A Man in the Tombs
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A Man in the Tombs

From Series: An Extraordinary Encounter

Luke 8:26-39  (ID: 2969)

In Luke 8, we meet a demon-possessed man who is reduced to living among tombs. Alienated from God and those around him, the man pictures the human condition apart from God. Alistair Begg explains that the dramatic encounter between Jesus and the man illustrates the reconciliation that has been provided for us in the person of Christ. Jesus meets us in our need, transforms us from the inside-out, and commissions us to bear witness to the Good News.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, I invite you to turn this morning to Luke’s Gospel. We’ve been in Mark and twice in John, and so we’ll take a look at Luke and to 8:26. Luke 8:26:

“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[s] 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 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.”

Amen.

Father, once again we turn to the Bible, and we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to illumine the printed page to us, to help us to think properly and to receive gladly the truth of your Word. And we pray that as a result of this we might be increasingly conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

It’s worthwhile, I think, reminding ourselves this morning that the Bible is a book about Jesus—that we go wrong when we attend church and always ask about the sermon, “I wonder where I am in this sermon?” The real question is “I wonder where Jesus is in this sermon?” Because if the Bible is a book about Jesus, then Jesus ought to be appearing all over the place and all the time. And when we consider these encounters, it’s not so much the challenge to see the point of identification, necessarily, with the individual that is meeting Jesus as it is to be reminded by the Gospel writers of the power of Jesus in so many different circumstances, thereby encouraging us to expect that Jesus will do these things in the transforming power of the Spirit in our lives and in the lives of others too.

We began on Sunday morning where Jesus meets a man in a bed. Then, on Monday, Jesus meets a man in the night. And then, Jesus yesterday meets a woman at the well. And this morning, Jesus meets a man in the tombs. It may seem, particularly this morning, at first reading, that the story of an unhinged tomb dweller is about as far removed from our life and our circumstances as any particular story in the Bible. And yet I think further consideration will allow us to see that each of us has more in common with this central character than we’re probably prepared to admit.

So, our pattern will be just as before: we’ll try and look into the Bible, see what’s there, and learn as we go along.

The Location

First of all, it’s important for us to recognize that Luke is telling us of the location of Jesus here purposefully. When you have these little notes—“They sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee”—they’re not without significance. We don’t want to attach more significance to them than there it needs to be, but we don’t want to miss the point either.

And in this case, this is more than simply a geographical note. Because it represents Jesus’ first foray into gentile country. Jesus is the one who has come in order that men and women from every tribe and nation and people and language will be gathered into the vast company that is represented in Revelation 7.[1] And so he now, as a Jew, enters into this gentile region, enters into a region which, for the Jew, was an unclean environment. Not only was the general environment unclean, but for him to go specifically into the tomb among the demons and among the pigs just defined the nature of the uncleanness that was there.

Luke is actually about to show us how the lesson of the parable, which is also in chapter 8 here… If your Bible is open you can look up to—where is it? Around verse 5 or so. “And when the great crowd had gathered and the people from the town, Jesus told them the parable: ‘A sower went to sow his seed.’”[2] And Luke is now showing the way in which the parable of the sower is going to be worked out in the gentile world. It’s a different location, but it’s the same good news. We’re going to discover that the townsfolk are like the seed that is on the path, and surprisingly, the most unlikely fellow is the good soil. You need to reread the parable and refresh your minds of that, and it will make sense to you. So, that’s the location.

The Man’s Condition

What, then, of the man? What about the condition of this man? Well, we’re told that “for a long time” he was naked, he had no clothes. He hadn’t lived in a house; he had been living “among the tombs.” Naked, homeless, living in the local cemetery. The kind of individual who would be the joke of schoolboys—that strange, scary feeling when you ran past the cemetery and you said to one another, “Don’t shout! He may come out and get us!” Now, the same schoolboys who would be told by their parents, “When you come home, make a wide berth around the cemetery. We don’t want Naked Norman coming and getting ahold of you.” (I just called him Norman there. That was a Freudian slip. But anyway, there we go. It was just the N, and Norman was the first name that came to mind. I do apologize! Actually, he was Scottish. It was Naked Neil. Naked Neil. It was not Norman.) But the man would be regarded as a public nuisance—a public nuisance extraordinaire. He was uncontrollable. They had obviously made attempts to harness him, to chain him, to shackle him, and without any kind of long-term success.

