Friday Quote

I have been driven man times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go; my own wisdom and that of all around me seemed insufficient for the day.

Abraham Lincoln

Advertisements

Running in the Right Direction

This week I have a new article up at BPSports.net about the spiritual reminder I got from running.

Here is an excerpt:

I was sharing my frustration with a fellow runner, and he made a very helpful suggestion. He encouraged me not to focus so much on beating the clock, but instead to simply focus on steady progress. There are going to be some good runs, and some bad runs. The important thing is to just keep getting in your miles.

Read the rest HERE

The Power of Jesus to Change Lives – Mark 5:1-20 (pt. 4)

part 1
part 2
part 3

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 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. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 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.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 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 were drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 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. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 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.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. – Mark 5:1-20 –

Act IV: The Power of Jesus Recognized (vv. 18-20)

In the first act of this story we saw the power of Jesus required.  In act 2 we saw the power of Jesus revealed.  In act three we saw the power of Jesus reviled.  Now in the final act of this story we will see the power of Jesus recognized.  Beginning in v. 18 Mark tells us that “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.”  Looking at this man’s reaction to Jesus, it is interesting to note that this is the third time in this passage that someone was begging Jesus to do something.  The demons begged not to be destroyed, the people begged Jesus to leave the area, and now someone is finally begging Jesus for the right things.  This is begging to simply be with Jesus.  What a contrast with the response of the other individuals.  It is clear that this man recognized the power of Jesus that changed his life.  This is why he wanted to be with Jesus.  I don’t think that it is stretch to say that this should be the reaction that we should all have to Jesus.

Since this was such an appropriate response it is a bit surprising in v. 19 when Jesus denies the man’s request.  Mark says that Jesus “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.’”  This just seems strange.  Of the three requests made in this passage why was this one the only one denied?  Well, suffice it to say that Jesus had a plan.  You see even though the people had asked Jesus to leave the area, Jesus still had compassion on these people.  He wanted to leave this area with a missionary.  And this is exactly what Jesus is asking this man to do.  Jesus wants him to go out and testify about the power of Jesus that changed his life.  Kent Hughes explains what is going on here with this very helpful illustration:

Some years ago an ophthalmologist, just fresh from college, commenced business. Without friends, without money, and without patrons, he became discouraged, until one day he saw a blind man. Looking into his eyes, he said, “Why don’t you have your eyesight restored? Come to my office in the morning.” The blind man went. When an operation was performed and proved successful, the patient said, “I haven’t got a penny in the world. I can’t pay you. “Oh, yes,” said the doctor, “you can pay me, and I expect you to do so. There is just one thing I want you to do, and it is very easy. Tell everybody you see that you were blind, and tell them who it was that healed you.[1]

There is a side note here that we would do well to notice.  That is, sometimes God tells us no even when we ask for a good thing.  But as we will see in v. 20 it is always a good purpose behind God’s decisions.  In v. 20 we see that this man obeyed Jesus.  This must have been hard for him, but he did not doubt Jesus’ decision.  Mark tells us that “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”  This is an amazing response for a few reasons:

  1. This man had a submissive response, even though he didn’t get what he wanted.  Contrast that with the response of the healed leper that disobeyed Jesus (1:44-45).  Furthermore, this kind of submission is a far cry from the behavior he exhibited earlier in the passage.
  2. This man knew that Jesus was God.  Jesus tells him to go and tell all that the Lord had done for him, and Mark tells us that this man recognized that Jesus is Lord.
  3. This man had a huge impact in the Decapolis (a league of 10 Gentile cities).  He reached people that may have otherwise gone unreached.  Additionally, we know that he had a lasting impact because when Jesus returned to this area the people were ready for Him (7:31-37)Isn’t it funny that the first Christian missionary to the gentiles was a former demoniac who was covered with scars all over his body?

Because this man had the right response to Jesus he was not only drastically changed by Jesus, but he was also dramatically used by Jesus.  And the same will be true of us id we properly recognize the power of Jesus.  For this to happen we must begin with humility.  James 4:6-10 puts it this way:

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Conclusion:

Jesus has the power to change us.  He has the power to save us from our sin, and he has the power to use us for His kingdom purposes.  No matter how bad our situation may seem, if we will humbly submit to Jesus he can change us.  Thus, we must properly respond to the power of Jesus.  If we do this Jesus will deliver us from the power of our sins.  As Romans 6:15-18 says,

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Jesus has the power to change, and we must properly recognize that power.


[1]R. Kent Hughes, Mark : Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 123.

The Power of Jesus to Change Lives – Mark 5:1-20 (pt. 3)

part 1

part 2

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 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. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 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.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 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 were drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 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. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 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.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.   – Mark 5:1-20 –

Act III: The Power of Jesus Reviled (vv. 14-17)

In the first act of this story we saw the power of Jesus required.  In act 2 we saw the power of Jesus revealed.  Now, in act three, we will see the power of Jesus reviled.  In other words, we will see a rebellious response to the power of Jesus.  This act begins in v.14 where Marks writes, “The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.”  Mark begins with the herdsman.  These guys were in charge of the pigs that had just run over the cliff.  And so, when all 2,000 of these pigs ended up dead they wanted to make sure that everyone knew that it was not their fault.  They did not want to take the blame, and so they told everyone what had happened.

Word spread quickly concerning what happened, and people from all throughout the area came out to see what was going on.  When they arrived on the scene they immediately saw the evidence of Jesus’ power when the saw the man you used to be controlled by demons.  In v. 15 Marks tells us what that they “saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.”  These people were shocked!  Notice the contrast here between how this man was described before Jesus’ intervention and then after:

–          calmly sitting vs. running madly through the tombs

–          clothed vs. naked

–          in his right mind (literally under control) vs. crying out and cutting himself.

