The man whom the demons had left begged to go with Jesus. But He sent him away, saying,
I. THE GREATER KINDNESSES WE RECEIVE FROM GOD. It might be argued that all God's mercies are great, inasmuch as
(1) coming from his heart, all his kindnesses are loving-kindnesses; and
(2) they are all so thoroughly undeserved. God sends us a gift when he might send us a blow, a blessing when we deserve a rebuke (Genesis 32:10). Yet some of God's gifts to us are greater than others, and we may ask which they are that might fairly draw such words as these from Christ concerning them, "how great things God hath done for thee." And it is worthy of remark:
1. That some of them are little marked by us. Among these are:
(1) Our being itself, our intelligent, immortal nature, with all its illimitable capacities. We so gradually awaken to the realization of this, that the boundless value of the gift does not impress us as it should.
(2) Our health. We accept this as a matter of course, little affected by it until we lose it.
(3) Our kindred. So does the mantle of parental, filial, fraternal love wrap us round from our infancy, that its beauty and its blessedness do not strike us as they might well do, and we live on for years, failing to appreciate all the mercies which are associated with the one word "home."
(4) Our education; all those educational influences and privileges which build and shape our mind and character. But it is clear:
2. That there are special kindnesses we cannot fail to note. Of these are
(1) deliverance from sudden peril, from the railway accident, from death by drowning, etc.;
(2) recovery from dangerous sickness;
(3) rescue from the grasp of some fell temptation;
(4) special Divine influences, those which make the truth of God clear to our understanding, and bring it home to our heart and conscience, thus placing eternal life within our reach.
II. THE RETURN WHICH WE MAKE TO GOD for these greater kindnesses. Jesus Christ bade this man to whom he rendered such signal service return and show his friends what great things he had received; and he did so freely and fully. What is our response to our heavenly Father, our Divine Saviour?
1. What are we being to him? What is the measure of our thought concerning him who never for one moment forgets us, and who, in so full and deep a sense, "remembered us in our low estate"? of our feeling toward him who has spent on us such generous, such self-sacrificing love? of our service of him whose we are and to whom we owe everything we are and have?
2. What testimony are we bearing to him - what testimony concerning the goodness, the patience, the faithfulness of God are we bearing in the home in which we live? Are parents impressing on their children by their whole bearing and demeanour that, in their deliberate judgment, the service of Christ and likeness to Christ are things of immeasurably greater concern to them than the making of money or the gaining of position? Are elder brothers and sisters doing their best to commend the truth they have come to appreciate to the understanding and the affection of those who are younger, and who are taking their cue from them? What testimony are we bearing in the shop and the .factory, to our fellow-workers, to those whom we are employing? What testimony in the Church? Are we avowing our faith, our love, our hope, our joy? Are we, who have received greater kindness by far than even this poor demoniac, so acting that as much is ascribed to us in God's book of account as is here recorded of him, that "he published throughout the whole city how great things," etc.? - C.
Return to thine own house.
1. He thus in mercy provided that they who in their blindness had besought Him to leave them, and who would not, like the dwellers in Judea, have other opportunities of hearing Him, should still be reached by His blessed gospel: and so this instance stands alone. For whereas in other cases He ordered those He healed to tell no man, here, on the contrary, He sent away the healed man, charged by Himself to deliver this message of mercy.
2. He hereby calmed the fears of the restored demoniac. He bade him believe that in labouring thus for Him, in declaring His name, in blessing others, he should find that presence, and so that safeguard from evil, for which his soul craved. He answered the fears of his heart, and told him that whilst he laboured for his brethren, he should himself be safe from the assault of those mysterious powers he dreaded. The very charge was a promise. He was a monument of mercy — he should be kept as one: he longed to be in his Deliverer's presence — he should be so: after another manner, indeed, from that for which he asked, but yet most truly, most closely, yea, perpetually; wherever there was another to whom he could testify, wherever there was a tormented body, or a vexed spirit, there he might find anew his own Deliverer in bearing witness to His power. And these are our lessons. With every heart which the Saviour hath set free He has left this charge: " Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee." Into all social life this light penetrates. Every man is to be to those around him a living preacher of the power of the Redeemer; he is to walk amongst his fellows as a witness for Christ. From him, too, the powers of evil have been banished; for him life wears another countenance; he is no longer, if he lives, as he may, under the renewing influences of the Holy Ghost, the slave of dark, or sensual, or furious, or earthly spirits. Silently it may be — meekly and unobtrusively it must be, but yet most truly — he is to bear witness to that mighty Deliverer, who found him out in his extremity, and broke the fetters which had bound his spirit. True Christian men in their own station do raise the tone of life round them: in a thousand little instances which are occurring daily, they are bearing a witness for truth, for sincerity, for reality, for purity, for meekness, for self-denial, for a spiritual life — which is not lost. For so it is that, most secretly, society is leavened for good or for evil.
