Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saved from a Living Death: To Serve (Mark 5:1-20)

Our Terrible Story of Death: Humanity apart from God is spiritually dead.

The man Jesus encounters is tormented spiritually. He is forced to live amongst the graves. He runs around like an animal, screaming and hurting himself. It is an extreme image, but by degrees, all of humanity struggles with this living death. We are not the way we were meant to be. We muddle about aimlessly chasing our own half thought out plans; slaves to our impulses, making mistake after mistake.

We all, from the time we are children, are building our own little Kingdoms. We know what we want to be. We know what we want to do. The problem is that we find ways to destroy everything: our dreams, those around us, and our lives. Jesus came declaring the Kingdom of God and inviting us to find our place in it. The role we were created to play. A big problem, even for religious people who are prepared to believe in Christ, is we often still miss the point. We invite Jesus into OUR Kingdom. We ask Him to make OUR plans reality. The problem is, we are and have never been in control of our kingdoms. We are slaves to sin.

We need to examine our own lives and determine who is in charge. Is it Jesus, or do we still hold to the illusion that we are in control and He is merely a guest in our lives? In any event, we need to understand that the vast majority of the people in our lives are much like this man in the cemetery; slaves under the control of sin.

What is the solution to our problem?

His Wonderful Story of Life: Jesus, the Son of God, has all authority over the spiritual realm.

The demons here recognize Jesus, who He is and the power that He has. The fascinating thing here is the way this power operates. He does not force them out in a physical or mechanical way. Their will is forced. They resist, but know that in the end they must yield to His authority.

Of course the real power Jesus brought with His incarnation is forgiveness. While we were busy rebelling, building our own pathetic kingdoms, and generally screwing the world up, God had a plan. Jesus became like us, human, and lived life as God intended. God’s Kingdom came manifest in the life of Christ. Then He took the sins of the whole world—our rebellion, our mistakes, our designs and our evils—and He paid the price for it all in His death. Then He rose victorious over sin and death. We can remember the dead in Christ with hope today because of the death of Jesus in our place, in theirs.

Christ has that power over everything. He can and has made things right in creation, but people still have a choice. They can trust God and experience life fully in His kingdom, or they can continue to do things their way and carry on in kingdoms of frustration, error, and death.

So why don’t more people see their own hopelessness and accept the wonderful gift of life in the Kingdom of God?

The Frightening Aspect of the Kingdom Story: The Kingdom of God is scary to the world that is perishing.

Here we come to the part of the story where the pigs are possessed and killed. Why does Mark include this bit? Why did Jesus allow it to happen? Many commentators try to reveal the symbolic meaning in this aspect of the story. They claim Mark includes it as a veiled commentary on Rome, or that it is a political aspect of the messianic mission. I believe Mark (as well as Matthew and Luke) included this because it happened. As to the why, I believe Jesus was making an impact. We never see Jesus doing miraculous things out of any other motivation than to bring glory to God and to highlight the message of the Kingdom of God. Here, the killing of the pigs makes the event of the exorcism undeniable. It could still be explained away perhaps by people not wanting to acknowledge God, but something happened! The problem is that such a manifestation of power, while a great basis for a story that will impact a whole region, is also something that really freaks people out. Jesus is asked to leave forthwith. People see their own efforts—their kingdoms—threatened and move to shield themselves and their world from such power.

Many people today think that the key to reaching people with the Gospel lies in miraculous manifestations. What we see in Scripture would suggest this is not the case. For moments when the Gospel first enters a culture, powerful manifestations are seen, but even here we see the manifestation itself does not convince people. Jesus’ miracles tended to draw crowds for all the wrong reasons, or else scare people away. Here a whole region is impacted, but the only person convinced appears to be one of the two possessed men. Everyone else begs Jesus to leave.

So how will people hear about God’s plan in such a way that they can understand it and respond?

Our Story and His Story: When Jesus rescues us from death; His desire is that we share our story with others, beginning with our Oikos.

The whole purpose Jesus sailed to the other side of the sea and braved the storm to get there, seems to be to have reached this one man. When the man begs to be allowed to go with Jesus—to de His disciple—Jesus doesn’t allow it. Why? Because this man’s role as a disciple was not to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn more. He was to go to his home, to his family and friends, and tell his story. He was supposed to change the region by bringing tidings of the Kingdom of God. And we will see later in chapters 7 and 8, he does just that. When Jesus returns to the area later thousands of people swarm to meet Him and to hear from him. This is how the Kingdom of God spreads, as we tell our stories to our family, friends, and everyone we meet.

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