“They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, 3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. 6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea. 14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. 19 And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.”
I call the Gospel of Mark the ‘guy’s gospel’. It’s full of action from the very start. It is descriptive. Jesus sleeps in the boat during a storm, we’re told by Matthew Mark and Luke, but only Mark mentions that He’s sleeping on a cushion (4:38). All four Gospel writers tell of His feeding of the five thousand, but only Mark tells us that He commanded the five thousand to recline on the green grass as He prepared to feed them. (6:39) And Jesus is constantly on the go and doing something. In chapter 4 He is Master of the wind and the sea. In chapter five alone, He commands demons, heals a woman of a twelve year hemorrhage, and raises a little girl from the dead.
Since we aren’t going into chapter 6 today, I just want you to take notice that these things that happen in chapter 5 take place in the Decapolis; a region of 10 cities inhabited almost entirely by Greeks…gentiles… but in Chapter 6 when He goes to His own hometown, inhabited by Jews, they take offense and reject Him.
But we’re in chapter 5. More specifically, the first 20 verses, which give us the account of the Gerasene demoniac. I thought we might focus our attention there today and see what nuggets we can find lying around.
Jesus had a commission, you know. And that’s not something we determine by a systematic study of the doctrinal epistles. Jesus made it abundantly clear with His own words.
Since we’re in Mark today, let’s use a verse from Mark to prove this point. In chapter 9 verse 37 Jesus says, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.”
Now, having dutifully stuck to the Gospel of our text for that reference, let me just tell you that in John’s Gospel, he quotes Jesus no less than 29 times, using the term “Him who sent Me”, or something close to that, like, “the Father has sent Me”.
So we have to agree, that although His coming was determined in the absolute unity of the Trinity before time began, yet in submission to the Father, Jesus came commissioned by the Father, to do His will. (Jn 4:34)
And what was His stated mission? We find it in Luke 19:10 “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost”.
This is the cause that earmarked Christ’s earthly ministry. It was evident in every contact, every step of His journeying, everything He said. His commission was to seek and to save that which was lost, and so consumed was He by that passion, that at the age of 30 the Pharisees thought He was closer to 50. It was the driving force of every minute of His day, and it took Him to a cross.
He often prayed all night to get the Father’s strength and direction for the coming day; and by the time the sun was up, the Son was up; and going about doing good and healing those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Now having said all that, this is what I want you to be very cognizant of. Often, when He said, let’s go here, or let’s go there, if you pay attention to the text and keep track of where He is, what He is doing, and then where He goes after doing that thing, you’ll realize that the only reason He went there was to do that thing!
You see, we just kind of wander through our days sometimes, with no apparent purpose except to get through them.
Most everyone knows of the newspaper comic strip called “Family Circus”. It pokes fun in a gentle way at the typical family life in a home with several very young children.
I remember one that started out with the mother giving the oldest boy, who appears to be about 6, something to take to the neighbor next door. Then the next frame is from a bird’s-eye view, and there is a dotted line showing the route the boy took to get next door. The line takes him across the street, through a park, stops at a swing set and slide, moves on to a brick wall that he apparently scaled and walked like a tightrope, around several other houses, stopping to talk to little boys and girls in the neighborhood, and finally stops at the front door of the next door neighbor’s house with the item he was to deliver.
I think that sometimes our days are much like that, except that at the end we haven’t delivered anything of value at all.
I wonder how fruitful and prosperous, both for ourselves and the Kingdom of God, our lives would be if we prayed well into the night for the Father’s direction for the coming day?
We see Jesus going to Samaria. John 4 starts out telling us he ‘needed’ to pass through Samaria. Yet the only thing we find Him doing there is talking with the unnamed woman at Jacob’s well. And the outcome? Her salvation and the salvation of many in her village.
This account that is our text today is another one of those times. Jesus was teaching and healing near the Sea of Galilee. Probably Capernaum, since that seems to have been used as a sort of headquarters by Him when He was in the North of Israel. Then in the evening He says, ‘Let’s go over to the other side”.
Why? Why go to the other side? Those are Greeks over there. Jesus, you’ve said yourself that you were sent to the Jews. Do you know they herd pigs over there? Do you have any idea what this will do to your reputation in the press? The Pharisees love to accuse you of being a glutton and a wine swiller, and hanging out with the low-lifes. If you go over to the Decapolis and have any contact with those pig farmers, the Pharisees will have you chompin’ pork rinds before the week is out!
No, the text doesn’t say they questioned Him at all. But they might have. It wouldn’t have been out of the norm. And it certainly isn’t out of the norm today for Christians to question where the Lord is leading.
Especially if it’s someone else’s leading. “We’ve never done it that way before!” “That’s not how to do church!” “Do you think anyone’s going to listen to your message with that pink hair? Huh?
That pin in the side of your nose? C’mon! Get real!” “What would you want to go there for? Even if they listen and believe the gospel, what then? You’re not going to bring them back to OUR church; are you?”
