It’s been a rough couple of weeks around the planet. Hurricane Matthew caused massive flooding and to date there has been 1.5 Billion dollars in damage and 26 deaths in North Carolina alone. But in the deep south we are experiencing a drought.
Isis militants continue to cause chaos in the middle east, the battle for Mosul rages while the Syrian city of Aleppo continues to bombarded with a weeks-long devastating military campaign by Syria and Russia. And North and South Korea continue to posture against one another.
The Zika virus is still in the news and still threatening the south in the midst of this heat wave.
That’s what I took away from reading the paper on Tuesday morning, I won’t share what happened the rest of the week, there’s really no need. You are already aware that chaos has become pretty routine in our world. But before you start thinking that the sky is falling or that the world is spinning out of control, let me remind you that chaos was pretty routine in Jesus' world, too. In our text this morning Luke shares two chaos stories back to back. We find the first one in Luke 8:22-25. (Read Text)
The Sea of Galilee is the area where Jesus spends most of His ministry. It is also the area where a majority of the apostles grew up. The sea is surrounded by small towns or villages that made their living by fishing and farming. Archeologists tell us that the towns and villages surrounding the sea were small, usually consisting of fifty to a hundred people.
Earlier in Luke 8, we are told that Jesus is going from town to town preaching. In Luke 8:4 we see that a great crowd was gathering as people were leaving these villages and towns to follow Jesus. He would teach in one town, and then move to the next, but the people followed Him. They wanted to hear what He had to say. And so day after day and hour after hour Jesus is teaching. Every time He leaves an area to get a bit of rest, the people followed Him; some are hurt, some are tired while others need prayer. He’s been preaching, teaching, answering questions and He’s absolutely exhausted. So, Jesus tells His apostles to get a boat and, Let’s cross to the other side.
There are times when I forget that Jesus was a man; I mean I often imagine that He was like superman, on the outside He looked normal but underneath His disguise He was an indestructible superhero. I forget that there were times when He was exhausted, hungry, and tired. You would think that a typical rabbi would work with maybe twenty people, But Jesus is working with thousands of folks who follow Him wherever He goes.
It had to take a tremendous effort to get away for a little bit; so Jesus tells the apostles to get into a boat and let’s cross to the other side. This little trip was a chance for a bit of rest, to get a break from the crowds. Once in the boat Jesus is so exhausted that He falls asleep. You have had those experiences, where you were so tired that as you get off your feet, you fall fast asleep. Here is the Creator of the Universe, feeling the same exhaustion that we all have felt.
I imagine that the apostles are exhausted as well. They’ve been right there with Jesus teaching, feeding, and tending to thousands of folks. They have been dealing with the elderly and with the children. And when people are hot and tired they are not the most reasonable people to deal with. But they want to take care of Jesus, so while He sleeps they row across the sea.
Mark tells us that it was evening when they set out, so they apostles are not just tired and grumpy, but now it’s dark. And while they had grown up on this water, there is very little comfort knowing that you are going to have to cross it during the night. At some point you just get exhausted and confused, you spend your time and energy rowing but you’re not sure you are making any progress. And if their situation wasn't bad enough, Luke says that, A violent storm came across the lake. Their boat was taking on water, and they were in danger.
At least four of these guys were seasoned fishermen, and they were aware of what kind of trouble was coming. I am sure they heard stories and even knew folks who lost their lives on this sea. Commentators say that the peaceful calm of the Sea of Galilee can quickly become transformed by a violent storm. Heavy winds often funnel through the Galilean Hillside and stir up the waters. The winds that come off the hills of the Golan Heights to the east are so violent that it is common for a an unsuspecting fisherman to be swept away.
That’s exactly what the apostles are dealing with in our text. In a matter of seconds, the disciples are blindsided as the peace they were experiencing turns into chaos and fear. There’s no warning of this impending danger, it just happens. Suddenly they are reminded that there are things in this world that are out of their control. The waves and wind not only brought water into the boat, but it also brought fear.
