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Sole Survivor

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Mark 5:1–20 ESV
1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. 14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Frank Finkel (January 29, 1854 – August 28, 1930) was an American who rose to prominence late in his life and after his death for his claims to being the only survivor of George Armstrong Custer's famed "Last Stand" at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. Historians disagree over whether Finkel's claim is accurate; although he provided several details that would only have been known by someone who was at Little Bighorn, there are inconsistencies in his accounts of events.
In the history of aviation, there have been a small number of "sole survivors" of airline crashes.[1] Lone survivors are often left with physical and psychological injuries.[1] The youngest sole survivor is Chanayuth Nim-anong who on 3 September 1997, survived a crash when he was just 14 months old. He was the sole survivor of Vietnam Airlines Flight 815, which had 65 deaths in total. The oldest sole survivor is Alexander Sizov, who survived a crash at 52 years old. He was the sole survivor (and a crew member) of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash, which crashed on 7 September 2011, with 44 fatalities.
Another sole survivor is a former Serbian flight attendant, Vesna Vulović. According to the Guinness Book of Records she holds the record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute at 10,160 metres (33,330 ft). There was some controversy in 2009 when it was reported that her story might have been communist propaganda, but black box data strongly supported the official story.[2]
One of the more controversial lone survivors was Huang Yu (Chinese: 黃裕, Hanyu Pinyin: Huáng Yù) who tried to hijack the Cathay Pacific aircraft Miss Macao in 1948 but ended up crashing the plane killing the other 25 people on board.[3]
The earliest known sole survivor is Linda McDonald. On 5 September 1936, she survived a Skyways sightseeing plane crash that killed 10 other people, including her boyfriend.[4]
The deadliest aviation disaster to have a sole survivor involved the collision between a Japan Air Self-Defense Force North American F-86 Sabre and a Boeing 727-200 over Shizukuishi, Iwate, Japan on 30 July 1971. The crash killed all 162 on board the Boeing 727, with the sole survivor being the pilot of the F-86 Sabre, a 22-year-old man named Yoshimi Ichikawa.[5]
Northwest Airlines flight 255
The deadliest aviation accident involving a single aircraft which had a sole survivor was Northwest Airlines Flight 255, which crashed in Romulus, Michigan on 16 August 1987, killing 154 out of the 155 people on board the aircraft, as well as two people on the ground. The sole survivor of the crash was a 4-year-old girl named Cecelia Cichan, who was seriously injured.[6]
Since 1970, one-third of lone survivors of airline crashes have been children or flight crew.[7]
video of sole survivor
I want to start with the politics of the situation. I know, don’t talk politics in church. But we have to this time. It actually will help us understand this story.
This story is dependent on an understanding of the world, as it was known, at the time of Christ. Herod the Great died in 4BC. The land was divided up among his sons thereafter, and Philip got the land to the north east of the sea of Galilee. But where this story takes place, it was different.
It was called the Decapolis, or Ten Citites. Everyone referred to it as Decapolis, but no one really agreed on the meaning of which ten cities were included. Some would say this ten, others another combination thereof.
To make it more complicated, the scribes who copied the manuscripts of Mark couldn’t agree on where exactly this incident took place.. . Gerasa, Gergasa, .... or Gadara. So if you look this up in your various Bibles you are going to find a variety of opinions on that.
There’s one thing that really matters, however. And everyone agrees on this. This was not Jewish land. The people here weren’t Jews. Please, get that straight.
They were running pig farms. That’s a no no… a non starter for Jews- it simply tells us that whoever and whereever this story is about it is not a Jewish place or about Jewish people- it’s about someone else in anyplace but a Jewish city.
And, to accentuate the point- it surrounds the story of a cemetery- a burial grounds. Jews believed these places were unclean. In fact to touch a dead person made you unclean. This place and the characters in it were as unclean as its going to get.
