Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 25 February 2015

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home* to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed. Mark 5, verses 18-20.

This confession may be shocking: I’d really like nothing better than to live the esoteric life of contemplating my faith in Jesus.   I’d like to talk through deeper matters of faith with people who are more learned than myself in Jesus, the faith, and how to grow its fruits; scholars, professors and such. For me, it would be heaven to talk and debate these deep matters of the heart, then sleep, wake, and arise to do it all again. That’s not the kind of man I usually am in public but, in reality, that kind of faith-based academic life is one I would love to live.

But to paraphrase Alan Jackson, “I’m here in the real world.”   That just isn’t me.   I wish it could be, and maybe part of my one-day life in heaven will include that.   Here on the Third Rock, however, that just isn’t what I was put here to do. Every time I think I might someday end up in the group of ecclesiastical navel gazers, reality comes crashing in.   The longer I live, the more I equate “reality” with “Jesus Christ.”

So it is that I find myself identifying with the man from the tombs.   Jesus had healed him.  Not only healed, but completely restored.   The demons had once destroyed everything about him, and then this Jesus came along and set his ship right. The man’s reaction?   “Lord, let me follow you.”

Jesus’ reaction? “Thanks but I have a better idea.”   Leave here and go talk about what was done for you.   In so many other places, Jesus told those (whom He healed) to comply with Jewish law and keep quiet. Here, however, He told the man to go talk about it.   Specifically, He told the man to go home and talk about God, about how God personally intervened in his life and made everything new.

The man had wanted nothing more than to bask in Jesus’ glory, to contemplate His glory and His mercy for all the rest of his days.   Jesus had something else in mind.   He sent the man out to preach God Immanuel to hundreds, maybe thousands, of his countrymen who had always and only known the man to be insane. As we talked about the other day, it’s not inconceivable that a substantial body of believers in the land of the Gerasenes became believers in Jesus thanks to the personal testimony this man from the tombs shared.

I would rather stay and sit, but Jesus says ‘go and do’ for Him. These days, I find that comforting, especially in a scary time when my world is changing and I don’t fully understand where God is sending me.   The only thing I know for certain is that He always provides and will put the words in my mouth when He wants me to share something.   I’d rather sit and bask in His glory but He has better plans in mind, no matter what they may turn out to be.   So it is for me.   So it is, my friend, for you as well.

Lord, lead me. I will follow You.

Read Mark 5, verses 1-20.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 20 February 2015

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High GoGod? In d’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”   “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. Mark 5, verses 6-10.

The demons knew who Jesus was; we talked about that yesterday.   If demons knew who Jesus was, then so do Nazis, ISIS terrorists, KKK racists, the LRA in Sudan, atheists in college towns, and any other kind of petty or large evil person…even you and me.   Jesus is self-evident even to those who deny it and want to replace Him with themselves or some other shoddy image.

What’s more: those same demons acknowledged Jesus as God.   True, there’s a fine line between this statement and the one in the last paragraph, but isn’t it also true to say that there’s a difference between knowing who Jesus is and publicly acknowledging the fact? The demons in the man cried out through him that they not only knew Jesus but acknowledged Him as God.  Thoughts became words and actions.

Still, many kinds of demons meant that the man endured many kinds of torture. I have only known a few truly schizophrenic people but those I’ve known are the closest thing I can imagine to being demon-possessed.   The voices in the man were indeed real and they tortured his thoughts, his actions, his dreams, his every emotion and movement. Can you imagine living like that?   It’s not even a life, really.   It’s more like simply existing.

So what did Jesus do about it? Jesus commanded the demons to stop and they did. The demon (the representative of the ‘legion’ which might have been one or thousands) was told to come out of the man and it did. It couldn’t resist the simple command of the simple Man from Galilee.

Now comes the big question:   so what?   To some, this is a nice story about how Jesus did a kind thing for a stranger.   So what?

Well, for starters, you can either accept that line of reasoning or accept that the story is true. It either happened or it didn’t.   And if it didn’t happen, then, yes, it’s just a nice story.   But then that’s all you’ve got.

Or…

…Or, you can accept that it really happened. That the story is an account of something that really happened a very long time ago.   That there really was a man living in a cemetery.   That He really was tortured by imps of hell.   That there really was a man named Jesus who really did command the demons to come out of the man, and that they did.   And if all that is true, then whatever else is said about Jesus must also be true; you can’t simply cherry pick the Bible.   And if the rest of His life is true as well, then it’s also true that what He did for the stranger in the land of the Gerasenes He can do for you or me today.   Now that is a good thought for the day.

Lord, I believe all that is said in Scripture concerning You. Thank You for what You did for the man living among the tombs.

Read Mark 5, verses 1-20.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 19 February 2015

This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Mark 5, verses 3-5.

Does sin bind us the way this man was bound?