He’s really a tragic picture. He has crossed the boundaries of human decency. He has essentially lost any claim to status. He is not an unusual character in twenty-first century America, actually. Someone, some years ago, wrote what they called a poem. I don’t know how it qualifies as poetry, but it went like this: “Do you have any identification? Diner’s card? Access? American Express? Bank statement? Driving license? Then I’m sorry, sir. You do not exist.” And that would be the condition of this individual: nothing at all, just a naked, homeless man, crying out in the night. He had been reduced essentially to the level of a wild animal. He was marginalized, he was demonized, and his life was hopeless. If you’d seen him in the New York subway, you would’ve definitely tried to change your seat.

But here is something that we need to pay careful attention to: he is essentially a tragic picture of what the Bible tells us is the human condition apart from God. This is where a man or a woman will eventually end up, unrestrained. And in order to reinforce that and so that we don’t miss this, let me turn you just to two passages in the Epistles which will help us understand, first of all in Ephesians chapter 2 and then in Colossians and also then in chapter 1. Turn to Ephesians 2 so that you might see again that what I’m telling you is actually there in the Scriptures. If, of course, you’ve already decided you can trust me, then you won’t be following along.

There is an anti-God bias within each of us that is entered at the level of our understanding and at the level of our will, so that even human presuppositions and human thought processes are ultimately hostile to God.

This is Ephesians 2, after the glorious beginning of chapter 1, in terms of the amazing, initiative-taking love of God—the reminder that the Ephesians have also been included in Christ when they heard the gospel of their salvation and when they believed. And then in chapter 2, in order to amplify the magnificence of grace, he reminds these Ephesians of what their lives were without Christ, when they were without God. “And you were dead,” he says,

in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[3]

You can read on for yourselves later on.

Now, we need to be clear. We are not all possessed by demons. But by nature we are all under the power of dark forces. We are all under the power of evil. That is why we have no need to teach our children to lie. There is no course that you need to send your children to, to learn how to cheat or to steal. They are only doing what comes naturally.

Colossians chapter 1. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and chapter 1:21: “And you, who [were once] alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled.” “You, who [were once] alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” Who are these people? You and me. It’s not a very palatable notion, is it? It’s certainly reacted against. But it really makes sense, doesn’t it, of the extent of God’s mercy? We want to reinforce what we said yesterday morning: that there is no area of our lives that is left intact by sin. Sin affects our emotions, it affects our wills, it affects our minds. And there is an anti-God bias within each of us that is entered at the level of our understanding and at the level of our will, so that even human presuppositions and human thought processes are ultimately hostile to God.

Now, if you understand this, if we understand what the Bible is saying here, then it helps us to reckon with those who are so diametrically opposed to what we have come to understand as a result of God’s grace and goodness—when we find ourselves saying, “How is it that anyone can ever say x? How is it that anyone can ever believe y?” We say that all the time, don’t we? The answer is here in Colossians chapter 1. The answer is here in Ephesians chapter 2. Because apart from the amazing grace of God, we would hold those same presuppositions. We would attach more significance to things that are insignificant than discover significance in the things of God. And so, when we think in terms of hostility towards God, then the demonic dimension of it, as expressed in this man, is simply a further indication of it. He is enslaved, and, of course, we too are enslaved.

The nature of the spiritual world that is going on all around us is absolutely real. Otherwise, what Paul is saying when he talks about our wrestling not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places[4] really doesn’t mean anything at all, does it? No, the reality of the power of God at work spiritually, the reality of the activities of the Evil One at work spiritually are biblical truths and have to be reckoned with.

