Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Too far gone?

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.
Mark 5:2-13

My wife and I recently moved. You never really know how much stuff you have until you move! But moving gave us a good chance to sort through all of that stuff and get rid of anything that was old, worn out, or no longer necessary. Having just gone through this process of purging myself, I can say with confidence that there are two kinds of people. One group evaluates objects based on their inherent worth and all the possible future uses they could have. These people tend to keep more than they throw away. Others evaluate objects based solely on how likely it is that they will be used again. I fall into this latter group, and I am fairly likely to throw a perfectly good item away just to declutter my home. People like me often find it entirely too easy to treat another person this same way though. It's too easy for me to write a person off as "too far gone" and toss them on the trash heap of my mind just to get them out of my hair. Thank heaven that Jesus is not like me! If He was, the story above would have turned out much differently.

If ever there was someone of whom you could say, "He is just too far gone," it would be the man Jesus encounters in Mark 5. The passage reveals that he is possessed by a legion of demons. A legion was the largest unit in the Roman army consisting of 6,000 foot soldiers plus support staff. However, considering that it was the demons themselves who made this statement as they were trying to manipulate Jesus, most interpreters do not believe that it was literally 6,000 demons but rather a very large number (ESV Study Bible). In fact, we know that it was a large enough number to run two thousand pigs off a cliff and into the sea. All of these demons have crammed themselves into this one man with a single purpose: to destroy him. They are out to destroy the good creation of God in this man who (like all people) was created in God's image. The destruction of this man's life by demonic influences takes on some aspects that our culture should find familiar:
  • Cutting
  • A preoccupation with death
  • Isolation and Dehumanization- Lane points out that it is likely the man had been bound by the townspeople to try to protect themselves from him, but since the demons were strong enough to break any fetter, the townspeople had driven him out of town (Lane Commentary).
  • Pain severe enough to make him cry out night and day
  • Killing animals- the demons actually do this after they have left the man. If they are unable to destroy the image bearer of God, then they will destroy other aspects of His creation (ESV Study Bible).

Surely this man lived a cursed life. By Old Testament standards he was triply cursed. Not only was he demon possessed, but he also lived near to pigs and dead bodies both of which caused ritual uncleanness and prevented one from approaching God. So if ever there was a lost cause, it was this poor man. Yet, notice what Jesus does! He doesn't dismiss him as too far gone. He sees beyond all the damage the demons have done and He sees the potential this man has to once again bring glory to God. And Jesus in His mighty power casts out all of the demons at once with a word. And verse fifteen tells us that when the townspeople came to see it, they found this man who so many had been unable to restrain sitting at the feet of Jesus at rest, clothed, and in his right mind (Lane Commentary). This is the power of Jesus!

Certainly this story has good news for all of us. You may see some of your own struggles mirrored in this man. That doesn't necessarily mean that you are demon "possessed," but you can be sure that where the image of God is being destroyed, Satan has been at work. Maybe you feel like you are too far gone or not worth saving. Know that you aren't too far gone! Jesus is willing and able to save the worst of us! I have experienced His redeeming power in my life. So today if you long to be set free from your bondage, turn to Jesus, repent and believe.

For further reading...
  • Mark 5:1-20- Read the whole story.
  • Mark 9:14-29- Another example of how demons seeks to destroy people as ones who bear the image of God.
  • I Peter 5:8-9- The devil wants to devour you.
- ESV Study Bible. Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, IL. 2008.
- Lane, William L., The Gospel of Mark. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, MI. 1974.

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