II. And if this is our first lesson, our second lies close beside it. It is, that our own safety must consist in thus working for Christ. Even as from the recovered demoniac, so from us also, the powers of evil are to be kept off in our active fulfilment of our own charge. If these, then, are our lessons from our Saviour's charge to this delivered man, let us gather them up into two strictly practical conclusions. And, first, let us see what a serious thing life is, even in its smallest parts. But it is a serious thing to live; serious both to ourselves and to others. To others, because all our life has its influence on them; because if we live unchristian lives, we throw away a ministry of mercy which might have saved some of them; because the very lowest of us cannot waste his own life and not injure other men; because we cannot be untrue to ourselves without being untrue to them. Let this, then, be our first conclusion, that it is a serious thing to live; and then we shall find encouragement as well as true instruction in this, as our second, that the sense of our redemption is to be the great foundation truth of all our life. We must have faith in this if we would know our charge, or in the least fulfil it. We must believe that we have been redeemed: we must have felt that He has indeed redeemed us from sin and its powers, from guilt and misery, or we cannot love Him as our Deliverer; cannot thankfully receive His easy yoke; and cannot witness of this truth to others. This is the great foundation of a true and earnest life: our hearts must yearn after Him; must pray that we may be with Him; must fear to be parted from Him; must long to live in His presence, finding it shelter, and safety, and peace; and then He will manifest Himself unto us.
(Bp. Samuel Wilberforce.)
I. THIS IS THE PROPER PLACE TO COMMENCE ALL OUR EFFORTS TO DO GOOD.
1. The dearest relations of the world are there.
2. The family is the place of our most powerful and constant influence.
II. PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY BACKWARD TO PERFORM THIS DUTY. IS not this the very point of defect in the family training of many professing Christians? Do we not here come at the main reason, so far as human agency is concerned, why, in the domestic circles of some eminent Christians, there occur instances of sad indifference to Divine things, and of open profanity and irreligion?
III. The direction of the text demands our special attention, because it contemplates a sphere where SOME PECULIAR DIFFICULTIES EXIST, which are apt to interfere with the exemplification of high religious consistency. The very intimacy of the domestic intercourse is often a snare and a hindrance to one who does not religiously govern himself and watch against temptation. The freedom of family intercourse, also, is apt to take off restraints to the indulgence of our passions, and to the display of our real dispositions, which are felt in more public scenes. Let us be mindful, that the greater the impunity with which we may transgress, the greater the danger.
(T. E. Vermilye, D. D.)
I. The first principle that our text gives us is this, that CHRIST'S WILL AND NOT OUR WISH IS TO REGULATE OUR CONDUCT. We are to use our reason; but we are not to set ourselves up in judgment against Christ. Get a good start, by laying hold of this principle in the first instance — that Christ's will and not your wish is to regulate and rule your conduct. Remember that we have a right, whatever our wishes may be, to bring them before Christ. If you have strong desires concerning any matters in your hearts, you will find, if you lay them before Christ, He will not reproach you for doing so. He did not reproach this man for his prayer. The tender and wise Saviour knew what He was about. Instead of lacking in love to the man, He was overflowing with it, and He gave the best answer possible to his prayer, "Go home to thy friends, My good man; thou needest care, thou needest nursing. Do not think of becoming one of My followers; why thou wouldest soon have to give up that; go home to thy friends, and say what great things God has done unto thee." My dear friends, believe me, God will hear and answer you! prayer if it be sincere, and if He does not answer it in your way, He wilt do so in a better way. Never swerve from this principle for an instant, that prayer is a reality. The little eaglet as it sees its mother spread her pinions to the breeze, cries, "Oh that I could fly!" and the mother answers the prayer by overturning the nest: her offspring thinks it cruel, but it is the only way its prayer can be answered.