So, the location is in the gentile context of the Gerasenes. The condition of the man is that he is alienated: he’s alienated from God, he’s alienated from others, and he’s alienated from himself. Now, if you think about the doctrine of reconciliation, where Paul says, you know, “We beseech you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. Receive the reconciliation, which God has provided for you in the gospel.”[5] Who needs to be reconciled? Only those who are alienated!

And alienation was certainly a great theme of the ’60s and ’70s in contemporary writing. It runs as a vein, I think, through much of Paul Simon’s stuff. Simon I regard as the best writer of lyrics in my lifetime. And when you listen again to some of these old songs, you realize that they’re expressing that deep-seated sense of angst, for which he has no peculiar explanation—whether it is in “The Sounds of Silence” and the great crowd of people “ten thousand …, maybe more,” you know, “talking without speaking” and “hearing without listening,”[6] or when he rides on the bus and he says,

“Kathy, I’m lost,” [he] said, though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching, and I don’t know why,”
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.
They’ve all come to look for America.

Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces;
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy.
I said, “Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera.”[7]

That sense of “Who am I?” and “Where am I?”

Up a narrow flight of stairs,
[To] a narrow little room,
As I lie upon my bed
In the early evening gloom,
[And] impaled [up]on my wall
My eyes can dimly see
The [riddle] of my life
And the puzzle that is me.[8]

He was a Most Peculiar Man.
That’s what Mrs. Riordon [said],
And she should know.[9]

No, it runs all the way through. You see, “the [signs] of the prophets” are “written on the subway walls … and whispered in the sounds of silence.”[10] They really are. If you listen carefully, you will hear in “The Sounds of Silence” the great cries of the demons, the great cries of lostness, the great cries of emptiness.

And our response to them is not to shout, “Be quiet!” but is to say, “Do you know that there is a reconciliation that has been provided in the person of Christ, in the amazing nature of his death for sinners?” That’s, you see, what is going to be the key that unlocks the alienation of this man’s mind. It is what Jesus is about to do when finally all of hell is unleashed against him and every dark and demonic force is poured out upon him, as if that would be the end of him, rather than, as it proves to be, the triumph of his might.

The Confrontation

So, the confrontation is as recorded for us. I just distracted myself there a little bit. I’m sorry. But I think I’m back. I’m back on track.

What you have here is a combination, I think, of attraction and of fearfulness on the part of the man. Jesus, we’re told, has “commanded the [evil] spirit to come out of the man.” And the response that you see down there in verse 28 makes clear that the forces of evil knew the answer to the question the disciples had been asking in verse 25. I like little things like this. I hope you do too. If you look at verse 25, Jesus has calmed the sea. He has come through the storm in order that he can meet this man in the tombs. There is a great calm. “They were afraid”—response of his followers to a dramatic display of his power was fearfulness—and they said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, [that] they obey him?”[11] So what they don’t know the demons understand. “We know who you are.” That’s a reminder of what James goes on to write in James 2, when he says, “Even the demons believe—and [they] shudder!”[12] And given that they know who Jesus is and the power of Jesus, they say to him, “Please do not torment me.” Demons are aware of the fact that in the presence of Jesus, destruction is their only prospect.

Now, we don’t wanna get sidetracked on this, but evil forces and evil spirits work for the destruction of the work of God. They seek to incarnate themselves to oppose the work of he who is incarnate God. You get that? So that evil spirits seek to find a place to inhabit in order that they might challenge he who has inhabited time, he who has incarnated in the person of the Lord Jesus.

So you have this direct confrontation. “Don’t send us,” they say. “Please don’t send us down into the abyss.” If you take a good concordance—you can work your way through that this afternoon, especially if it rains—but this is a reference simply to the abode of the dead. So the demon world is aware of the fact that one day, in the judgment, their freedom is gone and their doom is sealed. There’s no question about that, and they understand that. Realizing that they are, then—that is, the demons—face-to-face with the Judge, they’re obviously afraid that he may choose now to cast them down into the abyss.

