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What the Lord Has Done

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2010-09-19 (am) Mark 5.1-20 What the Lord Has Done

            Turning back to Mark’s gospel, we pick up the story of Jesus’ ministry travels.  Last time we saw the powerful demonstration of Jesus’ divinity.  Jesus, the one by whom all things were made, commanded the wind to be quiet, and the waves to be calm.  And they did.  Immediately.

          We noticed too, that the purpose of that story is to prove to us Jesus’ divinity, not to teach us that Jesus will immediately calm the ‘storms’ of live that come our way.  He may choose to do so, but he doesn’t make that promise.  In fact, the storms we face are times for us to grow in faith, and demonstrate God’s power in us, as we bear up under difficult circumstances.  I was reminded of God’s power and grace and love this week when talking to Pastor Terry.

          Mark tells us about the wild man because it makes sense to tell it after the story about the wild storm.  It was a wild and stormy night, followed by a wild and stormy man streaking to them early in the morning as their boat reached shore.

          As we look at this story, we notice that there are many details.  There are many things that could capture our attention, but which might not tell us anything important.  We’ll try to focus on three: the power of Christ to save, the helplessness of the man, and our helplessness.

          The first thing we notice, and I’m sure it is also the first thing the disciples noticed, was the naked man streaking toward them.  Clearly, this fellow was out of his mind.  Mark gives us some background information; probably what the disciples had learned from the man after Jesus saved him.

          An unclean spirit or spirits possessed him.  We don’t know how it happened.  It did.  It would appear to have been more common back then, than now.  However, missionaries to spiritual nations like those in Africa will tell you that it is still a natural phenomenon.  Some Christians are open to the possibility that some physical and mental illness are from spiritual influences. 

          The demons that inhabited this unfortunate fellow were murderous—they sought harm to their host, and harm for anyone around him.  Afraid, his countrymen tried to bind him, tried to subdue him, but nothing worked.  He was shunned, forced to live an unclean life among the dead.  It must have been awful!

          It would be interesting to interview the spiritual leaders of the day.  Why wasn’t more help given?  We just don’t know.  What we do know is that the demons that inhabited this man were powerful, too powerful perhaps?

          Every time I read this story, I’m astounded by Jesus.  He’s so calm.  I’m also astounded by the people and the demons themselves.  The demons know who Jesus is.  They recognise him right away.  Jesus’ own people didn’t!  His brothers rejected him at first!  His parents didn’t understand him.  Isn’t it amazing how quick we are to get used to something.

          Isn’t it amazing how used to Jesus we get?  We throw his name out in conversation.  Christians take his name in vain.  We talk about him as if he’s our best bud.  We look at him, in some ways as if he’s our magic genie.

          The demons remind us of who Jesus is!  The demons remind us!  If the disciples were in awe and fear of Jesus after the storm, it is nothing like the fear the demons experienced when they realised who was standing before them.

          The demons are upset because the Judge is standing right before them, and he’s early.  They know their fate.  They know one day Jesus will toss them into the abyss, but they don’t want to go there yet.  So, they ask to go into the pigs.  Notice, that they can’t do anything apart from Jesus’ permission.

          Jesus exercises as much control over the demons as he does over the wind and the waves.  This is important.  The demons are a part of creation.  They are subject to Christ’s will.  The devil himself, a created being is inferior and completely subject to Christ’s power.  If you tend to view Satan as Jesus’ adversary, do not forget that Satan is not at all on the same level as God.  Satan is inferior; he has as much power to resist Jesus as the wind and the waves.  A lot of bluster, but when Jesus says stop; he stops.

          So having seen Jesus’ power, in contrast we see the man’s powerlessness.  He was completely taken over by the Legion.  There were times, it seems, where the demons allowed him some control, but for all that, he basically was a captive.  He was bound by demonic forces and he had no hope.

          He couldn’t help himself, and no one was either willing, or, it seems, able to help him.  His situation reminds us of Israel in Egypt.  They, after hundreds of years of living among the Egyptians, became slaves.  They had no power.  They were not at all in control of their lives.  Their masters dictated their work, their living quarters, their food even the number of children they were allowed to have.

          Finally, they cried out to their God for help.  The helpless turned to their saviour.  God answered their prayer by sending a messenger to prepare the way for their salvation.  Moses, God’s ambassador, warned Pharaoh to let God’s people go, but he refused.  Then through ten plagues, ten manipulations of the forces of nature, God set his people free.