II. The second principle is, that USEFULNESS AND NOT ENJOYMENT IS TO BE OUR SUPREME CONCERN. NOW a man that lives merely for his own personal enjoyment, although that enjoyment be of a spiritual kind, will find that he will very soon frustrate his own purposes and intentions, and instead of securing that for which he has so earnestly, but selfishly sought, it will evade his grasp and leave him altogether a stranger to it. Christianity is not the last spar of a wreck on which a man may float himself into the still waters of an eternal calm; but it is a life-boat, and every man must "man the life-boat," and try to rescue others from the wreck which sin and Satan had made. Dear friends, you shall have enjoyment, but your enjoyment must come by way of usefulness. This principle of the kingdom of Christ is the principle of all kingdoms over which Christ rules and governs. All life is constituted according to this principle — that it shall only exist in a healthy condition as it gives out of that which it receives. The Dead Sea is a dead sea because it receives all and gives nothing. The brook is beautiful and lovely because it is constantly flowing, and all in nature that is healthy, is healthy because it observes this rule. The clouds take the water from the sea, only that they may give it back again in fertilizing showers to gladden and refresh the earth. In return the earth gives us fruit, flowers and herbs, indeed, everything good for man and beast.
III. Another principle closely associated with the foregoing is this, that OUR POWER FOR USEFULNESS DEPENDS UPON WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR US. Christ said to this man, "Go and show what great things God hath done unto thee." Your power for usefulness will not depend upon what you say, so much as upon what you are; and your great concern, if you want to be useful, is to live lives which are not inconsistent with your profession. Seek first of all to have an experimental acquaintance with Christ's power upon your own heart.
IV. The fourth principle according to the text is that — OUR FIRST PLACE OF USEFULNESS IS TO BE THE HOME. "Return to thine own house, and show what great things God hath done unto thee." We are to begin in the family circle first of all.
I. WHAT IS THIS REMEDY? It is the excited feeling with which repentance is at first attended.
II. HOW IS IT TO BE USED? The restored sufferer in the text wished to be with Christ. Eagerness and zeal may lead to a false devotion which makes men desirous of keeping themselves in Christ's immediate sight, rather than of returning to their own home, as He would have them, that is, to the common duties of life. Learn to live by faith which sees Christ and rejoices in Him, though sent away from His presence to labour in the world.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)I. WHAT INDUCED THE MAN TO OFFER THIS PRAYER?
1. Possibly fear.
2. Doubtless also gratitude. Not now possessed but possessing.
II. WHAT INDUCED OUR LORD TO REFUSE THIS PRAYER?
1. It was better for the man. Lest he should infer that the power of Christ was merely local, and not universal.
2. It was better for the man's friends. The home-circle should be the great missionary-field. There are occasions when it is right for a man to narrate his personal experience. Showing is usually safer than telling.
3. It was better for the land in which he lived. If Christ had permitted him to follow Him, the whole land of Decapolis would have remained in darkness.
(H. A. Nash.)1. Every man who is entitled to the name of Christian, knows in some degree what great things the Lord has done for him.
2. To every man, therefore, who knows this, however imperfectly or inadequately the blessing may be realized, the Lord says, "Go to thine own house," &c.
3. Look at their sphere of missionary labour, in which every Christian is to be the missionary agent. The circle made up of our relations, friends, companions, and those with whom we come most into contact.(1) Our own house has the first claim upon us.(2) To show to our own house what great things the Lord hath done for us, is the very duty which every kind of religious fervour demands, in order to prevent it from dying out like a fire that leaves nothing but ashes behind, or from being spent like a fresh flowing stream in mere noise and foam, without doing any practical good.(3) Our religion as seen in our own house is the best test of the reality of our Christian character.(4) Our home is the field which we can cultivate better than any other.
4. We are further taught, by the history of this Gadarene, the way in which this home mission work is to be carried on. It is chiefly by our life: by what we are. This influence of a good life, however, does not exclude a more direct showing by spoken word, of what the Lord has done for ourselves, and what He is willing and able to do for all.
(Norman Macleod, D. D.)
I. A LESSON IN REGARD TO GOD'S ANSWERING OF PRAYER. If our prayers are proper and right, both in their spirit and their objects, may we not come to the throne of grace assured that they will be answered? To which I answer —
1. That according to the principle just insisted on, that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, no man is competent to decide positively whether the prayer he offers is in the right spirit. The petition of this Gadarene may have originated in a selfish desire to be happy in Christ's presence, rather than useful in His service. And if so, it was self-considered, an improper prayer, and not to be answered. And so of other prayers.
