Hello and welcome to Tuesday. My name is Alan and I will be sharing a thought with you to take you into the day.
Today’s reading is from Mark, chapter 5, verses 1-20. But here is my focus for the day from the end of the passage:
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Here is a man who hid among the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. No-one could help him; no-one could subdue him; he wouldn’t let anyone close. People were afraid and with good reason, so he hid. He fought; he was by all accounts, a monster.
I wonder who would be the modern day equivalent?
In Natter (our drop in café for those aged 60 or better!) we have been watching the whole Alpha film series. There are 15 films in total. We are taking our time, watching one film each month, but what has impacted me the most are the stories of people who were once violent, broken, vicious and nasty people who prayed simple prayers and were transformed overnight. People who were full of hate and self loathing who are now totally transformed, leading churches or working in prisons and seeing others radically changed.
When I read this story in the Bible about Jesus meeting a man terrifying and violent, uncontrollable, unreachable, I often picture the ex-prisoners in the Alpha film series videos. I am not suggesting that these men were demon possessed or that demon possession can be explained away in simple or psychological ways – I don’t think it is that straightforward – but I see men who underwent a dramatic and total transformations… from deep darkness to beautiful all encompassing faith. And I believe that God can transform the most lost, the most broken, the most violent, the most abusive people. Those who have done the worst crimes that you can possibly imagine, released, freed, redeemed, restored… Isn’t God amazing?!!?
There are two things that I want to draw out from this passage:
Firstly, I don’t know what skeletons you have in your closet, I don’t know what guilt you carry, what feelings of shame weigh you down – but God does! He knows you inside out, he knows your past and your future, your struggles and your triumphs… your guilt and your shame… and as we are summoned to stand before him, staring at our feet, too ashamed to lift our eyes and look him in the face… he places an arm around our shoulders, gently lifts our chin, so that our eyes meet his… We don’t see anger, we don’t see pity… we see love, we see the fathers heart of longing for his dear child.
He takes us from among the tombs, angry and aggressive, cutting ourselves and rejecting others and restores us to our right minds, he brings peace to the chaos that rumbles deep inside us and welcome us – welcomes us into his family…
He doesn’t want to punish, he wants to restore… sure, that might be hard, we may own up, apologise, to make amends, to make peace with those we’ve hurt… but he will help us through every step… and it is so worth it…
Secondly I want to draw our attention to what Jesus does next. The man wants to come with Jesus. He wants to become his disciple.
Jesus turns him away, tells him to go home…
Now this can seem a bit of a contradiction… Jesus has done so much for him and now he rejects his wish to follow him…
Or this is actually the first step for the man on his discipleship walk!
You want to follow me… Yes, absolutely! Follow me by going back home and telling everyone you know, everyone you have hurt, everyone who thought they knew you, who had written you off as a lost cause… Go tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you…
This is an unavoidable part of our apprenticeship to Jesus – we share our story. We tell others. We make amends.
As you listen today, remember all that Jesus has done for you. Give thanks. Expect an opportunity to share with someone else this week. Take the opportunity when it comes. God has so much more for us… and wants so much more for our family and friends.
Father, thank you for all that you have done in our lives. Thank you for the love and freedom that you have bought into our lives. Help us to go where you send us and speak freely of all that you have done.
READING: Mark 5:1-20
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 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.
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 God? In God’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.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’ He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man – and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.