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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
 
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:Return Home and Tell How Much God Has Done For You
Text:Luke 8:38-39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2003-04-05
Added:2003-11-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 134.
Psalm 130:2.
Read: Luke 8:22-39
Psalm 145:1.
Text: Luke 8:38-39
Psalm 145:2,3.
Psalm 145:4,5.
Hymn 60.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

More than others, Christians say that they have a purpose in life. The overall purpose of life is to glorify God. We glorify God by believing in Jesus Christ his Son, repenting of our sins, and obeying God's commands. But what are his commands for each of us?

Reformed Christians know that they must serve God with honesty and hard work in their daily calling (Eph. 4:28; 2Thess. 3). They know that the minister has to dedicate his whole life to biblical study and prayer and preaching and teaching. But they are not so sure what God wants from them in this respect. Do they just pay the minister to do the gospel work or are they more fully part of it too?

Basically, the question is this: Does God command every Christian to actively evangelize? Recently the senior catechism class here was assigned some fourteen different texts. Each text had something to say about spreading the gospel, about acknowledging Christ before others, about giving an answer to anyone who asks about your hope, about preaching the word, and so on. The students had to answer whether the texts contained a description of something or a command to do something. They also had to evaluate whether the text applied to all Christians, or only the minister and elders, or maybe only the people who first received the words long ago. This was a very valuable exercise in the proper interpretation of Scripture and in identifying God's purposes for Christians in general.

In every case the students did draw a line from the text to the present day, and to all believers in general. Our text this morning was one of the assigned texts. The text contains a simple description of the response of a man to Jesus who had healed him. Jesus then issues a command to the man and he obeys. At first sight the text has little to do with us, but the more time I spent understanding the situation of the text, the more I realized it does have a message that applies to us quite directly. Let us submit our hearts and lives to this message, which I will preach under this theme:

Christ commands us to relate God's work in us, as a testimony to all:

1. Our desire;

2. His command;

3. Our mission.

1. Our Desire:

We must begin by examining in more detail the circumstances of what happened in our text. A man from whom Jesus had cast out many demons kept asking Jesus if he could go with him. This happened when the people of the Gerasenes had asked Jesus to leave their area. They were afraid of him after he had cast out the many demons from a man and let those demons go into the pigs who were grazing nearby.

The man that sat before Jesus had suffered greatly because a host of demons had been living within him. These demons had made him a homeless man. He lived among the dead, by the tombs. He ran around naked and did not care for himself. He cut himself with stones and lived worse than an animal. The man was constantly muttering, or yelling and screaming. He did not know what to do with himself. When people came near, he ran at them and scared them away. That way he could be all alone in his troubles. The poor man was tormented by these demons.

This man had been somewhere near the shore of the sea of Galilee, on the east side, when Jesus and the disciples rowed up to the shore after a storm. In his tormented mind he saw more people coming to disturb him and he ran toward them like a madman. The Lord Jesus saw what was coming to confront him and his disciples and he commanded, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" The man probably ran, flailing his arms and shouting to scare them, as he would have with others. This would have moved Jesus to pity and caused him to say, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" It was obvious to everyone that something was dreadfully wrong with the poor man.

The demons were terrified of Jesus. When the man speaks, he is speaking for them, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" The demons further explain through the man, that they are many and they repeatedly begged Jesus not to be sent into the Abyss. That is, they do not want him to send them to hell yet. Let us go into the pigs, they declare. Jesus lets them. In this way the men caring for the pigs could see the power of evil in these demons. They immediately sent the pigs to their death. Perhaps that was also the end of the demons.

Because they destroyed the pigs, the demons succeeded in turning the people of that region against Jesus. The people came and asked him to leave. They were afraid. Instead of rejoicing at the recovery of the demon-possessed man, they count their pigs to be more important. In this way they fail the test that Jesus puts before them.

In all his mercy and compassion he had healed this man. He let the villagers know how great the power of evil among them had been. It killed their pigs. And it seems like he did send the demons to the Abyss, for the watery grave of the pigs was an Abyss in itself, a picture of the hole of hell. Instead of asking him to leave, they should have asked him to remain, to protect them from the evil one. One of their countrymen was sitting there in his right mind. They should have been so thankful.

But in this context it becomes more understandable that the healed man begged Jesus to go with him. The way the word is in Greek, you could say that he kept on begging Jesus. He didn't just ask once. He really wanted to go with Jesus. He asked with earnest desire. Please! Little wonder, for his own countrymen did not appear to appreciate what had happened to him. They simply ask Jesus to leave. The man gets the message. Their pigs mean more to them than he does. He would rather stay with Jesus, who has treated him with utmost dignity and love, who has healed him by casting out the legion of demons.

The man's desire is to stay with Jesus. One cannot fault him for that. Some time had evidently passed, for he was sitting at Jesus feet, dressed, and in his right mind. Like Mary, he placed such a value on Jesus' words that he sat at his feet to listen. Sitting there at once became his place of refuge and comfort. He had nowhere else he wanted to be. One can almost see his face grow unhappy when his fellow townsmen ask Jesus to leave and Jesus complies. "Please, let me go with you in the boat!" the man asks. He does not want to leave his comfort zone. He wants to stay close to Jesus.