And here is this unclean man in his unclean place who is possessed by innumerable unclean spirits. It’s a dirty story!!! It’s a tragic story.
This unclean land- whatever it was, was under Roman rule- the rule of outsiders. This unclean man- was under the influence of unclean spirits- demons as it were.
Unclean slide, hazardous materials,
The situation has left him literally a walking disaster zone. Think Charlie Brown’s pigpen with demons instead of dust.
He carried around in his body, literally, the imagery of his city- completely under enemy control. He couldn’t help himself- he was under the control of enemy invaders and it was a sad sight to see.
He was naked. He was out of control. He could not be subdued, yet he was totally under the control of these enemy invaders. When those who wanted to control him placed chains on him, he broke the chains by th power of the enemy that was controlling him… the demons. He was a mess.
And again, he was a picture of this land where he dwelt. Death everywhere, uncleanness rules, and hopelessness prevails.
That’s what Rome brought to those that they possessed. Death if you rebelled. Submission at any cost. The acknowledgement that you were less than they were, and a requirement that you submit or die. And so you submitted. To the taxes, to the torment, to the trouble, to the people and spirits that ruled.
Most people under Roman control recognized Rome as the monster they hated but had to submit to. Rome had come from across the Mediterranean Sea- the sea where monsters come from= and most people would have loved to see that monster thrown back in the sea where it belonged.
And into this situation, the unclean place under unclean rule with unclean motives and unclean spirits- comes the man announcing a new kingdom who would rule all earthly kingdoms and subdue all earthly rulers. What happens when this possessed demoniac comes face to face with his polar opposite in so many ways?
This Kingdom announcer, this kingdom changer- demands the spirit to come out of the man.
Mark 5:1–8 ESV
1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.!
And the spirits come out, and go into a herd of pigs, about 2000, and they run down the hill into the sea and die.
Mark 5:17 ESV
17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.
Interesting, isn’t it? They asked Jesus to leave. They show him the door. The usher in the movie theater has come to Jesus’ row with the flashlight in hand and He’s gotta go!
They recognized that something truly formidable was at work in Jesus Christ. I think what probably bothered them more than anything was that they could not control him. If he was able to destroy and entire herd of pigs- who knows what he might do next?
And I think that is what always bothers us most about Jesus… we can’t keep Him in our box. He gets out. And when He inevitably gets out, He does unimaginable things.
Unacceptable things.
He changes people and circumstances and He shows us where real value ought to be. Let’s get real… what bothered this gathering of people? It was the material loss. 2000 pigs? Come on. That’s a lot of bacon, and it’s going to look bad on our bottom line.
So in spite of the fact that a spiritual miracle has occurred, and in spite of the fact that this man with the legion of spirits has been saved, in spite of the truth that this crazed, naked, uncontrollable, demon possessed man was now sane and clothed, fully in control of his faculties and of sound mind an body- it cost them their shekels… and that means Jesus has to go. We can’t have things like this happening around here.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a business man who had been ordered by his board of directors to close a business and fire every employee in the company. It was going to save the company about $73 million dollars- at the expense of the blue collar workers who ran the company. This friend of mine did something very unusual- he didn’t follow his orders. He said those people deserved their jobs and their paychecks- and he couldn’t do it. So he lost his job, is currently in a lawsuit for breach of contract that has cost him well over $1 million dollars in legal fees and it’s not over yet. Money does strange things to people, doesn’t it?
I mean, for crying out loud- a legion of demons has left this man and he’s well. So we’re going to show Jesus the door- get out of town. We can’t afford you.
Can you imagine being in a burning house and asking the fireman who has just broken through to leave because his presence is going to raise your taxes?
Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer and asking the oncologist to mind his own business because you don’t want to pay the deductible on your policy?
Can you imagine being in the presence of a man who could fix the most pressing problems of your life and saying “adios” because it was going to cost you some pigs?
More directly, they asked Jesus to leave. And He does. He doesn’t stay where he is not wanted. I wonder if when he got to the edge of town he stopped to shake the dust off his feet?
