Jesus Can

Luke 9: 37 – 45  Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” 45 But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

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Today marks the second Sunday of Lent, a season of the church when we journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the place of the temple and of God’s people, becomes, in these weeks, the symbol of Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, and death.

We enter the story after Jesus had just spent some time on the mountain with Peter, John, and James. He was transfigured, made a dazzling white and set besides Moses and Elijah. Then the cloud came upon them. When the cloud comes over them, we are told the disciples were afraid.   And when the cloud recedes we hear God’s voice saying “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!”

We do not know what happened in the cloud.   There is no detailed report. So, let’s consider that, at that moment, God’s chosen one received his mission, the one that leads to his death on the cross.

For Jesus clearly comes off the mountain without the glow of having achieved a great inner peace. Instead, he comes off the mountain with an attitude. I believe he now knows exactly what it is he is to face.

This could explain why Jesus is in such a bad mood. Who could stand knowing that all your friends will turn their backs on you, the crowd which will shout your name in praise will later shout for your crucifixion, and you the pain of lashings and the cross to look forward to?

Jesus can.

Seeing the crowd come to him brings him no pleasure. He knows that crowd is fickle. They are controlled by forces that are not of God.

Jesus stands still. He refuses to run. Even more, he continues to care.

Immediately, a man cries out his need…teacher I beg you to look at my son, my only son… a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out but they could not.

There it is…he is face to face with the reason for the cross…demons have got hold of people and they are unable to free themselves.

In Matthew the same story is told of a man’s son with a demon. Jesus heals him, just as he will in Luke. But the end scene is Jesus exhorting the disciples to greater faithfulness. If they only believed more, they could do more. Oh, that is a good sermon. It is one for another day.

In Luke, there is no such exhortation for this is not simply a healing story but points to the need for God’s plan spoken in the cloud. The disease is not named as it is in Matthew. It is not so containable as to have a name. Seen through Jerusalem’s diminishing light, this story is about the demons that take over, the entities which convulse us to their will and keep us apart, even battle against, our Father’s love.

The demons are the witches that lure us in with promises of candy; the wolves which try to deceive us into believing they are our friend.

The practices of Lent are meant to help us see what gets in the way of our living with God. So some people fast. Others give something up, like candy or Facebook. Others add a quiet time to their schedule, a time to read scripture, a time to pray.   To encourage the latter, we handed out devotionals this year which have you look into how God speaks through visions and dreams.

Lent is a time to get honest. It is a time for confession.   It is a time to say “no” to the candied way; a time to undress the wolves; and to take hold of Jesus, the one who will gives us back to our Father.

We have not been called to be Christians to live as part of the unseeing crowd that hinders the work of God in our world. We are called to be children of God, children of the light! Who can take us from the cloud of unknowing and our own disbelief into an intimate relationship with God where we are God’s own sons and daughters?

Jesus can!

When Jesus sees the crowd around him he can feel their disbelief.

Hey, Jesus, The disciples couldn’t heal the boy. What good were you doing up there on that mountain?

Jesus responds: “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?”

And in the same breath he looks at the father and says, “Bring your son here.”

Fathers and sons, they are a Luke trademark. Only in this is the gospel is the story of the Prodigal Son, the story of another father’s love.

Well, the father of the boy with a demon, hears Jesus and obeys.

“While he was coming, the demon tore him and convulsed him.”

How strong that father had to be to keep the boy in his arms! Surely, he was being hit and kicked and yet he still held him tight. Foaming at the mouth, the boy’s spit on his father, the father nonetheless brings him to Jesus…because a Father will do anything for his children.

When the child is handed to him….

Immediately, Jesus rebuked the spirit just as Jesus rebuked the storm that threatened to drown the disciples a day not too far in the past.

Who can still the storm? Who can send away the demons?

Jesus can.

He hands over the healed boy to his father.

And all the people were astonished at the majesty of God. A happy ending!   Cue the music. Let’s dance!

Except, we know not all demons are vanquished, not all healing complete, and that demons and death steal our loved ones way too early.

Yesterday I received a call. How are you? I asked. “Terrible” she replied. “We found a friend in her apartment.” “What?” I said. “Your friend got a new apartment?” “No, we found our friend dead in her apartment.”

Their friend, a 65 year old woman to whom they had given their heart and their time. Their friend, who had come over to help us out at one of our clothing give a ways. Their friend who clearly struggled with alcohol but at times took steps which seemed to pull her out of the fog.

She lost to the demon; she was unhealed this side of heaven.

Jesus turns from the fickle dancing crowd and speaks directly to his disciples “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.”

They did not understand. Healing should be now, immediate. We should be able to bring someone to Jesus and have the demons scream and run away. No demon should be able to overcome the Son of Man. A cloud of unknowing descends. They are afraid to ask.

The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of unclean, sometimes demon possessed, other times just following the crowd people. He will not overcome them. He will not be able to rebuke the demons that line up against him. He will not be able to stop Judas, the crowd, the whip, the hate. The soldiers will nail his hands to the cross and he will die.
Because sometimes the demons of this world win out over the good we try to do…and even the good that is Jesus.

 

And, yet, we know that Luke doesn’t end there. As Cleopas and his friend walk to Emmaeus, they are joined by another. When they reach the town, as they break bread together, their eyes are opened! Jesus lives!

Who can keep their faith in the midst of so many enemies? Who can continue believing that God wins when the demons and death take way life? Who can find us when we are sure all is lost? Who can reach beyond this life into the next to take hold of the son or daughter, to bring them into the arms of God?

Jesus can.

In the midst of that cloud, Jesus saw his Father’s love. He heard God’s cry for the sons and daughters who had been led away or taken away. He would not let it be.

Bring them to me.

 

And God did…