I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’,
to a nation that did not call on my name.
2 I held out my hands all day long
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and offering incense on bricks;
4 who sit inside tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat swine’s flesh,
with broth of abominable things in their vessels;
5 who say, ‘Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.’
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.
6 See, it is written before me:
I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their laps
7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together,
says the Lord;
because they offered incense on the mountains
and reviled me on the hills,
I will measure into their laps
full payment for their actions.
8 Thus says the Lord:
As the wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, ‘Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it’,
so I will do for my servants’ sake,
and not destroy them all.
9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;
my chosen shall inherit it,
and my servants shall settle there………………………….
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times 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 wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they 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 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave 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.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him……….
In the 1590s, William Shakespeare penned the line,
“What’s in a name?”
As part of a longer soliloquy that Juliet speaks to herself. She discovers Romeo’s family name and is dismayed – the Montagues and the Capulets have been feuding for years. The boy she is interested in is expressly forbidden to her. And so, she begins to work it through:
“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
As she goes on, the line comes out,
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
She is saying that,
The name for something or someone doesn’t matter, what is important is who someone is, not what they are called….
The man we encounter in Luke’s gospel is never given a name. He is not introduced through a name or a family bloodline, but through how he is living. This man has been naked, living not in a house but in a graveyard, among the tombs. At times, those in the community have shackled him, binding him up with chains to keep him away from them and to keep themselves safe from him.
Despite this given identity, despite the torment he has experienced in his life, despite being possessed by demons, the man comes to meet with Jesus….
His past is a disaster, a tragedy, but he comes to Jesus…
Jesus asks him his name, and he gets the answer,
This name is not his at all, but it is that of the demons inside him. Legion is not the name of the man, but the name of the ‘chains’ which bind him. Legion doesn’t describe him; it is not the essence of him.
After learning what afflicts the man, what holds him back from life in all its fullness; Jesus deals with what has harmed, and is harming him. Jesus literally sends the demons away from him. He sends them away from a man (who was created to be blessed and have life to the full) to what the Jews would consider to be unclean, unacceptable animals, and the demons are sent to a place of death and destruction.
This was an extraordinary measure taken by Jesus to save the man. It highlights that there is nothing too impossible for God (Jesus) when He is fighting for us and our salvation. God (Jesus) is all about our freedom; freedom from all things bad; and also about our freedom, our living in the freedom that encompasses all things good….
The people from the city hear about this miraculous occurrence, the man troubled by demons has been set free, released from evil and they come to see it with their own eyes, and when they do see it they are afraid.
When we think we know someone, it can be difficult to make room for them to change and have a new identity. The people of the town didn’t know this man as ‘a free grateful to God individual’; rather they knew and were familiar with the legion that had imprisoned him and the things he did because of the Legion. When the evil that had held the man captive was taken away, a new identity shone forth; and because it was so different and beyond their understanding, the townspeople were afraid.
It can be similar today – when things beyond our experience and understanding occur, when the miraculous breaks into our lives, we can either praise God for what He has done and worship Him, or we can be filled with disbelief and/or fear.
When I prayed with another Christian for a girl in hospital in Liberia and a large growth on her eye shrivelled up and disappeared in front of our very eyes I had to choose to believe what was happening because my immediate reaction was, “I don’t believe it.”
Perhaps after that the girl was known as ‘the girl who had had that horrible growth’ or maybe as ‘the beautiful girl of our village’; but she could never again be called ‘the girl with the ghastly growth’ because it was gone, and God, (Jesus) had dealt with it and it was no more.
And for us…..
When we have an encounter with the living God, those things which torment us – those things which keep us shackled – they fall away. Demons of self-doubt, judgment, anger, criticism of others are seen to be defeated by the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God calls us out of whatever hampers us and stops us knowing God’s peace and blessing; and God gives us permission to be exactly who we were created to be.
So, what’s in a name?
Not perhaps as much as we might think; our identities are manifold, expansive, and truly individual. But one identity holds precedence over all the others, one identity calls us into a community of love and into relationship with a living God. That identity isn’t one we have to earn or one we can lose. It stays with us from new birth to death and beyond, no matter what paths we may have chosen in the past, it is our identity now and forever: We are children of God.
We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus (and on this Fathers’ Day) adopted children (sons and daughters) of our good heavenly Father.
Thank You God that You are our Good Father,
Thank You Jesus that You are our elder brother and Saviour
Thank You Holy Spirit that You live in us and help us to call
God our Abba, Father, Daddy….