2. But we remark that, even were we certain that the prayer is such as God promises to answer, there remains still a more important point to be considered — viz., the best way of answering it. If the Gadarene prayed properly, desiring only his own greatest good and God's greatest glory, then Christ may have seen that he would grow more rapidly in grace, and bring more honour to his Saviour, by remaining among his own countrymen; and thus really answered his petition by sending him away. And so it is always. God will assuredly answer all prayers that are proper and good; but then He answers them in His own way, and according to His own higher wisdom. The Christian prays to be sanctified; and this is a good prayer, and if offered in a right spirit is sure to be answered. But how! Ah, not according to the man's thoughts I God lays His strong hand upon the man's idols. He takes away his property; He takes away his health; He takes away his comforts; He lays the beloved of his home and heart into the unpitying grave — thus weakening his affections for the earthly and the carnal. "Ah," but says the Christian, "this is not what I meant!" Be it so; yet if you prayed sincerely to be sanctified, this is precisely what you asked for — for this is sanctification! But passing now from this great lesson of prayer, and considering the text as containing important parabolic instruction, we learn here several lessons as to practical Christian influence.
I. We learn THE IMPORTANCE OF SUCH CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE. The text most impressively teaches us that the law of Christian life is not spiritual enjoyment, but usefulness. And so it is with the Christian. If the end of his conversion were his own spiritual enjoyment, then, as soon as he is converted, he would be translated to Christ's presence in glory. There is nothing falser and fouler than that low, narrow, selfish idea of conversion, which regards it only as the condition whereby the man escapes from hell and gets into heaven. If such conversion makes a man good, it is a goodness out of harmony with all other good things. God's great law of goodness is not absorption, but diffusion. All God's glorious things, from a flower of the field to a star in the firmament, are not receptacles, but fountains. No man ever thought of one of God's angels as sitting selfishly on a heavenly throne, contemplating in indolent rapture the sceptre he is wielding and the diadem he wears. And if one of those professing Christians, who think that all God requires of them is just to get themselves to glory, is a true child of God, then he lacks at least one evidence of sonship — he does not resemble his great Father. Of one thing we are certain, that every converted soul is designed by Jehovah to be "the light of the world." And if Jesus Christ should descend again to the earth, dwelling as of old time with mortals, and one of these very happy and indolent Christians should come to Him, saying, " O Lord Jesus, precious Saviour, let me ever sit at Thy feet in love, and rapture, and worship!" then, sure I am Christ would frown on him as a slumbering and selfish disciple, and, like the restored man of Gadara, "would send him away."
II. Passing this, we learn from the text, THE SECRET, OR ELEMENT, OF ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE, Our Lord sent this restored man away, that he might bear witness for God unto his kinsfolk and countrymen. But how was he to bear witness? Why, simply by making it manifest that the devil had gone out of him. But the power of his witness was not in his lips, but his life. They saw that he was a changed man. A hundred men might have come from Galilee, telling these Gadarenes of Christ, the worker of miracles, and yet all their arguments and eloquence would have been as nothing to one hour's converse with this restored man — yesterday known to all as a raging demoniac, to-day a gentle and loving companion, in his right mind. His power of testimony for Jesus was the power of his life. And in this lies the secret of all true Christian influence. It is the easiest thing in the world to talk about religion. But mere talk about religion is the poorest thing in the world. Every true Christian will indeed talk about his Saviour. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Nevertheless, here as elsewhere, the utterance of the lips is as nothing to the influence of the life. In the Divine economy, all grand forces are comparatively gentle and silent. The shallow rill, that is dry on the mountain-side half the year, brawls more noisily at times than yon mighty river. The boy's sparkling rocket makes a louder demonstration in the night air than all God's starry constellations. And yet, in the silence of their sublime manifestations, how eloquently do these great forces of the universe bear witness for God! And so it is of moral forces. The gentle movement of this restored man, amid his wondering countrymen, did more to convince them of Christ's saving power than a thousand noisy utterances. And so is it with the convincing power of a Christian life. The converted man is left in this world a witness for Jesus — allying illustration of the power and blessedness of a religious life. He is to the theologic truth of the Bible what practical experiments are to scientific truths in nature. As the chemist talks technically of elements in analysis and synthesis, and exhibits, in illustration, free gases and ponderous compounds; and as the botanist discourses scientifically of the structure of plants, and the functions of their parts, and shows you his meaning by producing the petals of a lily, or a spike of lavender — so is it with spiritual science, in the hands of the Great Teacher. The Bible explains, and Christian life illustrates; e.g., Faith, by definition, is "the substance of things hoped for." But, in order to make men understand it, I must be able to point to some man who, under its power, lives, as did Abraham, ever looking for a city whose maker is God. Trust in God is, by definition, an unswerving resting of the mind on Divine veracity and benevolence. But, to make a man comprehend it, it must be in my power to point to men who, under its influence, sit calmly, like Daniel in the lion's den; or go resolutely, like the young Hebrews, into a fiery furnace. And so of all graces. In the Bible they are described, as in a written epistle — in Christian life they are illustrated, as in a "living epistle." And in this sense are we, mainly, witnesses for Christ. As the Gadarenes saw that the demoniac was restored, so must the world see that the sinner is converted. He must speak for Christ, as the flower and the star speak for God, in the beauty and glory of their physical manifestations. Without this abiding savour of a holy life, all else will prove but a mockery.
