I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name. 2 I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; 3 a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; 4 who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig's flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels; 5 who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. 6 Behold, it is written before me: “I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their lap 7 both your iniquities and your fathers' iniquities together, says the LORD; because they made offerings on the mountains and insulted me on the hills, I will measure into their lap payment for their former deeds.” 8 Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants' sake, and not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there. 10 Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. 11 But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, 12 I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.”
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have a pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. 19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
21 Is the the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 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. 28 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.” 29 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.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 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. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. 34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 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, l clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 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. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “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.
I've been on missions teams that have gone into prisons. How effective our ministry was, I don't know. I'll not dwell on it much, but to say that at that time I was sure we were doing good, though now I'm not always so sure.
I was a part of those teams. I went into those prisons with the others on those teams. I was there for a time, a few hours. Then along with the others, I left. The prisoners were there before we arrived, and they were there after we left. Some of them may have been glad we came, may have enjoyed our little show, maybe even listened to our clumsy attempts to tell them about Jesus. If nothing else, maybe it was a bit of a break from the normal monotony. But when we left, they stayed.
But even in those brief times in those prisons, I learned enough to know that they are not pleasant places. They are places of confinement, of isolation. Prisoners are not free. They cannot just walk out of the prison. All of those around them are either fellow prisoners, or guards whose jobs are to keep them in line.
Of course, if we had known what those prisoners had done to earn their places in prison, we may likely not feel much sympathy for them. Because prison is a place set up for criminals. True, being humans, we can think of times when the innocent are imprisoned, when acts are called criminal that are not criminal at all. In fact, the biblical book of Acts relates several times when early believers in Christ were put into prison for no better reason then because they believed in Christ.
The passage in Galatians may seem rather odd to us, “22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin...23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned... ” We are prisoners? The Scriptures imprisons us? The Law held us captive? Surely not! I am not imprisoned! I can go wherever I want, I can leave my home without having guards open the home's doors. I can go outside whenever I want, not only during some scheduled times. I can associated with whomever I want, not only with prison inmates. There are no bars on my windows, there is no razor wire around my property to keep me in.
Perhaps not. The prison we were born into is not a physical one. It's walls cannot be seen with our physical eyes. But it is not the less very real.
The man in the passage from Luke was a prisoner. He was a plaything to demonic powers, tormented and tortured by them. the cells of his prison were the tombs among which he was driven to live, his prison clothes were the indecency forced upon him by his demonic tormentors. He had no home. His life was a misery, and he was completely unable to help himself, nor was any other person able to help him.
We may well think that we are not like that man. No, his condition was far more obvious than that of most people, but the reality is, this man was far from alone in this prison. The reality is, all of us have spent time in that prison, and many of us are still in it. His condition was more obviously worse than that of most other people, but there are none who have not spent time in that prison of sin and death. We have all been the playthings of demons, even if our condition was not so visible to ourselves or others. We have all been slaves to sin, prisoners, captives, in bondage to sin, unable to help ourselves.
Could that man help himself? No, his condition was beyond any effort he could make. Even were the demons to have left him on their own, he would still have been a prisoner of sin, as the Galatians passage tells us.
But for that man, as for all of us, Christ has come. In the Gospel account, Christ was there to drive the demons from the man, to restore to him his sanity and his decency, and to even make him a kind of minister to what He had done for him among people who asked Jesus to depart from them, a messenger of Chris's mercy to people who did not want Christ Himself among them.
For all of us who have been or still are prisoners of sin, Christ has come, Christ has suffered, Christ has died, and Christ is risen.
I know of some who, with the best of intentions, go into morbid and gory details concerning their suppositions of the things Christ suffered. The Gospels do not dwell on the details, though the Psalm above does tell us a little. It is a Messianic Psalm, which is specifically about Christ, and there are verses in Psalm 22 that tell us of the things the Christ suffered in His crucifixion, not only the terrible sufferings of His body, which were considerable, but also the scorn and ridicule of those who gathered to watch Him die, to mock Him.
There is a sense of parallel here with what is written in Luke 8 and what Christ suffered. For this man who was driven from human companionship and lived among the dead, Christ came from the Heavenlies to live among those dead in trespasses and sins. For this man who suffered from an infestation of demons, Christ lived in a demon-infested world. In another account of this miracle in Mark 5, we are told that this man at night would cry aloud and cut himself with stones. For this man who thus abused his body under demonic influence, Christ's own body was abused to the point of disfigurement by men who were no better than demons, lashed by whipped, His head punctured by thorns, his hands and feet pierced by nails. For this man whose life was little better than death, Christ died and rose from the dead so that he could have life.
And what Christ did for that man, He did for all men. Consider this from Isaiah 61, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.” Who are the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, those bound in prison, but we who are in such a condition because of our sins? If Christ came to break criminals out of physical prisons, we would rightly be worried, because though there may be places where injustice puts the innocent into prisons, by and large our prisons are filled with people who should be put away, with murderers and sexual predators, with the violent, with those with revenge in their hearts, those who would steal what is someone else's.
But Christ came to proclaim liberty to those who are captives of sin. As it says elsewhere, He became sin for us, so that we might become righteous, even the righteousness of God. It is as Romans 3 tells us, through faith in Christ a righteousness from God is available to us.
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” This echoes again the words of Romans 3, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” The Law made us prisoners of sin, so that we may see how sinful we are, to show us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But now the faith has been revealed, now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law. And it is a gift to us, we may be justified by God's grace. But it is not available as a wage, it cannot be worked for, we cannot make ourselves worthy of earning it. It is available only as a gift, to those like this demon-oppressed man who can only come to Jesus .
These passages tell us not only of suffering, but also of deliverance. From Psalm 22, “23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” And from Luke 8, “35 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, “ That man was delivered from his spiritual afflictions, and was clothed, his mind restored, and He was listening to what Jesus was telling Him.
The same kind of deliverance is available for us. Like him, we must come in helplessness, knowing that we are unable to help ourselves at all, we are completely unable to do anything to improve our condition. We as prisoners of sin cannot free ourselves. But Christ has come to set us free!