The parallels to our situation are not yet clear, but they soon will be.

We may begin by speaking of our desires. Would it not also be godly for us to want to be close to Jesus all the time? Indeed, you cannot fault the man for such a desire, nor could you fault any believer today. But how will we be close to him today? You will say that we can walk with him every day, when the Holy Spirit works within us. Indeed. But let us think this through a little more. Our natural desire is to stay where we are comfortable, where life is easier, and where we don't have to face rejection. Wouldn't it be easiest to just stay with church members every day? It would be nice to stay here in this building to be taught the ways of God more and more, to pray with each other, to hug each other, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Our fellowship could grow so much stronger! United around God's Word, symbolically sitting at Jesus' feet, we could get very comfortable. Our desire is to stay with him where it is safe.

With this in mind, what was Jesus' response to the man he had healed? That is our second point:

2. His Command:

Jesus sent him back, saying "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." Go back! No, you shouldn't come with me. You have something to do here. Return home and relate God's work in your life. Tell them your story, which is to say, God's story. Tell them what God has done for you.

There are two things that we need to understand which have not been mentioned yet. First, that the East side of the sea of Galilee was not populated by Jews. Jews would not be raising pigs, since pigs were unclean for Jews. This area was called the region of the Gerasenes or Gadarenes. The town of Gadara was in the area and the region was called Gerasa. This accounts for the different names of this area in the gospels. Both Mark and Luke record this command of Jesus, "Return hom and tell how much God has done for you." The man was to stay among these Gentiles, and as one of them he was to be the presence of Jesus among them.

They had asked Jesus to leave and he obliged. But they would not get him out of their minds that easily. First of all, they had to replace their pigs which would keep bringing to mind what Jesus had done. Second, this man would be in their midst relating to them what God had done for him, how he had been healed in body and soul. Thus, the message of Christ was established among the Gentiles on the east side of Galilee. The gospels emphasize that these were non-Jews not only by the fact of the pigs, but also by the way the place is identified. It is named, but since the place was not commonly known among all the Jews, its location is specified: "across the lake from Galilee."

The fact that these people were non-Jewish ties into the second important thing not yet mentioned. Here it is: Jesus usually told people not to speak of his work. After he had cleansed the leper in Matthew 8 Jesus strictly charged him not to tell anyone about it, but to just go to the priest to be declared clean. We find this again in 9:30 when Jesus healed two blind men. He warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this!" In Matthew 12:16 we read, "Many followed him and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was." I could give more examples from Matthew (16:20; 17:9). These sayings are not limited to Matthew either. Mark has them also. Luke writes in 5:14 that Jesus told the man cleansed of leprosy, "Don't tell anyone."

So why then did Jesus tell this man healed from the demons to recount how much God had done for him? What is the difference here?

John 6:15 gives us a clue. Jesus had just fed the 5000 people. They were getting very excited about him. We read, "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." The more miracles the people saw and knew of, the more they wanted to make Jesus their King, and the more they hoped he would free them from enemy oppression and occupation and give them riches. This was the kind of king they wanted. At the popular level, Jesus was becoming a rallying point for the forces of rebellion against the Romans.

At the level of the religious leaders something different developed. The more he performed miracles and the more the people followed him, the more the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him (John 5:18 etc.). In this case Jesus had to warn his disciples and others that his "time had not yet come." Therefore he avoided Jerusalem at certain times and took detours. He was avoiding the Jewish temple authorities so that he would not be captured before he had completed his Father's work on earth.

So there were two reasons why Jesus often warned people not to tell about what God had done for them. First, he did not want to support the idea of a materialistic and political and military Messiah, which all the people wanted. Second, he did not want to bring the wrath of the Jewish leaders upon him before the right time. So, time and again, Jesus warned the people he healed not to tell the news abroad. Some did so anyways; they couldn't contain themselves.

The difference in our text is that Jesus is among the Gentiles. He is not in Jewish territory. The danger of the leaders killing him is not present. The danger of the populace rising up and forcing him to be their king is not present.

In this case Jesus had spent some time teaching him too. The man did not run off home in joy right away. He wanted the gospel!

Another difference is that in this case Jesus had spent some time teaching this man. Many of the Jews whom Jesus healed came to him, were healed, and left. But this Gentile man did not run off home in joy right away. He wanted the gospel. He wanted to hear the message of Jesus. And Jesus taught him, so that he was able to tell others about the work of God for him.

Therefore this man is commanded to tell how much God had done for him. The word Jesus uses is to relate, recount, explain, or narrate. The man was to relate the whole sequence of events, tell the whole story, to testify to the work of God in his own conversion. Jesus didn't just say, "Tell them what God has done." Our Lord made it personal, "What God has done for you."

The word Christ used for "tell" is used for the 72 whom Jesus had sent out. They related to Jesus when they returned all the things they had done. This word is later used for Paul when he relates how the Lord converted him on the road to Damascus. It is used by Peter when he relates to his friends how the Lord sent his angel to rescue him from prison. The word is about relating some important event. It describes the personal testimony of the saints about what the Lord did in their lives. Their narrative is joined to the gospel, because it is the good news of Jesus Christ personalized for them. They become official witness who give their testimony to the work of God.

