one here and encourage you to look deeper at the other two on your own.
Look at the next episode in Jesus' ministry (Luke 8:26-39 — Read below from The Voice translation which is particularly good here.). We meet a man we normally call "Legion," or as The Voice puts it, "Battalion. He says this because an army of demons is inside him." Battalion shows us what to do with Jesus:
- Fall at the feet of Jesus with our needs, fears, and worries.
- Fall at the feet of Jesus in surrender to learn from Him as their teacher and Lord and then go do what he says to us.
Here's the key: the first "fall at the feet of Jesus" is necessary or the second comes up shallow. We recognize that Jesus is LORD and how deeply we need him! However, this has to be more than words to a song or a Christian slogan or bumper sticker! We have to realize that without Him, we're doomed, we're a mess, we've got no hope, and we're left alone with the Deep, the Demonic, the Diseases, and the certainty of Death.
What the Holy Spirit is trying to help us see is that Jesus isn't something we add on to in an array of important things or someone we try to work into our busy and crowded schedules. Jesus comes first or our schedules and efforts and plans will eventually come unglued and our lives become a mess because of forces we cannot control — nature, evil, illness, and life's end.
Until one of these intrudes, we often want to try and live life on our own terms. We think we can manage life just fine on our own. Problem is, the big four are always waiting and lurking, looking for the next moment they can intrude and blow our lives apart:
- Broken nature — the Deep — can last out at any time.
- Evil — the Demonic — is always stalking us us like a hungry lion.
- Physical afflictions — Diseases — are always nearby us and sometimes within us.
- Life's end — Death — is always waiting for us.
So what's our only solution? We passionately pursue Jesus. We throw ourselves at His feet — not just the first time in need, but also the second time in surrendered commitment. We throw ourselves at his feet to learn from Him — like the possessed man formerly known as Legion or Battalion did. And we throw ourselves at Jesus' feet to live for Him — we call that obedience and discipleship, and it's not going to church and claiming we're Christian.
Other folks aren't going to get it. They won't understand. In fact, they are likely afraid, so they are critical of our surrender and ridicule our following Jesus (Luke 8:37). "Normal" folks don't get it — they are afraid because they can't fit it into their normal experience and more than anything, they want to keep living their normal lives. The sovereign power of Jesus is scary to them because of what it might cost them and what it might call them to change.
So here's why this matters and why it matters a lot!
First, what you see with Battalion, Satan wants to do with each of us. The evil one wants to isolate us from others who could help us, empower us to be out of control for anything good, put us on the brink of death, and make us self-destructive (Luke 8:27-29).
In churchland, we are tempted to make church an extracurricular activity that makes us socially acceptable. We don't often think of where we would be without Jesus because it is easy to substitute going to church and being busy with church for true surrender to Jesus.
Why Jesus matters, why the gospel matters, why the Kingdom of God matters, has to do with what Satan wants to do with each of us. Now, of course, most of us don't look like Battalion on the surface, because if the evil one can get us playing church, he's got his hooks in us and then he has all eternity to play with us just as he did with Battalion! So Satan is happy with us to play churchland as long as it never really becomes The Lord's Land — until we truly surrender to Jesus.
Second, somewhere in the middle of our mess, no matter what has a grip on us — the storm, the addictive power of evil, the disease within us, or the pain of impending death — we can come to Jesus and throw ourselves at his feet. No matter how strong a grip Satan has on us, somewhere in the middle of all that is uncontrollable, we can reach out through the confusion and danger and fear, and fall at the feet of Jesus like Battalion did (Luke 8:28). Even though the battalion of demons has a hold on him and has deceived him into thinking Jesus was going to hurt him, this child of God reaches through the power of evil and Satanic distortions to fall at the feet of Jesus!
I'm guessing that is exactly what some who are reading this today desperately need to do. There are all sorts of powers pulling at you saying, "You're a Christian and you do the church thing, don't get so worked up." Or, "You don't want folks to know about your bad stuff! What will other people think about your bad stuff?" Like Battalion's "friends," they've grown accustomed to you the way you are and are not really interested in helping you out of the bad stuff if it means something changes and it threatens their normalcy. But you, just like Battalion, have the power to break the grip of these delusions, these distortions that Satan has been using, and break free to come and fall at the feet of Jesus, asking him to save you from the bad stuff!
Then there is this last piece. This final piece often gets neglected because we call people to a shallow version of salvation and not surrender, to a shallow version of salvation and not repentance, to a shallow version of salvation and not the Kingdom reign of God in their heart. But there is no salvation without surrender and repentance and Kingdom. So we end up just treading water with a lot of Jesus talk until the big bad four — The Deep, Demonic, Diseases, and Death — come back and take us down again.
So notice this final piece. When all is said and done, where do you find the guy formerly known as Battalion at the end of the story?
He is a disciple sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 8:35). He is ready to listen, learn, follow, and obey — and that is exactly what he does (Luke 8:39).
Luke 8:26-39 from The Voice translation.
When they get to the other side of the lake, in the Gerasene country opposite Galilee, a man from the city is waiting for Jesus when He steps out of the boat. The man is full of demonic spirits. He's been running around for a long time stark naked, and he's homeless, sleeping among the dead in a cemetery. This man has on many occasions been tied up and chained and kept under guard, but each time he has broken free and the demonic power has driven him back into remote places away from human contact. Jesus commands the demonic force to leave him. The man looks at Jesus and starts screaming. He falls down in front of Jesus.
Possessed Man (shouting): Don't torment me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! Why are You here?
Jesus (calmly and simply): What's your name?
Possessed Man: Battalion.
He says this because an army of demons is inside of him. The demons start begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit. They plead instead to enter into a herd of pigs feeding on a steep hillside near the shore. Jesus gives them permission to do so. Suddenly the man is liberated from the demons, but the pigs — they stampede, squealing down the hill and into the lake where they drown themselves.
The pig owners see all this. They run back to their town and tell everyone in the region about it. Soon a crowd rushes from the town to see what's going on out by the lake. There they find Jesus seated to teach with the newly liberated man sitting at His feet learning in the posture of a disciple. This former madman is now properly dressed and completely sane. This frightens the people. The pig owners tell them the whole story — the healing, the pigs' mass suicide, everything.
The people are scared to death, and they don't want this scary abnormality happening in their territory. They ask Jesus to leave immediately. Jesus doesn't argue. He prepares to leave, but before they embark, the newly liberated man begs to come along and join the band of disciples.
Jesus: No. Go home. Tell your people this amazing story about how much God has done for you.
The man does so. In fact, he tells everyone in the whole city how much Jesus did for him that day on the shore.