In our current series on (Re)Discovering Jesus, we’re using some reality TV shows as a springboard into our verse-by-verse study from the Gospel of Mark. And our goal is to learn two things: 1. Who is Jesus? And 2. What does He want with us?
It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to live life in this type of clutter and chaos. In the reality TV show, “Hoarders,” people with some obsessive-compulsive disorders struggle with letting go of things, and it becomes a type of bondage to them. I’m not a hoarder, but there are things that I have a hard time of letting go. Here’s a box I’ve held onto since I was probably 7 or 8 years old. There’s nothing of real value in here, but I don’t want to get rid of it, because it has sentimental value. There’s nothing wrong with sentimental value, but what can happen with bigger issues of life is that sentimental value or affection or attachment can become a prison. Some people get trapped in their own desires, affections, and attachments, and they don’t know how to get out.
As we continue in our series from the Gospel of Mark, we’re taking a look at how one man was imprisoned. We don’t know exactly what happened or why he was in his condition. But up to this point in his life, until Jesus comes along, people really didn’t know what to do with him. And so he lived alone… with his demons… in his own prison. We read about the story in Mark 5:1-20, so if your Bibles or a Bible app, go ahead and turn there with me. For those of you who are tracking with us, last week we took a look at Mk. 4:21-34, and Mike Berry preached a few months ago and hit on Mk. 4:35-41, so now we’re ready for Mk. 5. And while I’m taking a minute, let me just mention that I have had several of you astute church folks ask me why we’re reading now out of the English Standard Version rather than the New International Version, and here’s the deal: simply put, the version we were using of the NIV (1984) is no longer in print, and it’s not even available any longer on Bible apps on phones, and it gave us an opportunity to re-evalute what we wanted to use for Scripture readings in our worship services. This is not a legalistic thing, but our leadership decided to go with a more “word for word” translation than a “thought for thought.” So, no need to panic, and we’re not trying to force anybody to use this translation—there are a lot of good English translations out there, but that’s where we landed. All right--infomercial over. Back to Mk. 5. To show honor to God’s Word, would you stand with me for our Scripture reading?
You may be seated. So what’s going on here? Jesus and His disciples just crossed over the Sea of Galilee where there was a storm and all the disciples thought they were going to drown. Jesus calmed the water, the disciples are amazed, and they are now on the other side of the lake “to the country of the Gerasenes.” Doesn’t that sound ominous? “The country of the Gerasenes.” This was the region to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee, which, by the way, was not a region frequented by “good Jewish people.” Take a look on the map of where Jerusalem is—the epicenter of Judaism—and then you go from Judea into Samaria (not a popular place for Jews to visit, because the Samaritans were considered the “half-breeds”), and then you enter into Galilee (where Jesus was from), which was an area mixed with more Gentiles. And then you go across the Sea of Galilee and you’re getting even further away from where the “right kind of people” live and you’re moving into where the “wrong kind of people” live! And where does Jesus go? Where the “wrong kind of people” are. And not just the “wrong kind of people,” the very first person who approaches Jesus on the wrong side of the lake, where the wrong kind of people live, is a man even the wrong kind of people can’t stand—a man who is a threat to their homes and livelihood—a man possessed with demons!
Now, let’s make sure and get this right. If you were Jesus—just stay with me on this for a minute. If you were Jesus, and you wanted to convince the world that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, and you want to win friends and influence people, how are you going to go about it? Well, I can tell you one thing that from the world’s perspective is not going to work is going to the wrong kind of people in the wrong kind of place and talk to the wrong kind of man whose life is totally in shambles. I mean, you talk about “hoarders” who are trapped in their clutter of attachments? This guy is trapped, alone, crying out, and he’s a “cutter”—cutting himself with stones. He’s hurting so badly on the inside that he makes himself hurt on the outside in order to mask his internal pain. Notice a couple of things we “rediscover” about Jesus:
1. Jesus went where others wouldn’t (vv. 1-2).
He always has, and He always will, and He calls us to do the same. Do you think Jesus was criticized for going where others wouldn’t? Of course. Back in Mk. 2 Jesus was questioned for hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. In Lk. 15 religious leaders were grumbling that Jesus received sinners and ate with them.”
And here’s where it’s hard for us. None of us would say, “I’m prejudiced.” Or, “As a church member in good standing, I shouldn’t be seen with `those’ people.” But if we’re really honest with ourselves, we all have our blind spots, and we tend to filter things through our upbringing and the way we were taught. I was with an African-American friend a couple of weeks ago, and we, along with a few others, had lunch in Brownsburg. This friend isn’t from around here, and he had to get back on the road after our lunch, and so he asked for directions back to the interstate, and then he said, “Is there any neighborhood I should stay away from? You know, as a black man in a white neighborhood, you can get pulled over from time to time, and the cops can give you a hard time.” Now, if I have Caucasian friends who aren’t from here ask, “Is there any neighborhood I should stay away from?” it’s a whole different question than what my African-American friend was asking when we were over at Brownsburg.
