In our last essay we studied Luke 8:1-15. In this essay we are studying Luke 8:16-39, which contains several elements. In verses 16-18 we find the parable of the Lamp. Then verses 19-21 tell us who Jesus’ true relatives are. Following that, in verses 22-25, we find the account of Jesus’ stilling of the storm; and in verses 26-39, we see Jesus’ dramatic healing of a Gerasene demoniac.
The audience for the parable of the lamp in 8:16-18 included the crowds, but the teaching was intended for Jesus’ disciples. The lamp referred to is the common oil lamp of the Middle East. Therefore the listeners would immediately have grasped the foolishness of hiding one under a jar, or under a bed. Lamps by definition are not to be hidden. They are to be placed where they can give light to all who enter the room.
So the question we must ask ourselves, as always, is what is the point of the parable in this context? Verses 17 and 18 tell us. First, no light is shed at all unless the lamp is lit. Jesus is telling the disciples to be a lamp. Back in verses 9-10, which we studied in the last essay, Jesus explained that he revealed the “mysteries” of the kingdom of God to the disciples when he explained the parables to them. Thus the “secrets” or “mysteries” of the kingdom were what was hidden until Jesus revealed it to the disciples. Now the disciples were responsible to make it known to the world. They are to light their lamps and share the good news.
Second, notice that this good news about the kingdom is going to be revealed to the world, whether or not they become lamps. And that’s why Jesus warns them in verse 18 to listen carefully to what he is telling them. He reminds them of the important spiritual principle, “to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”
When God blesses us with a revelation of truth, we are responsible to make that truth known to others. If we fail to do that, and try to use it only to benefit ourselves, we eventually will lose the benefit. This principle is illustrated by the Parable of the Pounds that we will be studying later in Luke’s Gospel. It’s found in Luke 19:11-27. In that parable Jesus tells us about a nobleman who had to go to a far country. He called ten of his servants to him and gave each of them a sum of money. In the NRSV the sum is called a pound, and in the NIV it is called a mina. The amount of money is not particularly important. What they did with the money is very important.
When the nobleman returned, he called the ten to give an accounting of their stewardship. Jesus reports on three of them. One had invested the pound and now had ten pounds. The nobleman rewarded him by giving him authority over ten cities. The second also had invested and now had five pounds. He was rewarded with authority over five cities. The third, however, had not invested the money. He didn’t even put the money in a bank where it would make interest. He had 0nly the original pound. The nobleman commanded that his pound be given to the man who had ten pounds. And when someone questioned that, Jesus declared, “I tell you, that to everyone who has [meaning proven to be a good steward] will more be given; but from him who has not [meaning has not been a good steward], even what he has will be taken away.”
Do you see how that parable illustrates the situation of the disciples? They have been given, not money, but the “secrets” of the kingdom. And they now have the responsibility to be good stewards of those “secrets.” If they prove to be good stewards, they will be rewarded. But if they prove to be bad stewards, they will lose the privileges that they already have.
In 8:19-21 we see who Jesus’ spiritual relatives are. The scene begins with the arrival of Jesus’ mother and brothers. But they could not get to him because of the large crowd. They sent word that they were there and wanted to see him; but when Jesus was told, he made a teaching moment out of the situation by saying, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” By that statement, Jesus clearly indicated that to be part of his spiritual “family” one has to hear and do the word of God.
Now then, in 8:22-25 we find the story of Jesus’ stilling a storm. The connection with what precedes is very weak. Luke simply changes the subject by saying “One day.” But Mark says that it was that same day (Mk. 4:35). So on that day Jesus got into a boat with the disciples and suggested that they go “to the other side of the lake.” Mark tells us that there were other boats as well (Mk 4:36). So they set sail, and Jesus, apparently overcome with fatigue, went to sleep.
Then a severe storm arose that caused the boat to take on water and put them in danger. When I was in Israel and visited the Sea of Galilee, it was beautifully calm. And since it isn’t that large a lake, an observer like myself would never know how violent storms rise rather quickly on the lake. But they do. It has something to do with the mountains surrounding the lake. Sometimes the winds sweep down off the mountains and create huge storms like the one reported on here.