Mark 6:11 ESV
11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
For those of you that may not know it, that was Jesus prescription for his apostles who were sent into cities where they were not received-
Mark 5:18–19 ESV
18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Now something truly compelling happens. Jesus is returning back across the lake the way he came. He is getting into his boat, and the man who had the demons wants to go with him. It would be a normal response. No one had ever been this kind and loving and compassionate to him before. Jesus was the first. And not only was Jesus kind, loving and compassionate- he had gotten rid of the demons- ALL of them! When you think about it, this man was the most likely candidate to become a disciple of Jesus Christ simply on the basis of what Jesus had done for him. But that would have been easy.
Jesus gives him something far more difficult to do. No teaching, no mentoring, no coaching, no seminary degrees. Simply this: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Yikes.
The boat departing on the Sea of Galilee with this mystery man healer guy looked so much more plausible. He’s kind, he’s loving, He can do what no one else ever could. That would be easy.
No… go back to the place where your friends are… and tell them about me. This coming from the very man who said that a prophet is without honor in his own country! Go back to your friends… the ones before the demons, the ones from long ago, anyone with an ear and some time… and tell them about me. And that would be so incredibly harder to do.
Mark 5:20 ESV
20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
And without discussion or dispute… he obeyed. He simply went and told his story and the people were amazed.
Please note what Mark tells us. He went to the Decapolis…all ten cities. And he told his story. Some have speculated that Mark intended for this to be the inauguration of a mission to the gentiles in his gospel. Whatever it was, it was amazing people and it should amaze you.
Which leads us to our bottom line.
Soul Survivors are Never Sole Survivors.
If you have experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ it is impossible to keep it to yourself. The terms “Christian” and “private faith” are two contradictory terms once you’ve experienced the work of Christ in your life.
When the woman at the well went back to her town her first words were, “Come, see a man who told me everything I had ever done.” And she had done everything!
When the man who was blind but now seeing told his story he said, “I once was blind but now I see. This Jesus has healed me.”
What we fail to see is the devastation of the isolation of sin in our lives. Sin separates us. It separates us from each other. It separates us from God.
It separates us from each other in the prejudices that we allow to continue on in our lives… in the economic disparity that we encourage because our retirement matters more than sharing God’s prosperity with the least among us.. We are separated by racism that we can’t deny by simply looking around our own congregation on any Sunday morning. We are separated by our divisions that are encouraged in the name of Christ so we can “control” whatever we deem needs controlled.
And the greatest isolation of all is the sin that separates us from God. Our sin that says me first and God if I have time. Our sin that places God at the end of the list if he even makes the list.
And along comes Jesus and speaks into that darkness-Demons, come out of them. Along comes Jesus and offers to save us from the very worst demon and enemy we have- ourselves. And when we respond by faith he does in fact save us and set us free.
Free, not to be with Him exclusively- but to be with His body, the church, and to be about telling others who need rescued what He has done for us. Free, not to sit in his boat while he tells us tales of his adventures- but free to be in the rescue squad that he has sent out to free those captive by sin’s devastation… and to release them until finally His kingom does come on earth as it is in heaven.
Soul survivors are always called to community, to relationship with other believers, to be about the work that only Christ can do- and he chooses to do through us.
You’ve heard the expression… put on your own oxygen mask first. It seems counterintuitive- we want to help, to save the others. But we can’t, unless we first are saved ourselves. I wonder, have you put on your oxygen mask? I mean, seriouisly, have you gotten the checklist right? Have you yourself experienced the saving grace of Christ first, for yourself, before you have attempted to give it to others?
We do many good things in the name of Jesus. But He said one day He will say, “I never knew you” to those who have done good things in his name but without relationship-personal relationship, to him.
Have you done the best thing? Have you taken care of your own business before you have tried to take care of someone else?
There’s a message in this story.
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