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(Part 64)


February 3, 2014
Today’s gospel: Mark 5:1-20

Jesus had an encounter with “a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit” (v.2b). Or rather, the man had an encounter with Jesus. The man “met him” (v.2c).

The man was the epitome of those who live without Christ.

  • “The man had been dwelling among the tombs” (v.3a). Sin is death. When we persist in a life of serious sin, we are like zombies roaming the earth, the living dead.
  • “He had frequently been bound with shackles and chains” (v.4a). The world, under the dominion of the evil one, enslaves us. We are bound by addictions and other dark things of the world that keep us from the freedom that is in Christ.
  • “No one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.” (v.3b). When we give in to our unruly desires, we end up setting aside all restraints. In the world today, there is less and less restriction on anything, leading to licentiousness and hedonism.
  • “The chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed” (v.4b). Those who are persons of goodwill may try to rein in unruly behavior of their loved ones, but parents and pastors are no longer listened to. Once the devil takes over, we are deep in bondage.
  • “No one was strong enough to subdue him.” (v.4c). Being the work of the evil one, we are weak and often powerless to resist, if we rely only on ourselves. Even Paul at one point decried his inability to do right due to the weakness of his flesh. The world, the flesh and the devil conspire to keep us in bondage.
  • He was “bruising himself with stones.” (v.5b). Those in the world think they are living a great life, but they are unaware of the great injury they are inflicting on themselves.
  • “Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out” (v.5a). There is still that soul within us, even with those seemingly totally lost, that cries out to God who created us. On the outside we might be enjoying our revelry and licentious lifestyle, but within us is a desperate soul crying out to our Maker. We should then not give up on anyone.
  • Jesus “asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘Legion is my name. There are many of us.’” (v.9). The enemy’s dominion is extensive and pervasive.

But there was always hope, because there is Jesus. “Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him” (v.6). We need to be given the opportunity to encounter Jesus, to sense that he is someone who can save us from our wretched existence. Then we should actually go to him, nay, run to him, for here already is our salvation. We must humble ourselves before him, accepting him as our Savior and our Lord.

But oftentimes there is a fierce struggle. The devil does not give up his dominion that easily. The man was “crying out in a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (v.7). Even as we are given the opportunity to encounter Jesus, oftentimes we resist. We are comfortable in our wayward ways. Even as we recognize that Jesus is the Son of God, we wrongly look on him as trying to take away our toy and our joy. The irony is that we consider the one who would free us from torment to be the tormentor.

In fact, the man, with the many unclean spirits in him, “pleaded earnestly with (Jesus) not to drive them away from that territory.” (v.10). The enemy is a territorial spirit. He takes territory that rightly belongs to God. He will not yield territory easily. Unknowingly, we often stand with the enemy to defend his territory.

But Jesus, in his love and mercy, said to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!” (v.8). Jesus addressed the unclean spirit. Jesus looks on all of us as his brothers, all children of God, created in His image and likeness. But we have been dominated by the evil one, been made unclean and unrecognizable. Jesus then frees us and restores us. Thus “the unclean spirits came out” (v.13b).

The man had a remarkable encounter with Jesus and saw his life changed totally. He had met Christ. He underwent personal conversion and transformation in Christ.

The change was awesome. “And people came to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind.” (v.14b-15a). The possessed was now free. The wild unkempt creature was now calm and collected. The one who acted like an insane person was now in his right mind. That is transformation. The man was now living Christ.

The man wanted more. “As (Jesus) was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.” (v.18). But Jesus had something else he wanted the man to do. He was to share Christ. So Jesus “told him instead, ‘Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity had done for you.” (v.19b). We are to share Christ, first to those who are closest to us, our own family and home environment. But we are not to stop there, as the man did not. “Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him” (v.20a). This man in fact was the first missionary sent by Jesus himself, even before he sent the twelve apostles on mission.

The event was not a happy ending for all. The townspeople “were seized with fear.” (v.15b). That was the appropriate reaction, one of awe, of wonderment, of fear at the power of God. But then, what was their response? “Then they began to beg him to leave their district.” (v.17). They resented the fact that their large herd of about two thousand swine perished. They were unmindful of how the man with an unclean spirit had been freed. Perhaps they themselves were influenced by the evil one in some way, and wanted to keep things that way.

We should not allow negative remarks, hostile attitudes, uncaring postures and the like to keep us from proclaiming Christ. Jesus is good news. We just do our work, we witness to Christ, we proclaim what Jesus has done for us, and we will see the result: “all were amazed.” (v.20b).

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