There are a few things that happen to us when fear sets in. First, we loose our ability to be polite or reverent. When the disciples asked the question Don't you care? I don’t want you to read that as a a polite question or a whisper. They are in a life and death situation; they have thrown politeness out the window. Now they are shouting like a parent who’s child has recklessly ridden their bicycles into the street in front of an oncoming car. There is fear and terror in their raised voices.
Secondly, fear usually brings anger, because those two emotions always go hand in hand. The apostles aren’t the last folks to be afraid and angry at the chaos that exists in our world. We still have to deal with storms in this life that are big enough to sink our ships. Trains collide. Planes crash. Marriages fail. Careers collapse. Diseases attack. Depression darkens our souls. Broken people harass. Death stalks. And just like the apostles in the boat we turn to God and scream, Teacher, don't you care if we drown? God aren’t thou paying attention? God don’t I matter? God what are you doing? or ever worse God why aren’t you doing something, anything?
Those are the questions we ask when we are disappointed in Jesus and God. We come into this relationship thinking that once we give our lives to Him that everything will be gum drops and lollipops. We didn’t think He was serious when He said that we would have trouble, or that the world would hate us. We try to follow, try to be faithful, and we get upset and angry when we find ourselves in the heart of chaos. We look at the little boat of our lives in the middle of a very dark and angry sea and wonder why God seems too sleepy to notice. So we scream at Him, Don’t you care?
Some people are uncomfortable talking to Jesus that way. But those folks haven’t spent enough time in the Bible. That kind of talk is perfectly permissible and at times necessary. Jesus did not die so that we could have a contractual agreement. He died to forge a relationship, and relationships require truthful talk. Sometimes we get angry, or disappointed, or hurt. If God made those emotions then they are not wrong or sinful. When we are angry or disappointed or hurt we need to say so. Anger and disappointment won’t destroy a relationship. Failure to communicate destroys relationships. So as long as we are talking the relationship lives. And sometimes that talk is angry and passionate not because we are irreverent but because we are afraid.
The blessing is that Jesus responds to our fear; the wind died down and it was completely calm. Then it was Jesus turn to ask a question of the disciples. Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? Someone told us when we follow Jesus that somehow our life would be magic. That being His disciple made us immune to the chaos of storms and trials.
What do you think faith is for anyway? If you never faced a storm you'd never need your faith. Being a disciple doesn’t guarantee a storm free existence. Being a disciple means that we can endure the storm knowing that if Jesus is in the boat we will be okay.
We've spent this year looking at The Story for a reason. We've been reminding ourselves that God has always been writing a story. God wants us to have an active part of The Story as well. We need to be honest enough to admit that as long as we live in a broken world there will be brokenness, disturbances, and chaos. Oftentimes we are like the disciples and we get blindsided by the sudden storms of troubles that come up. That’s when the presence of Jesus in our lives really makes a difference. He doesn't guarantee an absence of trouble. He simply guarantees that we will survive the onslaught of chaos. But chaos doesn't always attack from without. In fact, that isn't even the worst kind of chaos. The worst kind of chaos isn't found on the sea, but in the soul.
Listen to Luke 8:26-39 (Read Text)
When Jesus and His disciples cross the Sea of Galilee they are met by a demon possessed man who has been driven into isolation. Demons always do that and it doesn’t matter if it’s the demons of addiction or the more politically correct demons of sexual expression, self absorption, greed, or gossip. Our demons drive us away from each other until, like the man in the story, we live in a grave yard of relationships crying out in the night, longing for companionship.
It’s compelling how Luke writes his story; first we see the disciples dealing with the fear and chaos of the sea, and now we are introduced to a man who knows the power of chaos in his soul. Luke describes him as wild, uncontrollable, homeless, sleeping with the dead in the graveyard and naked. Ladies, this is not the man that you want to bring home to meet your parents. Then as a side note Luke adds that the people in the town were so afraid of him that they put chains on his hands and feet, but each time he broke free and demons drove him back to the hills among the tombs.