The man’s personality has been so destabilized by the demons that they have usurped the place of the self, and they speak through him. That’s why when Jesus in verse 30 says, “What is your name?” he said, “‘Legion,’ for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.” Again, what a tragic picture of this man: hopelessness, absolutely unable to fix himself or to be fixed by anyone else apart from the intervention of he who is the Lord of all the nations.

In this dramatic confrontation, what you have is a sneak preview, if you like, of the messianic power over evil that one day will be consummated when the lion lies down with the lamb.

Well, in response to their request, we have the destruction of the pigs. And it’s a story that obviously gets everybody completely churned up in home Bible study groups: “[And] then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and [they] drowned.” How strange is this? Well, it is quite strange. It’s particularly hard for all pig lovers, and some of you who have your own private, personal pigs, I suppose, are completely unsettled by this. But if you just hold your fire, I think you’ll be okay. Calvin actually suggests in his commentary that the demons’ purpose may have been “to excite the inhabitants of [the] country to curse God on account of the loss of the [pigs]”[13]—in other words, just to make the confrontation even greater.

And when we read a little section like this, as we do now, we have to be content to treat the account at the level it’s offered and not try to address questions or answer questions that it doesn’t address. This is the great tyranny, again, of those who, in doing home Bible studies, lose control of the thing at a section like this. And somebody asks the question, “How can animals be possessed?” And the whole Bible study goes completely out of the window at that point. Any notion of the transforming power of Jesus setting somebody free has gone completely south now, because we’re discussing the nature of the demon possession of animals, and someone says, “Well, you know, we had a German shepherd that I think was demon possessed.” And you might as well just close the Bible and say, “We’ll try again next Wednesday, but for now, it’s over.”

Now, why would Jesus allow such use of animals, what happened to the demons, where are they now, why did the demons feel compelled to indwell something, and so on? Now, what do you do with this? What do you do with this? Well, what is the Gospel writer doing? What has the Gospel writer set out to do? What has Luke set out to do in his Gospel? What is the, if you like, the pivotal point of departure in the unfolding drama of the Gospel of Luke? I suggest to you it is Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he grew up, being given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah from which to read, reading these words:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
 because he has anointed me
 to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives…

Hold that phrase: “liberty to the captives.”

 … recovering of sight to the blind,
 to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Now, so he’s reading the Old Testament. “And he rolled up the scroll and [he] gave it back to the attendant and [he] sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Sits down in the position of the teacher. You didn’t stand to teach; you sat down to teach. He sits down. He has read from the Bible. The congregation looks at him and says, “I wonder now how he’s going to expound this passage from Isaiah?” And none of them could’ve been ready for what he said: “And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”[14] “Has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Now, from that point on in the development of Luke’s Gospel, Luke is showing us the way in which that is true. So here in this dramatic confrontation, what you have is a sneak preview, if you like, of the messianic power over evil that one day will be consummated when the lion lies down with the lamb.[15] Therefore, it would be very, very strange if he who then possesses power over all of the forces of nature should not at certain points along the way give evidence of this, whether it is in coming through the storm and in silencing its raging power or in confronting this demoniac, unhinged and alienated as he is, and magnifying the greatness of his might.

So, whatever else might be said, we can see that Jesus judged the life, the sanity, the wholeness, the conversion, if you like, of this man to be of significantly more value than that attached to a herd of pigs. Right? It makes me think of a quote from Smeaton, his book on the atonement. It goes something like this: “The conversion of a single soul is of greater significance than the eradication of temporal evil from an entire kingdom.”[16] “The conversion of a single soul is of greater significance than the eradication of temporal evil from an entire kingdom.” That’s one for coffee for you to think out.

So the very fact that people would actually have a conversation about two thousand pigs in relationship to the eternal destiny of an unhinged man speaks more to our preoccupation with animals and indicates how little is our grasp of the nature of the gospel itself. And that is not to be unkind to any wonderful animal lovers that are here. I love animals too—provided they stay in their proper place. So…

The Reaction of the People

Well, let’s just say something concerning the reaction of the people. The reaction of the people. “When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.” It’s a bit like yesterday, isn’t it? The lady goes, and she immediately rushes off to let everybody know the dramatic power of Jesus. And then, as in John 4, when the people came out of Sychar to see what was going on,[17] the people come out here “to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and [they] found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” And as a result of that, they decided that Jesus should stay and have an evangelistic campaign over the next two or three days. No: “[And] they were seized with great fear,” and they decided that he should leave the region.