So what lines are you willing to cross? Are we as a church willing to go where perhaps others won’t? We gather as a church surrounded by neighborhoods that continues to change with a growing percentage of Latinos and African-Americans. This is a beautiful thing and more representative of God’s diverse creation and Kingdom! Are we willing to go where perhaps others won’t? We’re looking to bring on board our first Church Planter in Residence, Julio Cruz, as part of our vision to become an equipping and mobilizing church that transforms our world for Jesus Christ. Julio is originally from Honduras, graduated from Ozark Christian College, helped plant a church in Tampa, and will be with us for 2-3 years to help us reach into our neighborhoods which are becoming more ethnically and economically diverse. Are we willing to go where perhaps others won’t? We want to start a bi-lingual, multicultural, muti-ethnic worship service in the future as part of this vision. Are we willing to go where perhaps others won’t? We’re looking at bringing on board an Ex. Dir. of Worship Arts & Programming who will also help us become more diverse at the staff level and oversee our growing and diverse worship ministries. He would work with Shockley, Aaron, and our current staff and lay leaders to provide greater cohesiveness to our worship ministries between traditional and contemporary and help us explore future worship venues. Are we willing to go where perhaps others won’t? Are we willing to reach out to people trapped in a prison of their own demons of drug addiction, materialism and greed, and the outcasts of society? Are we willing to welcome the broken-hearted and hurting? Are we willing to reach out to the homosexual, the pregnant teenager, the person who doesn’t look like us, talk like us, or dress like us? Jesus did. Jesus went where others wouldn’t. And…
2. Jesus did what others couldn’t (vv. 3-20).
Back in Mk. 5:3, it says that no one could bind this possessed man, not even with a chain. “No one had the strength to subdue him” (v. 4). In the fog of this man’s anguish, he saw Jesus, ran and fell down before Him (v. 6) and cried out (v. 7).
Jesus did what others couldn’t do. V. 8, Jesus was saying, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.” The demon, which was actually many evil spirits (v. 9), begs Jesus not to send them out of the country, but rather into some pigs feeding on the hillside (vv. 10-11). The unclean spirits enter the pigs, the pigs go crashing down a steep bank and drown in the sea (v. 13). Now, I don’t understand how all that works, and there’s so much here we could try to unpack, but what I do understand is that Jesus frees the man from his chains—physically and spiritually. Jesus did what others couldn’t.
If you have become trapped by “little” sins in your life that, left unchecked, have now all of sudden started to take control of your life, Jesus can do for you what others can’t. What starts out as just a little, “innocent” flirting, becomes a little more flirting, more time spent together, a chance meeting where you were alone, a slight hand to the shoulder, a simple embrace, and then leads to a prison of lies, deceit, guilt and shame. Jesus can do for you what others (including yourself) can’t. I have a friend who was the treasurer for his Neighborhood Association. We’re not talking major money here, but when this friend got in a tight spot financially, he began to “borrow” money from the Neighborhood Assoc. to make up his personal shortfall, with every intention of paying it back! But someone found out, and the consequences of shame and legal action became a prison. It didn’t seem like anyone could help, but Jesus can do what others can’t.
Now, Some people, of course, prefer the status-quo (vv. 14-17). As long as they’re not the one alone, hurting and cutting themselves. The people from the city came to see what was going on, and rather than celebrating how this man who was imprisoned was now free, clothed and in his right mind (v. 15), Mark records that they were afraid, and, catch this, “They began to beg Jesus to depart from their region” (v. 17).
Can you imagine?!? They send away the very One who could do for them what no one else could do! Some people, some Christians, some churches prefer the status-quo. “We know this guy is off in the caves crying out and cutting himself, but he’s OUR problem, and as long as everything is under control, let’s just let things be.”
I know a family where the mom is an actual hoarder, but it’s only symptomatic of a deeper prison that she and other family members have been in for decades. Family secrets. On the surface, you would never know. Strong, church-going family. But there are certain things you don’t talk about. You put on your smile, never invite anybody over to your house, and we can look like everything is normal. Jesus shows up, and some people, for whatever reason, say, “I really think it’s best that you go.” And He does. He’s not going to force Himself on anyone. He respects you, even if you push Him away. But don’t be that person. Let Him in, because Jesus can do for you what no one else can.
So the man who is now free in our story begs Jesus to take him along; but Jesus sends him back, knowing that the greatest impact this man would ever have is to share his story with those who remember what he used to be like in his former days. This man goes back and shares with everyone what Jesus has done for him, because when Jesus will go places where others won’t, and when you let Him do for you what others can’t, and you are set free from your prison, you can’t help but let others see what Jesus has done for you.
So here’s my question: Are you willing to let Jesus do for you what others can’t? Don’t push Him away. And when you are freed from your prison, Are you willing to be like Jesus and go to places where others won’t, so Jesus can do for them what others can’t? Let’s pray.