These people had tried to control a demon possessed man with chains and bars. It is a reminder to me that it’s useless to bring physical weapons to a spiritual conflict. They tried to use chains and bars; we think that electing the right officials or passing a few new laws or prescribing longer prison sentences will somehow reign in chaos and reform the hearts of criminals and sinners.
I’m not sure why the Church tries to press Washington, or Montgomery for more laws. It makes more sense to try to reform the hearts and souls of those we come in contact on a daily basis. We need to introduce the world to a merciful and loving God. We make laws and people break the laws, we put people in prison and more often than not, when they get out they break more laws and go back to prison. We are looking for a physical solution to a spiritual problem.
History tells us that in the 1730’s and 40’s we experienced what is called the first great awakening; it was a revival that swept across Europe. People were encouraged to foster a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption. People were introduced to the loving power of God, that changes lives. The result was a new standard of personal morality, that saw bars, houses of prostitution, and gambling establishments close all over Europe. Not because laws were made or enforced, but because people fought a spiritual battle with spiritual weapons.
The text says that as soon as this man saw Jesus, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. The demons recognized something in Jesus that His disciples couldn't see. In the first part of Luke 8 the disciples failed to understand Jesus' parables. Now at the end of Luke 8 they fail to comprehend His power. The demons see something the disciples don't. They know that Jesus possesses the power to calm the sea as well as the power to calm the chaos in our souls.
Verses 31-33 are almost funny. The demons don’t want to leave the area and have to go to the abyss; they ask Jesus if He would allow them to enter a herd of pigs. In an act of mercy for this man and for the demons Jesus casts them out and they enter the herd of pigs, who immediately rush into the sea and drown.
The men who were tending the pigs ran and told everyone what had happened. When the town folks heard the story they stopped whatever they were doing and came rushing to the scene. I understand that, I mean if we will slow down so we can look at at car wreck in the other lane, we would definitely drop everything to see 2,000 pigs in the sea not to mention what happened to the naked crazy man.
When they arrived they saw Jesus and the man who used to terrorize their village and lives, sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, and they were afraid. I'm sure that if we had gone to the village a few weeks before this event we would have found a peaceful little community with the people very comfortable and contented there. They had adjusted to their normal, and while having a crazy, demon possessed, naked man running around is not my idea of normal; it was a normal way for life for them.
But now they are in turmoil, and the reason is because Jesus has come to their town and disturbed their normal. They were very comfortable in their lifestyle. But Jesus came and shook their complacency. And they were filled with fear and begged Him to leave. Which is another reminder for us, when they finally found the one person who could control the chaos they rejected Him.
They begged Jesus to leave because they were afraid that He would do more than calm the chaos, they were afraid He would change their normal. Sometimes we learn to not only tolerate our chaos and demons we begin to enjoy them. There are times when our demons become our diversions. Sometimes our diversions become our identity. When we are identified by our demons the last thing we want is for Jesus to take that away.
Jesus was asked two important questions in our text this morning that we need to ask as well. First, the disciples ask, Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him? That’s a question we need to ask. Who do you think Jesus is? The rest of your life depends on how you answer that question. Because who we think Jesus is will determine how we live, love, forgive, and work in His Kingdom.
The second question we need to ask is the one asked by the demons; What do you want with me? What does Jesus want with you, what does He want to do with your life?
It’s not an accident that you are here this morning. Some of you are here to satisfy a curiosity, or find some peace, or answer a question, or fill a need. Some of you are here because there is a storm brewing in your life. Some of you are here this morning because there is a storm in your soul. And some of you are not real sure why you are here at all. The answer to your question, the meaning of life, is Jesus. He can help us in the times of chaos when the winds and waves of trouble threaten to sink us. With Jesus in your boat you will survive the storm.
He can cast the chaos out of our souls. If we will allow Him to break our hearts. If we will come to Him in obedience, He will send us home like the man in Luke 8 so that we can tell what great things the Lord has done for us. It won't make any headlines in any newspapers, but when you fully trust in the power of Jesus, that will be a story that is worth telling.