Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, June 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/12/14 Sermon - From Marginalized to Missionary

“FROM MARGINALIZED TO MISSIONARY”

Mark 5:1-20

 

Today’s Scripture tells us of another encounter Jesus and his disciples had with demons and demon possession.  You may remember, the Pharisees earlier claimed Jesus was a demon of Satan, because of his ability to do such miraculous works. At which, Jesus replied by stating the accusation was blasphemous against the Holy Spirit, and was the one unpardonable sin. Jesus even went so far as to change his method of teaching and began teaching in parables in order to conceal the gospel from those who had blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

Now, Mark has Jesus and his disciples, coming to the end of their terrifying boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, to the other side, in the country of the Gerasenes.

If you remember this boat ride probably took just a few hours, depending on how long the storm slowed them down, but even so, the best estimate is they have arrived in the midst of the night. Now mind you, they are in small boats, there is no pier or dock with lights shining. It is probably dark and rather eerie, considering that the disciples are already a bit shaken from their storm experience. The first thing they happen to see is a madman.

Based on Mark’s description, this man was mad due to demon possession, as he demonstrated many of the classic symptoms of a demon possessed man.

Let’s look at what this man exhibited.

1.      He was naked and living amongst the tombs. This demonstrated his anti-social behavior. He had been ostracized from civilization and had found his place in the caves among the dead.

2.      He had super-human strength. A good description might have been, he was like the “Incredible Hulk”.

We read the townspeople could not find any means to constrain him, because he was able to tear chains apart and no one could subdue him.

3.      He was in torment. Not only did he give animal like shrieks, but thanks to the demons that possessed him, he also tended towards self-destruction by using rocks to gash himself. This self-destruction was evident even when the demons went into the swine, as they ended up committing suicide.

4.      The man demonstrated demon possession in his in depth of spiritual insight. Even from a far off distance, the man knew exactly who Jesus was and went directly to the water to meet him. This insight is beyond human ability. These demons not only knew who Jesus was, they were afraid. Matthew writes in his account of the event that the demons asked, “Have You come here to torment us before the time?” The demons are quite aware of Jesus’ power.

5.      In the midst of Jesus ordering the evil spirit out of the man, Jesus discovers there are more than one evil spirit involved, it turns out there are “Legions”  which means many. The story makes it evident that the personality of the man had been radically changed. This Legion of evil spirits had taken over and the individuality or identity of the real man had in essence, no longer existed.

Wow!

What do you think is going on in the minds of the disciples? They have just experienced Jesus speaking to the wind and rain and having it immediately stop. And now they have this “Incredible Hulk” possessed man running at Jesus and pleading for his life. For me the word “fear”, again comes to mind.

If you were to encounter this man during the day, I suspect fear would enter your mind. We are now meeting him just as we reach the shore and there is a definite confrontation occurring between “Legions” and Jesus. It is interesting to note, the madman does not run after the group of men, like he probably did on a regular basis when the public came near. Instead, he is focused solely on Jesus and comes with a pleading voice. Jesus is calling the evil spirits out of the man, and their request is for Jesus not to send them out of the area.

 

This request makes sense if you have some background of Jewish theology in regards to demons. Based on an Old Testament Scripture in Daniel, spirit beings had to abide in certain geographical boundaries. If the demons were sent out of their designated spot, they were confined with other fallen angels and not able to afflict humans or resist God.

 

Thus, the request by the demons to no longer possess the man, but to at least be able to possess the pigs nearby would at least allow them to remain in the area they had been assigned. Jesus allows their request, and no sooner had they entered the swine, then they cause the 2,000 of them to commit suicide and drown in the lake.

 

Talk about amazing horror stories!

If you were to see this on the big screen in some movie theatre, I think you would hear a huge “AGH” from the people in the theater.

Screaming Hulk – pleading with Jesus –

probably in a variety of different voices,

one for each of the Legion of demons inside –

rather like Sybil, the woman with 16 personalities,

disciples just standing there with their mouths open –

then 2,000 pigs herding over a cliff into the sea of doom. Mark then writes the men who were tending the pigs, who may have been awakened by the hulk man screaming or may have been asleep, because they were used to the screams of the man who lived in the tombs, at any rate, they run into town and tell everyone what has happened, and we are back to having a crowd again coming to see Jesus.

They don’t write stories any better than this.

 

As soon as the disciples soak in the effect of the drowning pigs, they turn to the man who came out of the tombs and discover, he is back to his senses, completely naked and probably shivering and exhausted.

 

Okay, what are your first thoughts when you hear this story?  (see if anyone will answer the question)

It might be, 2,000 pigs! That’s a lot of pork chops. What about the men who owned them? They are out of a great deal of income. Why would Jesus destroy someone’s livelihood?

Or –

Poor piggies, what did they do to deserve such an ending?

