February 19, 2017
This past Tuesday it was Valentines Day. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love. On Valentine’s Day people do things for the one’s they love. But in our relationships it is not uncommon to feel that we are the one doing things for others and sometimes we wonder what others are doing for us. In 1986 Janet Jackson sang a song about that, “What have you done for me lately?” The song, “revolves around a woman's frustration with her partner in a relationship.”
Today we are looking at Mk.5:1-20. This event in the ministry of Jesus gives us opportunity to reflect on our relationship with Jesus. And as we look at this event I am going to ask the question: How much has Jesus done for you?
I. THE DEVIL HAS COME TO DESTROY. Mk.5:1-5
In 1Jn.3:8 it says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” These days talk about the Devil is more tongue in cheek than anything else. The reality is that many, including some Christians, do not really believe in the devil anymore.
Of course there are Christians who find the devil in everything and they are regularly rebuking or binding satan, praying for a hedge of angels to protect the church or family. I remember a woman who saw my mom itching her nose and concluded that there was a demon in her nose. She cast it out!
But many do not believe in the devil. And yet, according to 1Jn.3:8 Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. In his book, “Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted,” Richard Beck points out that when we do away with the devil we are forced to attribute everything that is evil to a matter of social, political, or economic injustice, as if there is no spiritual component. If you don’t believe there is a spiritual component to the evil in this world, you will seek to deal with evil as if you are wrestling only with flesh and blood, as Paul writes. The spiritual power of God as a resource will be off the table.
So here we have a man who is in a pitiful condition. If you don’t believe in the devil you look only for non-spiritual causes. Maybe this man was deprived and abused as a child. Maybe he had a mental illness and his parents could not care for him. Eventually he was shunned by family, friends, and community. Maybe he alienated himself because of his behavior.
He was driven from the community and so he lived in the caves in which people buried their dead. Night and day he was crying out in a loud voice. He was cutting himself with stones. Well, what do you do with a man like this? People from the community tried to chain him up and put him in shackles. They tried unsuccessfully to subdue him. This man was a disruption to the community.
I remember a situation when I lived in West Africa. The principal of the school where I was teaching was actually chained up for a while because he seemed to be mentally ill. He was doing crazy things. Off senses, was the expression used. If the man in Mk.5 was living today he would be committed to a psychiatric facility and given drugs to keep him subdued.
Now in the case of this man the text tells us that he had an unclean spirit. Later in v.12-13, we see that there were many unclean spirits in this man. Perhaps they spoke as one voice. When we look in the Bible we learn that the devil has been sinning from the beginning. He is a tempter and a deceiver who prowls around looking to devour people. He is a liar and schemes against God and the people of God. He works in the arena of death, destruction, and fear. He works within the social, political, and economic structures of the world. The devil opposes all that is good and of God. And in this passage we see just what the devil can accomplish in the life of a person.
I am not going to try to explain what this is all about, because I don’t know. People are complicated and trying to discern the spiritual, physical, emotional, and social components is difficult. Did this man give himself over to an unclean spirit? I know someone who did that. Was this man raised in a home that practiced occult activities? We don’t know. It doesn’t say that this man was evil. It says that he had an unclean spirit. In many ways he was victimized by the unclean spirit. He was out of control. He was demonized. He was being destroyed in heart, mind, soul, and body. That’s what the devil does. The devil is seeking to do this in all of our lives.
I want to caution us to be careful what we say about people who are suffering in emotional ways. Maybe you know someone or have a family member who suffers in similar ways, cutting themselves, crying out uncontrollably, perhaps hurting others. I would hesitate to say that such a person has an unclean spirit or that he or she is demon possessed. Unless there is clear evidence to alert us to that reality we must be careful about putting labels on people. We can do great harm to a sensitive soul.
In the case of this man there were some signs to indicate that his problem was more than just mental, emotional, physical, and social. For one thing, when Jesus got out of the boat, this man was compelled to come and fall on his knees before Jesus. He knew who Jesus was. He seemed to have strength beyond what a normal person would have, breaking chains and shackles.
If the devil is given a foothold he will employ any and every resource at hand to destroy a person’s life. So, of course, the person will be effected spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually. That’s why it is not easy to discern. Suffice it to say that the devil has come to destroy. That is what he does.
II. JESUS HAS COME TO RESTORE. Mk.5:6-15
Jesus and his disciples had crossed the lake, experiencing a life-threatening storm. The disciples saw Jesus speak with authority to the winds and the waves, bringing peace and calm. They were in awe of Jesus. As soon as the man saw Jesus he came and fell on his knees before Jesus. In v.7, he says in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” James Edwards writes, “In Judaism, ‘Most high God’ is an epithet emphasizing the transcendence and exaltation of Israel’s God over pagan gods and goddesses and rival powers.” It is found 31 times in the Old Testament. In other words this unclean spirit knew that Jesus was Israel’s God, the one, true God in the flesh.
According to v.8, Jesus had already been commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man. He asked the man to say his name. But it seems that the man was not able to even do that. The unclean spirit replied, “Legion, for we are many.” A Roman legion was the largest unit in the Roman army, containing as many as 5,200 men. This unclean spirit was like a legion of soldiers with a violent grip on this poor man.