People I have to tell you that many, many churches across our great land have built up as many hedges of laws and rules and traditions as the Jews had built up by Jesus’ day, to control the people and keep out the outsider! It’s ridiculous! Sometimes it’s so pathetic as to be humorous. And we laugh. But it’s a sad laugh.
Because what if Jesus says, “Let’s go over to the other side”. Do you think they’re going to go? No. They’re more likely to say, “You go, we’re doing church” and lock Him out in the parking lot.
But the cure doesn’t start with church congregations, friends. It starts with the individual. It starts with you and me, searching our hearts; asking Him to search our hearts, and asking ‘Lord, am I in a position and is my attitude such that I’m likely to follow without question, if you were to lead me in a direction I didn’t fully understand?’
It’s a question we have to ask openly and honestly and be ready to face and deal with the answer, Beloved. Because the time to make the attitude adjustment; the time to ask Him to change our hearts and make us willing; is not when He’s already got one foot in the boat. If you have to stop and ponder and struggle with it then, I can assure you, you won’t be going along with Him. You’ll be on shore watching the boat get smaller.
And you’ll miss the miracles.
Jesus had a commission, and He’s still fulfilling that commission, and He calls us to follow. Not to challenge Him. Not to question Him. Not to say, “I’m not taking one step until I have all the answers”. But to follow and trust that in the end we’re going to look back and say “Oh. This was His purpose, and I’m so glad I came”.
OPPORTUNITIES AND OPPOSITION
The next thing I want you to notice today Christian, is that opportunities for ministry don’t always look pretty and exciting.
Sometimes they run at you like crazy, ugly, noisy, naked guys.
Sometimes almost literally like that.
In May of 2001, Martin and Gracia Burnham, who served as missionaries with New Tribes Mission, were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary during a brief vacation at a Philippine resort when they were kidnapped by members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. They weren’t even in their place of ministry! They were celebrating their anniversary.
Suddenly they found themselves, along with a handful of others, surrounded by men with guns, who whisked them away to the jungles of Mindanao. The next anniversary they celebrated was spent tied to a tree and starving. Shortly after that, Martin was shot dead and Gracia was back in the states healing from a gunshot wound.
But to them this ugly ordeal was an opportunity for ministry.
I clipped a couple of quotes from an interview that was done with Gracia after her return. One says:
“Martin gave the gospel at least once to everyone that spoke English, many times to the leaders, Sabaya, Silima. You know what though, those guys already knew the gospel. That wasn't news to them. A couple of them could recite John 3:16, it wasn't like they hadn't heard the gospel before. They had made a choice."
But what touched me most was what she had to say about their last moments together.
"It was going to rain, so we set up our hammocks and our little plastic shades over our hammocks. Martin that day, just, we sat down on our hammock, before we laid down, he said to me, ‘You know Gracia, I don't know why the Lord has allowed this to happen, but today I've been thinking about Psalm 100, how we can serve the Lord with gladness.’ He said, ‘Just because we're here, doesn't mean we can't serve Him with gladness, so let's serve the Lord with gladness.’ And then we just prayed together. Then we laid down for our nap and the gunfire started."
Christians, I will go so far today, as to assert to you that there is no real ministry, no real Kingdom work done, that is not ugly, and uncomfortable, and inconvenient; and sometimes it’s even dangerous.
I remember a little ditty I read years ago and haven’t seen it since, so I don’t remember it perfectly; but it went something like this:
“Mother, may I go out to swim?”
Inquired the loving daughter.
“Yes you may”, her mother grinned,
“But don’t go near the water!”
I think that often we approach the idea of ministry that way.
“Lord, let me do your will today. Lead me to someone who will approach me, and ask me a question; but make it a question You know I can answer. And let them respond favorably to me telling them about You, and lead them to my church… and I’ll be careful to give You all the glory. Amen”
But that’s not what ministry is, folks! In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s not even very likely.
We live in a devil-filled world, and it hates Christ and it hates what is His. And there is no area of ministry that is valid and fruitful for the Kingdom of God that is not ugly and uncomfortable and inconvenient. And if we’re going to face up to reality today, we have to tell ourselves with a certainty that if we really want to be used by God to touch people for God, we’re going to have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone, lay aside all the worldly things that would slow us down, sacrifice of ourselves sometimes in a very painful way, and give ourselves entirely to His will and His leading.
The rewards aren’t here, people. They’re stored up elsewhere. In a place where Martin Burnham now waits for Gracia.
The demoniac came screaming out from among the tombs, and what a sight he must have been. He had consistently broken off the chains they had used to try to subdue him. That took demonic strength. But the act of breaking them must have taken its toll on his hands and arms.
He had been gouging himself with rocks; scraping his body, bruising it. For certain his hair must have been long and matted and dirty. On top of it all he was naked; and here he comes, running like a wild animal toward the group.
Wouldn’t you love to have seen the expression on the disciples’ faces at that moment?
“I think I’ll just stay here in the boat a while longer, thank you”
But this is why Jesus made the trip. Do you think that in His prayer time the Father had said, “This evening sail over to Gerasene. There’s a man there who needs deliverance from evil, and I have work for him to do in that region”.