Or – now the lake is polluted, how are they going to clean it up? It must smell terrible?

 

These are all valid questions, but in focusing on the earthly factors we are missing the very purpose for Jesus to be on earth.

Remember, Mark has been telling us why Jesus has come to earth. The focus of Mark’s narration is to show us that heaven is near, and to reveal what heaven is like.

 

To respond to some of the earthly questions, let’s set the story right.

 

God is Lord of all. He has the right to do with his creation whatever He thinks is best, which includes pigs and people.

We often quickly blame God for the bad things that happen. Jesus didn’t actually order the pigs over the cliff, he merely permitted the demons to possess the pigs.

 

Sure the pigs possessed a great deal of value to those that owned them, but Jesus had a gift to offer that was much more valuable. And the only one in Gerasene that wanted it was the guy who lived among the tombs. The man that not one person in the area wanted anything to do with.

I find it interesting that the people in the story that came from the town didn’t say one word about compensation for their herd of swine. They didn’t marvel at the complete change in the demon possessed man. Instead the passage reads when they saw the man, they were frightened. In Luke he writes, “They were gripped with fear.”

 

Because of this fear, they respond by pleading with Jesus to leave their region.

 

If you think about it, this town had come up with a way to manage the powers of “Legion” by ostracizing him and forcing him to live out of their sight. Now they were faced with a power even greater than Legion and again, they figure the best way to handle it is to have it gone, out of the way.

 

How ironic, the demons begged to stay in the country and the Messiah is being begged to leave.

For whatever reason, the people who lived in this area had no Messianic expectations and wanted nothing to do with the idea.

 

Except, for the one person in this story whose life has been redeemed.

 

We read that as Jesus and his disciples were getting ready to leave, the man who had been demon possessed is now begging to be able to go with them. Jesus responded by telling the man he was to stay and share his story with his own people and declare what God had done for him. Jesus knew that his testimony would be more effective with the people who had known him in his former state. This response is quite different from the other demon possessed people he has healed previously. Before Jesus demanded that they keep quiet. But the difference is based on the region in which they live. Previously, the demon exorcised had been living in Galilee and Judea, where Messianic hopes were prevalent and the news would have produced great publicity, which Jesus wasn’t ready for. But in the Decapolis region, this was not so. This region of the Sea of Galilee was greatly influenced by Greek culture.

 

So why did Mark tell this story?

 

Well, up to this point, Mark has been demonstrating how the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world. The Son of God came to earth and He was trying to explain how the Kingdom of God works. Previously, he was explaining with the parable of the seeds and soil. We learned that the only thing that was different was the type of soil.

Which person in this story had the fertile ground?

The focus of this story is not the pigs, it is the man with the transformed life. Up until the Kingdom of God appeared, the town was dealing with the demonic by ostracizing and segregating him. But that is not how things are done in God’ Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is about power, the power to do God’s work on earth, like it is in heaven. The power to transform the least expected, the outcasts the insignificant, the impossible.

 

Jesus has been teaching that the power needed to change and have new life is,

-       in the seed

-       the Word

-       Jesus is the Word

-       Incarnate

-       He is Emmanuel

-       God with us

This story demonstrates that the “good soil” can be in the heart of anyone – even the least expected,

-       the marginalized in society

-       the marginalized in our community

-       the marginalized in our family.

 

Are there people that you look at from an earthly perspective and think, “There is no way they will ever come to know the Lord, become a Christian, enter the Kingdom of God.”

 

This story should reveal to you, that with God, anything is possible.

 

When Jesus and the disciples landed on the shore of Gerasene – and had we stopped the story and asked, which person is most open to the Kingdom of God?

The madman in the tombs, would probably not have been our first answer. Yet, when Jesus and the disciples leave, it is the power of the Kingdom that remains in that man, and in fact, he wants to become a disciple and go with Jesus.

And Jesus tells him remain in the place where his testimony will be best understood, where people remember what he was like before he met Jesus.

 

This story reminds us that our human views are contrary to God’s view. God is not interested in our power, our wealth, our fame, and our influence. In order for the seed to take root, the heart needs to be open, and an open heart can take place in the absolute last place anyone would look or expect.

 

The Kingdom of God steps into the world and seeks those who are ready to admit they are broken and flawed.

What about it?

Does that describe your heart?

And what about the people around you?

Are there people you know that you have placed in the category of, “they will never come to Christ?”

For whatever reason,

Maybe they are living a life that is so far from Christ like or

Everytime you have tried to share the gospel you get a cold shoulder.

Whatever the reason, you have stopped praying for their salvation.

This story should give you hope to keep praying for them.

Pray that they are able to encounter Jesus in a way that they are unable to resist His power. Pray their hearts are open to the power of the Holy Spirit and they change.

And then rejoice.

 

Let’s pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BENEDICTION:

May the Spirit of God be so evident in your lives that people around you see God in your life.