The Power Is Not Always in Numbers

Just like the story of the strong man in Luke 8:26-39, when we feel and are the most powerless; it’s at that moment we can rejoice in a truth that the strong man and anyone who was paying attention learned: “The Power is Not Always in Numbers.”   June 23, 2019.

It’s time to do something!  It’s not the same as it was anymore. His drinking is out of control. It’s becoming a problem and the lives of others are starting to be affected.   What do you do? You aren’t going to go just yourself; you’ve tried that!! It’s time for an intervention. If he doesn’t listen to one person, maybe he’ll listen to five people in the same room saying the same thing. Afterall, there’s power in numbers!  

If you are on a hockey team you know that one of your main goals is to not spend time in the penalty box. You want to avoid spending two minutes in the penalty and that goal is especially important if a teammate is already in the box. If you are going to skate with two players down, the advantage definitely goes to the other team! If you have four players skating and they have six, the chance of them scoring a goal goes through the roof. There’s Power in Numbers! That’s why they call that particular scenario a “Power Play!”

That strong man from town has been extra strong lately. He used to live in town, but not anymore. I wonder if he went on “roid rage” and trashed his place. Either way he’s living out in the cemetery now. He’s been acting really weird too! Streaking around the outskirts of town, really scaring the people that are passing through. A few of us even feared for our lives, so we had him chained him up, hands and feet, but that didn’t even work! He burst through those chains like they were paper! No one has known what was happening or how, but I think we’ve figured it out. We heard that he’s demon possessed. And not just one demon but many we’re told!! In fact, when he was asked what his name was, he said “Legion” which was a group of about 6,000 Roman soldiers. If that man has 6,000 demons living inside of him, I guess that would explain his strange behavior. That would explain why it seems like he’s being controlled by someone or something else! I guess people are right when they say “There’s Power in Numbers!!”

You can imagine the talk around the towns in the region! You can imagine what a scene the man was causing and what the whispers and murmurs must have been. Can you imagine knowing that at any time he could walk into your town, your yard, your house. And then what? What are you going to do? You probably aren’t going to go toe-to-toe with a man like that. What are you going to do against a man who can break through chains?? 

Do you feel that way with the problems in your life? They are surrounding you and any given moment they will come into your town into your yard into your home! And what are you going to do then? Are you strong enough to face the pressures of your vocation, the expectations of those who are counting on you, the hardships of life?  Can you go toe-to-toe with strong men like severe debt, like broken relationships, like cancer? Can you win those fights? Can you subdue them and win the day?  

Or what if it comes to the real problem that the people in that region were facing? Can you stare down the devil and make him cower in fear? Can you overpower him and his influences on you? Can you undo the havoc that he has wreaked in your life? Can you outwit the Father of Lies? Can you fix what sin has done to you, to your life, to your future?  

The sad reality is that we can’t stand up to the devil! Chose any day in your life, chose the best day and you’ll have enough proof that we can’t stand up to him. Are you strong enough to stand up to the temptations that he puts in your path? Are you strong enough to see his traps and lies and deflect and defeat them?   Are you strong enough to say ‘no’ to evil and ‘yes’ to godly living?   

We are under the influence of Satan. We are controlled by him. Jesus told us that himself (in John 8:34): Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin!” Who’s wearing the chains now? You…and me!!! And unlike the man in the story who broke free from his chains so easily, we never could! Not even if we mustered all our strength. No one can help us break those chains and we can’t do it on our own. We’re bound, we’re slaves!!

And it’s at that very moment…it’s at that time when we feel and are the most powerless that we can rejoice in a truth that the strong man and anyone who was paying attention learned:  The Power is Not Always in Numbers. They learned that in Jesus, the Power is in the One!!

Though the number of the demons was Legion, the power that day was in the One. Though the many demons were overpowering the man, they could not overpower the God-man – and they knew it! That’s why they said: What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 

They knew the truth! They knew that though they had considerable power, power in their numbers, they’d be knocked out in the first round if they got into the ring with Jesus - the Almighty God! They knew where the real power is – it’s in the One!