Well, it’s quite an indication, isn’t it, of the fact that the impact of the gospel in a life is not immediately met with alacrity, is it? And somebody goes back into his office or goes back into the lab or goes back into the classroom, once a sort of completely out-of-control character in one direction, and now he has come, or she has come back in, clearly changed. And the response of people so often is not to say, “Oh, do tell me how this happened to you; this is a wonderful thing,” but is to be seized by fear and to encourage one another, “Stay away from her! She’s gone loopy. She’s gone strange.” The fact that she was loopy and strange before and has now come to another kind of strange apparently doesn’t matter at all.

No, but you see, it isn’t normal for people to be changed like that, isn’t it? It was sort of weird that this man who had been so weird would now be so normal. You would expect that people would say, “Somebody who can do something like this for this man that nobody could help, we would like to know this man.” But that’s not what they say. They don’t immediately plan, you know, a men’s event—somebody says, “Well, this is fantastic! We could make a buck off this, you know. We’ve lost some money on the pigs, but we can recoup. We’ll sell tickets for this! We’ll have a men’s event, and we’ll say… We’ll put up posters: ‘Speaking tonight at the Gerasene men’s banquet is,’ you know, ‘Tommy the Tomb Dweller, Naked Neil! He will be there in full Technicolor to let everybody know what has wonderfully happened to him.’”

No, it’s not happening like that at all. He who had been demon possessed is now the one from whom the demons have departed. He who had been naked and out of his mind is now “clothed and in his right mind.” He who had fallen down and shouted in verse 28 is now sitting purposefully “at the feet of Jesus.” And what has happened? Well, it’s the fulfillment of the prophet’s words, again, in the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to release the oppressed.” And despite the unambiguous evidence of God’s power, the townsfolk have no interest, save that of ridding their region of this radical Jesus.

It gives the lie, doesn’t it, to the idea that if you just sort of position everything, then everybody will be running out to find out what’s going on. No, they’re not. Men and women by nature do not seek God. We run from God. The story of the gospel is not the story as the media represent it to us routinely at the high holidays, as it were, of religious festival—namely, they will always come up with a story about people who are out looking for God, and God has gone on vacation, and they were finding him somewhere out in the nether regions, and apparently his phone is off the hook or he has no service out there on his iPhone. But nevertheless, they’re looking for God. This is the great story of religion: man is out there looking for God. No, he’s not. The great story is that God is out there seeking for man.

Jesus, my Savior, to Bethlehem came,
Born in a manger to sorrow and shame;
Oh, it was wonderful—blest be his name!
Seeking for me, for me![18]

The man on the bed, “Nic at Night,” the woman at the well, the guy in the tombs: same story. Same wonderful story.

Is it your story? Not a story about religious expectation, or hopes or dreams, or turning over a new leaf, or engaging with God, or finding yourself, or feeling more spiritual. No. No, the radical invasion of God himself, turning our lives upside down—which, since they are by nature upside down, is then to be turned the right way up. And suddenly, we look at the world in a different way.

The Commission Received from Jesus

Well, finally, notice the commission that the man received from Jesus, which ran counter to his request. Jesus granted the demons’ request, and he let the demons go into the pigs. He acceded to the request of the townspeople: “Go away from here.” But he refuses to grant this man what he asks. It’s no surprise that the man is desirous of sticking with Jesus, staying close to Jesus. After all, he was the one who had brought clarity out of a life of chaos. But we’re told, quite strikingly, that Jesus sent him away: “But Jesus sent him away.” “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away.”

It made perfect sense to the former demoniac that he should stay with Jesus. But actually, in the providence of God, he was the first missionary.

“But I think it’s a much better idea if I stay with you, Jesus.” And Jesus sent him away. “Oh, but Jesus… Oh, but… Oh, but… Oh, but…”

“Get outta here.”