III. Meanwhile, the text teaches us THE TRUE SPHERE OF THIS CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE. "Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." We may not be able to understand all the reasons of this command. It is, however, quite evident, first, that his home would be the field of his most powerful influence — since those who had best known him in his demoniacal state would be the most thoroughly convinced of Christ's power of miraculous restoration. And, secondly, that his home would be the most appropriate field of his influence, since his kinsfolk had the first claim upon his sympathy and labours. And, were there no reasons but these, this direction of Christ teaches us this important lesson in regard of Christian influence — that its truest field, and its mightiest power, are alike always at home. Its mightiest power is at home, because the members of a man's own household, and the familiar friends of his own social circle, are the best judges of the genuineness of his conversion. It is very easy to put on seemings of godliness that shall deceive strangers; but that must be a true piety, which, amid the daily vexations of life, and the unrestrained intercourse of the home circle, bears the image of Jesus. Meanwhile, a man's home is the fittest field for the exercise of his Christian influence. Religion, like charity, should begin at home. See that your own field is well tilled, ere you go abroad to other fields. Your own heart first; then your own family; then your own Church; then your own country; and then the whole world. This is God's great law of influence. The heart must be in strong health, if the circulation be vigorous and healthful in the extremities. The roots and trunk of a tree must thrive, if it would fling forth new branches. .No matter, indeed, how largely a man expands — the larger his benevolence the better — if he expand harmoniously, from a healthy and permanent centre. Let him not mistake diffusion for expansion, nor a change of scene for an enlargement of influence. Would that all Christians, and all Christian Churches, would learn this simple lesson, which Christ taught to the, restored man of Gadara. One fixed and steadfast sun, standing earnestly in its appointed place, and diffusing constant light and life over the small circle of worlds God has committed to its keeping, is worth more than a hundred erratic comets, flaming out in the heavens, and casting a fiery and locomotive glare on a thousand constellations. "Let me walk through broad Galilee, and stand up as a living witness for God before Greek and Jew; before ruler and Pharisee." And though this request falls in with the dictate of human reason, yet, oh, deeper wisdom of the blessed Saviour; Christ sent him unto his own kinsfolk, saying, "Go home! Go home!"
IV. Moreover, the text Leaches us THE MOTIVES OF THIS CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE. "Return to thine own house," said the Saviour. The text tells us he had " a home"; and faithful hearts, long agonized in his behalf, were to be comforted and blessed by his presence. And though, for his own sake, he preferred to be with Jesus, yet, for the sake of beloved kindred, he was willing to depart. Here was one motive, and a strong one. But the text gives us a stronger.
1. The Divine commandment — "Christ sent him away." He may not have had the intellect to understand why Christ thus ordered it; but he surely had the heart that, in its supreme love to his great Deliverer, rejoiced above all things to do His bidding. And here are the types of Christian motives, in labour for the Saviour. Here is, first, philanthropy, the love of our human kindred; a desire to save the sons and daughters of our one great Father. But yet, strong as this motive is, it is as nothing to that second and mightier one — the command of his Master. Christ, his great and gracious Saviour, hath commanded him, as the grand end of his earthly being, to labour to bring impenitent men under the power of the gospel. And this motive is omnipotent. "The love of Christ constraineth him." The love of my kindred might fail — but "the love of Christ constraineth me!"
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