The man from the tombs was troubled.   He had the ‘Legion’ of demons tormenting him from the inside-out. He couldn’t live in a town; he couldn’t live in a house.   The man didn’t have a job, couldn’t be trusted around other people, and was both terrified and terrifying all the time to everyone who met him.   His strength was enormous, like a miniature Hulk; strong enough that iron chains couldn’t hold him.   He physically mutilated himself because of his condition, and his cries and anguish were real and loud and unnerving. This all happened because of the evil inhabiting him.

And yet this man probably went on to do great things in the name of Jesus.   This past Sunday, my pastor reminded the congregation that, after this episode in Mark 5, Jesus and the disciples later returned to the region of the Gerasenes. Where before there had been a community of anxious, frightened pagans, there was now a group of Jesus-following believers.   Nobody knows how that happened, yet, it seems likely it happened because of the testimony this man from the tombs soon shared with his townsmen.

Can you believe that?   And it happened even though he had formerly been possessed by thousands of demon angels?   We can’t noodle that supernatural thing; it’s beyond our ‘modern’ understanding.   Yet the condition of the man isn’t beyond us because it’s the same one that plagues you and me today.   We are bound by our sins.   If we let it happen, we can be defined by them.   We pay the earthly penalties and consequences for our wrongs, and if we refuse to believe in Jesus we will pay an eternal one when He removes His love from our lives.

Don’t believe me?   Ever got a speeding ticket?   That’s a legal infraction; because we break even earthly just law, we sin.   Accordingly, there is the fine, the insurance points, maybe even court actions or the loss of driving privilege. All of that happens because we exceed a defined limit.   It’s no different with other sins.   Ever have an affair? Guilt, destruction, pain, division, anger, and hurt are all that ever result.   Ever murder someone (or harbor a grudge)? How does that make you feel inside? The list goes on and on whether we follow Jesus or not.   Even those who do not acknowledge these wrongs as “sin” can understand the negative consequences of them; even they can understand how our wrongs can bind us.   Shouldn’t we believers acknowledge it more?

How much more amazing it is, then, to discover how Jesus frees us from this.   We’ll learn about it tomorrow.

Jesus, I believe You and only You can free me from my sin, from the heart-pain that has resulted from it and my actions.   I pray now for Your comfort and reminder yet again.

Read Mark 5, verses 1-20.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 18 February 2015

When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. Mark 5, verse 2.

Did you pick up on the nuance?   The demon-possessed man went up to meet Jesus. Remember the context:   Jesus and the disciples had sailed across the Sea of Galilee to the far (east) side, to ‘the land of the Gerasenes.’   There they come upon a graveyard where there lives a man who is out of his mind.   He’s out of his mind because he’s demon-possessed.   Not long from now, we’ll find out that there is more than just one spirit possessing the man.   There are many, which identify themselves as “legion.”   According to my pastor friend, Will Kemp (from this Sunday’s sermon, in fact), that means there could have been thousands of demons possessing this one tortured man.   And they went to Jesus.   More than that, they were drawn to Him, like flies to a picnic.

Sin makes us bold, you know. Or is it that the sin living in us, like the good, is attracted to Jesus anyway?   Some of the most audacious times in my life were times that I was openly reveling in sin, acting in ways so bad that I’m embarrassed to confess – or remember – them. When we’re full of sin, we’re full of bravado, full of false confidence (and maybe false courage, if that poison is your particular pet). “Ten feet tall and bulletproof” is the term for a drunken fool who is too bold for his own good and too drunk to know it.

So it was with these demons. They knew Jesus was coming; they saw Him in the distance.   The demons knew who Jesus was. The verse says that the man came out of the graveyard to meet Him. He couldn’t stay away; he couldn’t help himself.   He was drawn to this man from the other side of the lake because the demons inhabiting his body knew Jesus was God. If demons are the cast-out fallen angels destined for hell, then they knew exactly who Jesus was because, from eternity, He had been the one to cast them out of heaven.

Now here they were, all together again, and there is a spectacle to be played out.   We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.   Before we part, however, let me ask you this:   do you feel drawn to Jesus?   I do.

Sometimes I feel that I need something so good to take the place of all the junk with which I’ve mucked up my life.   I feel drawn to the forgiving white light of His presence because, in that light, I know He will forgive my failings, teach me better ways, heal my hurts, and give me the opportunity to be strong for Him once again. Yet I sometimes wonder if the sin that seems to rule me on this earth is not also drawn to Him as well. Sin can’t help itself; like the Apostle Paul said, it lives in him and rules to master him in a constant battle for his soul. I sometimes wonder if it’s not sin also being drawn to Jesus, knowing that He holds oblivion for sin in His words.   Do you think evil craves for more evil – I do – and do you think it’s also possible that evil also may crave for relief?   I think that’s possible as well.

Lord Jesus, I’m drawn to You.   Reassure me once again of Your forgiveness for all my sins.

Read Mark 5, verses 1-20.