The Power is in the One who lives in heaven yet came down to earth for us. The Power is with the one who set aside the full use of his power so that he could be the Savior. The Power is with the God-man, who was willing to be born of the virgin. The Power is clearly with the one who went toe-to-toe with the devil and won. The Power is with the one who withstood temptation not just three times in the desert, but for 33 years – because that what we needed him to do! The Power is with the One who willingly placed himself under the law. The Power is with the one who spoke to wind and waves and forced them into submission. The Power is with the one who reversed the course of sickness and disease. The Power is with the One who undid death. The Power is with the One who willingly bore the chains of our sin and endured their wrath. The Power is with the One who allowed the power and wrath of God to fall upon himself. The Power is with the One who hung powerless on the cross so that he could save you and me from our sins. And the Power is proven to lie with the one who did lie in dead for long, but rose up again in powerful glory!  The Power is in the One who rose in mighty victory over death on Easter Day! The Power is in the One who rendered death powerless against you!! The Power is in the One! 

Jesus came to earth, not just to flex his muscles and then return to his heavenly throne. No, he came to use that power for us!  He shares that power with us! He came in power, to use his power to lock tight the gates of hell and to throw open the gates of heaven before us! He’s the one who has the power to make those promises, to keep those promises, to give you eternal life!   

I read you a passage from John 8 before but I only read you the first half. Here’s the full passage:   

 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

Jesus has set us free from the chains of our sin. He has set us free from the power of sin death and the power of the devil. And if Jesus has set us free, nothing and no one can undo that! If Jesus has set us free, that that is exactly what we are!!! Even though our sins are many – the power is in the One.   

A modern song writer (Chris Tomlin) writes this truth into the lyrics of his song so well: 

My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace

The strong man had his real chains removed as Jesus drove out those demons. The real chains he had to worry about were not the ones of iron, but rather the devil’s control of his life! Jesus drove out the demons and gave him his life back. He was set free by Jesus and that meant that he was free indeed. 

The Powerful One had powerfully freed the strong man. And he gave him not just freedom but he gave him the power to serve.  

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. 

He couldn’t keep it to himself. Jesus had given him his life back and the promise and hope of life in the world to come. Jesus had changed his life forever! He had to share the news of his freedom. He had to let others know what God had done for him. And what a powerful witness he would be!

Jesus has restored life to us! Jesus has given us hope and a future, a promised place in the mansions of heaven. He’s changed our lives forever and has given us a perspective here on earth that we never could have had without him. He comes with his power and with his might and his love. Let’s not keep that to ourselves. Let’s go out to share the message of his love.    

Jesus told the man Return home. Those were the people that Jesus called him to love. Those were the people that were his prospects, his mission field. He didn’t send the man on a world mission trip. He didn’t ask him to sail around the globe. He gave him work to do right where he lived. His commission was pretty simple really!! “Go home, find the people that are in your life and tell them about me. Tell them what I have done for you!” And Jesus empowered him to do just that. Jesus put that powerful gospel on his heart and then put it on his tongue and he shared the good news.

Jesus has empowered you in the same way. If you want to go on a mission trip, that would be wonderful, but you don’t have to. You have a mission field in front of you. “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” Jesus will empower you to share his truth with those in your life. He’ll make you bold and courageous to be a witness.   

Does that sound daunting? Pray for his strength! Tap into the powerful gospel in Word and Sacrament. Remember the heavy chains that he’s freed you from and the great debt that he’s paid for you. Rejoice in sins forgiven and let your heart overflow in thanksgiving and joy. Then he will answer your prayer. God will equip those he has called to do just what the strong man did!! He’ll help you to Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” 

Then others will know what you know – that the Power is Not Always in Numbers! With Jesus, the Power is in the One!!!      

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on June 23, 2019