“But Jesus, I thought you were a nice person. If you were a nice person, you’d let me stay with you.”

“Get outta here.”

You see, the providences of God are seldom self-interpreting. This man tried to understand his experience in that moment. It made perfect sense to him that he should stay with Jesus. But actually, in the providence of God, he was the first missionary now. He was the missionary that was left behind. He had met Christ on the hillside, but he was now gonna stay in his neighborhood and tell others about him. So Jesus leaves, but he leaves him behind—one whose transformation would be absolutely obvious to all.

He also, when he thought about it and when the Evil One would come to him and say, “You know, maybe you still are demon possessed. Legion, Legion…” Wow, what a wonderful, visible picture he had! Because there he said, “No. Jesus drowned all the demons. He drowned them, every one.”

I’m trying desperately to recall a song that is embedded somewhere deep. “As far away as darkness is from dawn…” Oh yeah!

You ask me why I[’m] happy,
[And] I’ll just tell you why:
Because my sins are gone.
And when I meet [with others]
Who ask me where they are,
I say my sins are gone.

They’re underneath the blood,
[Of] the cross of Calvary,
As far removed as darkness is from dawn
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness,
That’s good enough for me.
Praise God, my sins are gone.[19]

And Jesus gave him this fantastic, visible reminder, so when the Evil One came and accused him, he said, “No, no.” And Jesus has given to each of us a fantastic, visible reminder:

Upon that cross of Jesus
[My] eye at times can see
The very dying form of one
Who suffered there for me.
And from my smitten heart with tears
Two wonders I confess:
The wonder of the redeeming love
And my [own worthlessness].[20]

That’s the story, and I’m sticking to it.

Let’s pray.

He was enslaved, and so are we; turned in upon himself, and so are we. No one was capable of breaking his bonds, nor can we. Only Jesus grants deliverance, and only Jesus gives us a story to tell. What a wonderful thought, that Jesus went through the storm in order to meet a man whose life was in shreds, in order that, once changed, he could be an evangelist in his hometown.

Father, thank you for “the love that drew salvation’s plan,” for “the grace that brought it down to man,” for “the mighty gulf” that you, O God, “did span at Calvary!”[21] Thank you that we do, as we sang on Sunday morning, have “a story to tell to the nations, that [will] turn their hearts to the right,”[22] a story of peace and gladness, a story of love and light. And as we read these Gospel records, we see again and again the way in which you, the Lord of glory, the King of Kings, the Sovereign One, establish your power, so that one day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of you, O God our Father.[23]

Bless us, then, as we ponder these things, as we take them to ourselves, as we learn how to be better equipped to articulate them in a way that is not cruel or bombastic but is sensitive and is kind and yet at the same time is absolutely clear. For we ask for your help in Christ’s name. Amen.


[1] See Revelation 7:9–10.

[2] Luke 8:4–5 (paraphrased).

[3] Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV).

[4] See Ephesians 6:12.

[5] 2 Corinthians 5:20 (paraphrased).

[6] Paul Simon, “The Sound of Silence” (1964).

[7] Simon, “America” (1968). Stanzas reordered.

[8] Simon, “Patterns” (1965).

[9] Simon, “A Most Peculiar Man” (1965).

[10] Simon, “Sound of Silence.”

[11] Luke 8:25 (ESV).

[12] James 2:19 (ESV).

[13] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 1:433.

[14] Luke 4:18–21 (ESV).

[15] See Isaiah 11:6.

[16] The quote originates in the eighteenth century, from a sermon delivered by John Newton, the converted slave-trader. See John Newton, “Messiah Suffering and Wounded for Us.”

[17] See John 4:30.

[18] A. N., “Seeking for Me” (1878).

[19] N. B. Vandall, “My Sins Are Gone” (1934).

[20] Elizabeth C. Clephane, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” (1868).

[21] William R. Newell, “At Calvary” (1895).

[22] H. Ernst Nichol, “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations” (1896).

[23] See Philippians 2:10–11.

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.