The storm obviously had not disturbed Jesus’ sleep. The disciples who were afraid, woke him up and shouted, “Master, Master, we are perishing.” And Jesus, now awake, stilled the storm. Mark tells us that Jesus rebuked the storm, saying, “Peace! Be still!” (Mk. 4:39). Now coming back to Luke, the reason the story is told is seen in verse 25. Jesus asks, “Where is your faith? Mark, in his parallel, reports that Jesus said, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Jesus apparently thought that the disciples should have been less fearful in the situation. The point is, when the heart is filled with faith there is no reason to panic during a difficult time. And the disciples definitely panicked in that situation.
Notice that the disciples were amazed at Jesus’ power over the forces of nature. This apparently was the first time that they saw him work a nature miracle. And it caused them to ask, “Who then is this who commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” The disciples had not yet clearly or fully grasped that Jesus was God in the flesh. We are moving in our study of Luke toward the day at Caesarea Philippi when Peter would confess that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). But the disciples are not to that point yet.
Next, in 8:26-31, comes the account of the healing of the Gerasene demoniac. Jesus and the disciples were sailing from the Galilean side of the lake to the southeastern side, to the “country of the Gerasenes,” or “Gadarenes,” or “Gergasenes” (v. 26). Different manuscripts have these different spellings. The NRSV goes with Gerasenes. This territory was in the larger area called the Decapolis, a Gentile area.
As soon as Jesus stepped ashore, a demoniac approached him. The demoniac is described in verse 27 as going naked and living in the tombs (v. 27). Then in verse 29 we are told that authorities in the area had tried to chain and shackle him, but he always broke the bonds and fled into the wilds. Verse 29 also tells us that Jesus ordered the demon to leave him, and that was why the man fell down before Jesus and shouted, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” (v. 28). Jesus reply to the outburst was to ask the man his name. He answered “Legion,” because many demons had entered into him (v. 30). Then they begged him not to send them into “the abyss,” which is a term for the underworld place of imprisonment for demons.
In verses 32-33 we see the peculiar situation of the destruction of a herd of swine. The presence of the pigs indicates that this was indeed a mostly Gentile area. Pigs were unclean animals to Jews, and they did not herd them. Of course the question arises as to why Jesus allowed the demons to enter the herd of pigs. The best answer to that question that I have seen is that the deaths of the pigs demonstrated the intention of demons. They wish to destroy those whom they inhabit. Human beings can be destroyed without physically killing them; but in the case of the swine, the only way to destroy them was to kill them.
The sight of the pigs rushing to their deaths horrified the herdsmen who immediately ran to spread the news (v. 34). Some of the people came out to see what happened, and found the formerly demon possessed man sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed and in his right mind. That man was well known throughout the country, and they could not deny that a miracle had taken place. The text doesn’t say anything about their seeing the bodies of the dead pigs floating in the sea, but I’m sure that was another important part of the experience. What they saw struck great fear into their hearts (v. 35). And it led the local people to ask Jesus to leave, which he did (v. 37). The healed man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him to stay and be a witness among his own people (vv. 38-39).
Turning to application, in the first section, verses 16-18, which contained the parable of the lamp, we learned that we must be lamps. We have been entrusted with the “secrets” of the kingdom, and we have a responsibility to share that revelation with the world. If we don’t, we may lose our privileges and rewards.
In the second little section, verses 19-21, we learned who are the true family members of Jesus. It is those of us who hear the word of God and do it. So it is extremely important that we know God’s word and commit ourselves to obeying it.
In the third section, verses 22-25, in which Jesus calmed the storm, we learned not to panic when times are tough. Our faith is sufficient to see us through difficult times calmly.
Finally, in the fourth section, verses 26-39, we saw the determination of demonic forces to destroy those whom they possess. And we saw the power of God over such forces. We also saw once again, in the example of the healed demoniac, our responsibility to bear a witness to what Christ has done for us.