Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.
 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.  When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.  When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me."  For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time 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 desert.)  Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," for many demons had entered him.  And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.  Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.  Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.  Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and 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.  And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed.  Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.  The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying,  "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:26-39 (ESV)
“I beg you, do not torment me.” So the man possessed of so many demons his name is legion, cries out to Christ. The demons inside him coiling in fear. Torment is racking the man as he comes so close to Christ, so close to holiness. The evil inside of him is agitated. He is agitated. He doesn’t know if he can live. But far from torment the man, Jesus has mercy and casts the demons out, relieves him of the evil. Evil so destructive it cannot but destroy itself in what is called a Gerasene rush, the swine rush down the embankment, crushing themselves in a confused mass of tangled swine flesh drowning. That is what evil does, but the lake towards which it rushes us is not one of water, but fire. And the torment there waiting for us, and it does wait for us, it wants us, it lies in wait for us, that torment is beyond anything even this man experienced with his legion of demons.
“I beg you, do not torment me.” I think we can relate, if not today, perhaps at other times, but probably should be today still if we are honest with ourselves. We live in a sinful world, men with unclean lips, even Isaiah in coming into the presence of God was tormented with fear. When we are confronted with Jesus there can be a fair amount of torment for us who carry not always a clean conscience, and hearts of sin, which act as a wellspring of sin. And we come into the presence of Christ and it is not easy, sin becomes agitated, evil becomes agitated as it comes close to Christ.
Christ torments evil. So, he often does for us too. Not that we are of essence evil, but we are sinners. In and of ourselves we are not righteous. “None is righteous, no, not one” Romans 3:10.
What is more, we can not serve two masters. Oh, how we wish we could! Oh how we wish that Sunday morning could be Sunday morning, and the rest of the week could be left alone. Perhaps not as crassly as that. But we cannot serve sin, and Christ can we? And when we show up on Sunday morning to worship our first love, Jesus Christ, to hear his words of reproof, and mercy. It is uncanny what he knows about the rest of our week as he begins to pour his holiness into us. We begin to feel the surgeon’s scalpel scrape our souls free of our sinful infections. Oh don’t think it is just you! We are a church full of sinners. And from Sunday to Sunday we all feel it, at different times to varying degrees. At least we all should be feeling it. And we begin to cry, “Lord, I beg you do not torment me!”
Why? Because we do have two masters, and we love the one and despise the other, but the other would have us love him more. He ropes us in with sinful delights. We all have them, sins we would rather him not take from us. Sins we fill are none of his business. Sins we think are secret. Pet sins we would rather not do without. And it begins to hurt, it begins to torment a little to think we may have to give them up, that we should give them up. And some of them aren’t easy to give up. Some of them we even throw at Christ’s feet saying take them from me Lord, and then we find ourselves picking them up again. They are our pet sins. Sometimes, we would rather just him leave them alone, wish that he did not consider them sins. Oh we can talk in the abstract here. But what about it? What about our sins. The sins that would drag us to the lake of fire in a Gerasene rush of tangled and crushed swine flesh toppling over one another down the hill? What are those sins that fill us with torment as we come before Christ? The ones for which we ask Christ, “take my sins from me Lord, but leave this one, don’t pay mind to this one. I don’t know if I can live without this one?” Is it a quick temper for which we feel justified to yell and scream, cuss and curse others at work, in the car? Gluttony? Drunkenness? Internet Porn? Sloth at work or home? Does it pay for me to talk about church attendance here? Adultery? All these sins, they come out of our hearts do they not? Jesus says they do. He would cast them out of our hearts, but they come from the heart nonetheless. Oh and it is a painful tormenting job for them to be cast out.
And Sunday after Sunday we confess them to our Lord, our first love, the master whom we love, and it is painful to approach the Lord with such shame and guilt. Didn’t Jesus forgive me of this just last week? Did he not cast this sin from me last week? Must I confess it again? Must he take it from me again? We approach the altar, our spirits dirty with shame, our consciences heavy with guilt, our spirits nervous with fear that perhaps this time there is no forgiveness. “Create in me a clean heart of God, and take not your Spirit from me.” Is there? Can there be yet again.
Oh, Jesus torments sin. He agitates evil. But can you not see? That it is sin and evil that torment us? Weigh us down? Jesus would have mercy. Jesus has grace. Jesus forgives, it is the one thing sin can’t stand, it is the one thing it cannot survive, the forgiveness of Christ. This is why he is our Master, the one whom we love. He forgives! “With you there is forgiveness that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:8) And with that fear comes love and trust, for that fear is the fear of faith, and not of the demons who tremble.
No he didn’t die for you on the cross, experience death for you so that he could lose you to your pet sin. He wants you rid of it as much as you want rid of it. He will not let you retain it. He will forgive it. And he will keep forgiving it, forgiving you, until that day when you find there is another sin tugging at you, keeping you away from Christ. And then he will forgive that one too and throw it out Sunday after Sunday, day after day, minute after minute, as he does of all your sins, even the ones you are not aware of, which may be more dangerous and worse for your souls than the ones you are aware of! He will not let sin stand in the way between him and you, but will return to you with forgiveness, come to you with forgiveness. And your hearts may be heavy, but his burden is light. And he will create in you a clean heart, unburdened with guilt. He will not take His Holy Spirit from you. For he has mercy. He spares you the destruction of the Gerasene rush.
So when you beg not to be tormented. He bids “take eat this is my body given for you, take drink this cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Let me forgive you, let me take your sin from you, that you may have life, that you may have life with me, eternal life. Be not tormented, but forgiven.” And so, that lake of fire that waits, waits for you, waits for me, it can wait for all eternity. For you have been forgiven, you are forgiven. Christ will not give you up, you are his, purchased with blood more precious than gold.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.