I think so.
You see, this is why Jesus was able to sleep peacefully on a boat being tossed and pitched by wind and waves. Because He knew that if the Father had work for Him on the shores of the Decapolis, no storm was going to interfere.
It’s a truth the disciples should have understood. If Jesus is in the boat with us, and He’s not worried, then we may as well get some shuteye too.
Christian, Jesus has promised to get you to the other shore. He said, ‘If I go and prepare a place for you I will come and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there you may be also”.
And with that promise made, we should rest assured that nothing that happens between now and then has the power to keep that from happening.
“Be still, my soul,
The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them
While He dwelt below”
Jesus saw the man running toward Him, and saw not danger, not ugliness, not inconvenience, but opportunity. An opportunity for ministry. Like Martin and Gracia saw an opportunity to praise God in the jungles of Mindanao.
Now there was opposition. But it didn’t come from the demoniac. In fact, he offered absolutely no opposition. He fell at Jesus’ feet because the demons in him recognized the Son of God and they were terrified.
No, the opposition came from the good citizens of Gerasene. They were perfectly content to have him running around the cemetery, gouging himself, babbling and drooling into his beard and living in abject misery while they calmly tended their pigs in a nearby meadow, (or whatever they had the pigs in) but Jesus made two big mistakes in their thinking.
He disturbed the status quo, and He wasted a lot of good pork.
The world was not so much different then than it is now, my friends. The almighty dollar was the bottom line then as it is now.
If Jesus came today to Montrose Memorial Hospital, or any other hospital in our country, and healed everyone there and sent them home, there would be people outraged all over the community, for the loss of revenue that would have continued to pass through that institution had He not emptied it out.
The world learned very early on, how to profit from suffering and misery and injury and hatred and death. And Christian, when you enter into a situation and with you comes healing and comfort and love and the life that Christ gives, don’t be surprised when you meet with feverish opposition. Because the spirit of this world doesn’t want you upsetting the apple cart. And when you carry Christ into a situation, that’s exactly what you do. When Christ comes near, things change.
If you’re not meeting with any opposition, you might do well to stand back and ask if you’ve missed His leading; and if you’re even in the right place.
Now I want to point out to you the part of this story that I see as the most amazing.
The man is clothed and in his right mind. He is at peace, and for the first time in possibly a very long time, he is free of demonic possession and oppression. He’s been touched by Jesus. He’s grateful. He has a Savior, and he wants to follow.
That’s commendable. I’m sure he would have been a great addition to the group.
You or I, in man’s wisdom, would say, “Hey, cool! Take him aboard, and lose Judas about halfway back to the western shore!”
But Jesus refuses him! Can you remember the first time you read or heard this account? Did it confuse you a little? Maybe it still does, I don’t know. I know that it confused me every time I heard my dad preach about it when I was a kid.
Gee. The guy wanted to follow Jesus. That’s kind of cold. He didn’t let him.
He told him to go home. Now I have to wonder; what conditions existed that resulted in this man being demon-possessed in the first place? Did they still exist?
I mean, I don’t know what family he had there, but were they the kind of people he would really be desirous of going back to at all? And there was apparently going to be a certain segment of the community not too fired up happy about losing 2000 pigs just so this guy could get well.
Folks, when you were saved you were not saved out of the world. The day will come you’ll join Jesus. But He saved you and gave you a commission just as certainly as He commissioned this former demoniac.
“Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”
And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone marveled.” (vss 19,20)
He was commissioned, he was obedient to his commission, apparently without question or objection, and the people marveled.
Christians, Jesus will take you to Himself all in good time. In His time. Until then, He wants you to look for opportunities to minister, to report to those around you the great things the Lord has done for you, and tell them how He had mercy on you.
Can you make that report in truth? With conviction? Has the Lord done great things for you and shown you mercy? If you’ve recognized that, are you grateful to Him enough to tell it far and wide?
How far are you willing to go? How uncomfortable and inconvenienced are you willing to be? When ugliness and misery come running at you, do you jump back to the safety of the boat, or do you see it as an opportunity to minister?
The man was obedient to his commission, and apparently people listened and took what they heard and saw to heart.
Because in chapter 7:31-37, Jesus is back in the Decapolis giving speech and hearing to a deaf and dumb man, and hear what they say about Him now!
“He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak”
Family, I’m going to put this challenge to you today. Let’s determine individually and as a local church body, that we aren’t going to set any conditions on ministry. We’re not going to say, “Lord, I want to minister, but where it’s comfortable and when it’s convenient, and when it’s pretty”
Let’s be willing to be led to misery and ugliness and need, through inconvenience and discomfort for the sake of the Kingdom, and ask the Lord to give us eyes to see there, opportunity to be obedient to the commission He’s given us.
Because down the road a piece, if we’re faithful and obedient to Him in this, we will hear people say “He does all things well”, and we’ll know that we were the vessels He used to glorify His name in Montrose, Colorado.