This man was afraid to stay in his hometown. He knew the people did not love him. Naturally, he wanted to go with Jesus. Perhaps he was afraid of the demons returning if Jesus was not there. But Jesus teaches him that the proper antidote to such fear is to go to work for the Lord. "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." Unless faith issues in obedient action it is no permanent safeguard against evil. If the first home of the demon is cleaned up and put in order but not fully occupied by the Holy Spirit and not active for the Lord, then the demon will return with many more (Mt. 12:43-45). But if that home is filled with the Holy Spirit and is actively obeying the Lord, then no man should be afraid. His active obedience to the Lord, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will itself be used by God for the nurturing of his faith. Working in God's kingdom is not a draining exercise. It is also an invigorating exercise. You feel better after you're done.

Conversion brings with it the responsibility to evangelize. This text applies to us all the more. We are living long after Jesus' earthly ministry. None of us can make him king by force. We have no reason to misunderstand the nature of his mission, since we have the completed Scriptures. We are Gentiles, just as this man and his town were. Jesus is not among us in the body any longer. There are no forces here trying to kill him. Therefore this command to this man, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you" is a command for each of us.

Note well: this man was not an apostle. He was not an elder or a deacon or a minister. He was a man who had been healed and had time to listen to some of Jesus' teaching. That was enough for the time. He was already equipped to go out and tell how much God had done for him. Instead of staying in the comfort of Jesus physical presence, this man was to live by the power and comfort of Jesus' spiritual presence. He received the Holy Spirit to understand what God had done for him so that he could relate the whole matter to his own community. Let us draw some principles from this to understand our own mission:

3. Our Mission:

Christ commands us to relate God's work in us, as a testimony to all. That is our theme, and from the sacred story of this healed man, we can rightly draw out such principles.

First of all, who, having been healed of all their sins by the Lord, does not overflow with thankfulness? Only he who does not yet know what that means. Let a man dwell on what God has done for him and soon he will be overflowing with a message! Let a man drown himself in all his other work and pastimes with never a thought for God and he will have no message! Behold, then, Christ! I say to all of us, including myself: think on him, O sinner! We are to take hold of Christ and receive his forgiveness. With our conversion he also calls us to tell what he has done for us.

We see here that one does not need to know all the theological distinctions. God's work will be known for what it is almost right away. Like the man who had been born blind replied to the Pharisees about Jesus, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25). I was blind but now I see! He knew the truth of what God had done for him. We should likewise know the truth of God's amazing grace for us. This afternoon we will speak of faith as a sure knowledge, a certainty about what God has done not only for others, but also for me. The man in our text went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

You can hear him saying over and over the name of Jesus. He just can't stop telling people, because the change in his life is so remarkable. We read in Scripture that our lifestyle should bring out questions on the part of others so that we can speak of the hope that is within us. Every situation we are in holds out that possibility, if we will act like Christ.

We can also learn from our text that it is good to have people work within their own culture. It's true that we must also bring the gospel to other cultures. That's exactly what Jesus did in the text. But then once a few in the other culture are equipped, let them continue this task. They know their culture and people and language. This kind of transition is happening in Brazil right now.

What about us? What culture and people and language do we know? What about the culture of Winnipeg and of Brandon? This is the very culture which God has equipped us to reach. Businessmen can reach businessmen. Students can reach students. Hockey players can reach hockey players. Yet experience also shows that crossing age groups can be a real benefit too, as when an older couple teaches a younger couple, or when elders work with youth.

Some people are called to mission far away. But all the rest are called to mission right where they are. God provides them with all kinds of situations in which they can tell of what God has done for them. When they recount his work, they will not be able to leave out the name of Jesus, just as this man couldn't. He was told to speak of God's work and he spoke of Jesus' work. That is our message, personally too, for it is Jesus Christ our Saviour who has washed away all our sins with his precious blood.

Each of us can follow God's command in exactly the setting we find ourselves. Notice that Jesus told this man to go home and give his testimony there. Right where he lives everyday, where he will work and eat and sleep. Tell your story there because your story has been taken up into God's great story.

Oh, and one more thing must be said: The Holy Spirit used here an official word for official preaching to describe what the man did. This is unusual. We find the verb kerusso, which means to announce as a herald. This is what John the Baptist did for Jesus. It is a technical word for preaching later in Acts and the letters of Paul. But here this man, without being ordained or extensively trained is said to preach the word about Jesus. No one should make light of his task.

Likewise today, no one should make light of their own task to relate God's work for them. It is important. You in your place have an important message. Take time to think about it, for every single one of us should have an amazing message of grace. We can all retell the wonders of God, for we should each know the wonders of God, personally.

Just as it was to God's glory for this man to tell of God's work for him, so it is to the praise of God for you to tell of God's work for you. Our question should be answered by now. Every Christian is called to actively evangelize, exactly where God put them, in their towns and cities. Let us not neglect the opportunities we are given to fulfil this calling. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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