The spirit begged Jesus to not send them out of the country. In Luke it says they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.” The abyss refers to the final destination of satan and his demonic angels. Instead they asked Jesus to let them go into the herd of 2,000 pigs that was nearby. It says that Jesus gave them permission. And what happened next was astounding. The spirits came out of the man and went into the herd of pigs and the pigs rushed down a steep bank and drowned in the sea. No one was expecting that. If there was any doubt about the reality of the devil, all doubt was removed.
People raise the question about why Jesus would do harm to the local economy by letting the spirits destroy the herd of pigs. The text doesn’t address that question. Perhaps Jesus wanted everyone to see the reality of the devil and his work. Perhaps for Jesus the value of one life far surpasses the value of a herd of pigs.
In Acts 16 Paul was in Philippi and there was a servant girl who had a spirit of divination. She brought great gain to her owners by fortune-telling. The girl was following Paul and crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” When Paul commanded the spirit to leave the girl, her owners were upset and brought Paul and Silas before the rulers. Paul did a good thing, but took away the owners’ source of income. Paul didn’t seem too upset about that. He was more concerned about the gospel and the girl.
The pig herders went into the nearby city and told what happened. People came out to see for themselves. And they were amazed by what they saw. The man was sitting there, clothed and in his right mind. This is what Jesus does. He restores people to their right mind. He restores one’s identity. He restores wholeness. The man was sitting in the presence of Jesus. Do not lose that thought.
Jesus not only has the authority and power to bring quiet and calm to a raging storm at sea. Jesus has the authority and power to bring quiet and calm to the raging storms that the evil one brings into our lives. Is there anyone here whose life is fragmented? Is there anyone here whose life is being torn apart by a raging sea of fear, uncontrollable desires, and self loathing? Is there anyone here who has reason to think they are being oppressed by unclean spirits? Well, your ship has come in. Jesus is here and he loves you and he has all authority in heaven and earth at his disposal. He wants to restore your life.
III. EVERYONE IS CALLED TO RESPOND. Mk.5:16-20
In these verses we see a couple of different responses to this miracle. But to respond to the miracle is to respond to Jesus, the miracle worker. This is very important.
The townspeople were afraid and they begged Jesus to leave their area. Isn’t that amazing? You would think they would welcome Jesus, but no. “Jesus, please leave us. Leave us alone. You are disrupting our lives.” It should not surprise any of us when people express little interest in Jesus and the good news of life in the kingdom of God. Life in the kingdom of God is disruptive to life in this world. Living from this world is all about eating and drinking. In other words we derive our life from what is found in this world and what the people of this world produce. It is all temporal and therefore will not ultimately satisfy. And much of it is driven by pride and selfishness which ultimately destroys a person. However living from the Kingdom of God is all about eternal righteousness, joy, and peace. The kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God offer two competing sources of life.
These people were amazed at seeing the man sitting, clothed, and in his right mind, but they were afraid that Jesus would cause too much upheaval and disruption. “Please leave.”
Jesus does not stay where he is not wanted. So he went back to the boat. But then something significant happened. The man whose life had been restored went to Jesus and he also begged something from Jesus. He begged to go with Jesus that “he might be with him.” Look at Mk.3:14. It says, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” Disciples are called to be with Jesus that they might learn from him. That is what this man wanted. He wanted to be with Jesus. He wanted to be a disciple of Jesus. Why? Well, because of what Jesus did for him he was more than willing to surrender his life to Jesus in discipleship.
The townspeople got what they wanted. Jesus left. This man did not get what he wanted. Jesus said, “No.” He did not grant this man’s request. Perhaps having a Gentile among the disciples would have caused difficulties for Jesus. It’s just a thought. I don’t know. But Jesus said to the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Was the man disappointed? It doesn’t say. Rather it says that he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” The man didn’t just go home to his friends. He went into the Decapolis, the ten Gentile cities in that region and told people what Jesus had done for him. Why did he do this? He did this because Jesus told him to. He did this because he had become a disciple, a follower of Jesus.
Now I could end this by pointing out that we must also go and tell. And while that is true, I would rather ask you this: How much has the Lord done for you? Jesus Christ not only died that our sins may be forgiven. He rose from the dead to give eternal living in his kingdom now. What is different about your life because of Jesus Christ? Are you his disciple?
In the latter half of the 17th century, Lutheran Pastor, Benjamin Schmolck wrote these words, “My Jesus, as thou wilt! O may thy will be mine; into thy hand of love I would my all resign. Through sorrow, or through joy, conduct me as thine own; and help me still to say, "My Lord, thy will be done.” The man in Mk.5 not only said, “Thy will be done.” He did it! How much has the Lord done for you? What is your response to Jesus?
Obviously I don’t know what goes on in your heart and mind. I don’t know the deepest needs of your life. I do know the person who has the authority and power to restore your life. And he will do it if you will come to him and fall on your knees in repentance and faith.
What is your response to Jesus?