          Even the crossing of the Red Sea should be confirmation enough that Jesus is God’s Son, that Jesus is God.  The sea was parted, the Israelites were saved, the Egyptian army wiped out.  No threat would come from there for a long time.

          Maybe that’s the connection to the pigs running into the water.  They were drowned, the demons were drowned in the sea, like the Egyptians, no more a threat to that saved man.

          But the saved man was powerless.  Just as the Israelites couldn’t just walk away from Egypt, he couldn’t get away from his tormentors.  He needed a wonderful, powerful saviour.

          Mark wrote this story to teach us that Jesus has power to defeat Satan and his forces of bondage and hatred.  What about us?

          What about you?  I don’t think it would be helpful, nor even necessary to perform an examination of each and every one of us to see if we are possessed.  And yet, each one of us are under the influence of evil.

          Born into a sinful nature, we are already inclined toward all evil.  The devil still prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking people to devour.  He does this in the same way he operated against Eve and Adam and against Job, and against God’s people throughout time, and the way he operated against Jesus.

          Satan is the master of disinformation.  He is the father of lies.  His power is in half-truths and deception.  He makes wrong sound so right.  He’s logical, smart, witty and even winsome.

          Against such a foe, we are just as powerless as the demon-possessed man was.  We are easily duped, easily led astray.  History is full of proof of this.  Satan attacks the church, lies are whispered, gossip, slander, half-truths combined with pride, greed, envy and you can quickly turn something good and God honouring into a terrible mess.

          I am not kidding when I say that we are helpless to defend against this.  I am not kidding when I say that we are as helpless as the demon-possessed man, as helpless as the disciples in the boat in the storm were.

          Thankfully, we’re not alone in the boat.  Jesus is with us!

          So what’s the solution?  How do we defend against Satan?  With our minds!  By learning the truth!  By, as it says in Romans, being transformed by the renewing of our minds!

          If you’re like me, you’re thinking, great, the truth, what’s the truth?  We’ve got all kinds of churches, all kinds of denominations, all kinds of problems getting along!  But look closely, and you’ll find that the disagreements, the problems are borne out of small details.  In fact, as to the basics, the things that are of vital importance, all churches are in fact united.

          As to the basic principles of the gospel, the good news, that sinners are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, his obedient, life, his death, his resurrection and his ascension, we all agree.  Catholics and Protestants, eastern orthodox and western churches, Coptic, Moravian, we all agree on the basic truth.  There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ, as the demon possessed man discovered.

          Salvation is from and through Christ alone.  We then apply our minds to Christ, to how he has revealed himself through the word, the Old and New Testaments!  Remember that Jesus, on the Emmaus road, taught the disciples from the prophets everything concerning himself.  Steven, the first Christian martyr, demonstrated the truth, going through the historical narrative of scripture.       

          All scripture points to Jesus.  All of it reveals God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It tells the story of redemption, the story of creation, the fall into sin, the salvation God provided, through his Son, and the complete restoration that is to come!

          We fix our minds on this foundation.  It makes sense of the world we live in.  It makes sense of our own selves, why we do things we don’t want to do, and why, when we want to do good, we sometimes do evil instead.

          It makes sense then that we have an adversary who attacks our mind, who affects our will, who tempts our desires, who seeks at all costs, to lead us astray.

          Well, unless you know the way, unless you know the path you’re supposed to follow, you’ll not know if you’re lost, right?  But if you do know the way, and you learn where you’re supposed to go, then you can get to it!

          So, let us transform our minds by Christ and his truth!  Let us come to Christ to be set free from Satan’s bonds.  Let’s stop pretending, and get down to work.  Let’s stop pretending that, on our own, we’ve got it figured out, that on our own, we’re doing fine.  But if we keep doing that, then we’ll be like the demon possessed man, running about spiritually starkers, not knowing the trouble we’re in.

          Then, having our minds transformed by Christ, being set free, being in our right minds, finally, let us do as Jesus told the man: go tell your family what Jesus has done for you, how he has had mercy on you. 

          There’s a way to do this right.  Tell them what Jesus has done, died, rose from the dead, made you alive.  Tell them what awful people you used to be, and how God transformed you.  And if they say, “Oh, really?  You weren’t that bad.”  Tell them, “Ahh, but you didn’t know my thoughts!”

          Tell them what Christ has done for you.  And don’t forget to tell your kids.  Don’t just let the church do it for you!  Teach your children about Jesus, who he is, what he did, how he was in the beginning with God, how he is God! 

          Let’s let the grace of God, informing us through the Word, transform our minds, so that we can effectively show people Jesus Christ!  Amen! 

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