As these people looked at this man they saw first hand how Jesus had changed this man’s life.  Additionally, v. 16 tells us that “those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs.”  These people were standing right in front of the person who was powerful enough to cast out the demons who had been terrorizing their region, and they were afraid.  But this was not the same kind of fear that the disciples had experienced (4:41).  In fact, this response is shocking.  Rather than bowing before Jesus—even the demons had done this—v. 17 tells us that “they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.”  They didn’t want anything to do with Jesus.  Mark does not tells us exactly why they responded this way, however I think there were a few factors that went into this decision:

  1. They were upset about the economic loss.  They were so tied to the material possession that they failed to see the spiritual benefit that Jesus could have provided.  What seemed like a horrible economic loss could have been to their spiritual advantage, if they would have responded correctly.
  2. They were probably afraid.  They should have seen Jesus actions as an act of mercy toward this oppressed man.  But instead they were afraid because they knew that they could not control Jesus.
  3. Ultimately they simply did not what to submit to the power of Jesus.  This is why they asked Jesus to leave.

As we look at the response that these people had toward Jesus we need to ask ourselves how we have responded to the power of Jesus.  What about you?  How have you responded to the power of Jesus?  Are you too concerned with the things of this world to accept Jesus?  Are you unwilling to submit, and allow Jesus to control your life?  If so, then you are missing you opportunity to be changed by Jesus for the better.

The Power of Jesus to Change Lives – Mark 5:1-20 (pt. 2)

Part 1

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 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. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 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.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 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 were drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 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. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 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.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.   – Mark 5:1-20 –

ACT II: The Power of Jesus Revealed (vv. 6-13)

In the first act of this story we saw that the power of Jesus is required.  In vv. 6-13 Mark begins the second act.  Here we will see the power of Jesus revealed.  Mark writes, “And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 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.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 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 were drowned in the sea.”

Remember how I said that most people steered clear of this area?  Well, apparently the disciples did not know that when they brought Jesus here to rest.  They pulled up, got out of the boat, and fully expected a nice quiet day of rest.  However, this man with the unclean spirit had a different idea.  He constantly terrorized the area and anyone in it, and now he had new people to terrorize.  Mark tells us that he saw them from off in the distance and starting running at them.  What probably happened was that the man was going to terrorize this new group of people just like he always did, but when he got up close he realized who he was about to terrorize.  When he realized that it was Jesus he immediately fell prostrate on the ground before Jesus.

Can you imagine this scene?  This crazy demon possessed guy, who by the way isn’t wearing any clothes, comes running out the mountains screaming at you like a mad man…  I can almost see the frazzled disciples (remember how they spent the previous night) freaking out and running to get back in the boat.  At the same time, however, Jesus calmly stood his ground and prepared to confront the man.

When the man finally stopped screaming, he began to question Jesus.  He wanted to know what Jesus was going to do with him.  Specifically, he was begging Jesus not to torment him.  At this point we need to understand that this was the unclean spirit speaking through this man.  However, what does he mean by torture?  To answer this question it is helpful to look at what Matthew and Luke say about this exchange.  Both of them record that the unclean spirit did not want to be thrown into the abyss.  In other words, the unclean spirit did not want Jesus to exercise eternal judgment on him yet.  This is probably what Mark is talking about here as well.  But whatever the case may be, the important thing to note is why he was begging Jesus.  It was because Jesus had been commanding the demon to come out of him—Mark uses the imperfect tense which tells us that Jesus repeatedly told the demon to come out.  The demon knew that it was impossible to resist the command of Jesus, and so he was begging.

As this demon is arguing with Jesus will hear nothing of it.  He does not respond to the begging, but instead asks, “what is your name?”  There are a couple of tough questions about this question:

  1. Q: Who was Jesus talking to?  Was it the man or the demon?  A: It was probably the demon because that is who he was already talking to.
  2. Q: Why did Jesus as the question?  A: The answer to this question is most likely found in the answer to Jesus question.  You see, the demon speaks up and reveals that this man was controlled by multiple demons.  Jesus knew this already, and most likely asked the question in order to bring out the dire circumstances of this situation.

This demon (there was one demon that was speaking and probably was the leader or representative for the group of demons) said that their name was “legion.”  This is referring to a Roman legion of soldiers which consisted of somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 troops.  This does not necessarily mean that there were that many demons in this man.  However it does mean that there were a lot of demons tormenting this man.  As one author put it,

It was a chilling admission. A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 foot soldiers, as well as 120 horsemen and technical personnel. To the Jewish mind, “Legion” brought an image of great numbers, efficient organization, and relentless strength. A host of evil spirits leered upon Christ from behind the poor man’s wild eyes. It was time for Jesus’ power to be seen in a most unforgettable way.[1]

Even though there were multiple demons it is clear that Jesus had control of this situation.  This is why they continue begging him not to be sent out of the region.  Maybe they prefer to remain in this particular area, because it is the terrain of tombs, skeletons, desertions, death, and destruction.  They feel ‘at home’ here.”[2] Weren’t sure exactly, but we are sure that they cannot do anything without Jesus’ permission.  This is why they ask Jesus to allow them to enter a heard of pigs feeding on a nearby hillside (remember this is a Gentile region).  Again, we don’t know why they want to enter the pigs, but we do know that they needed Jesus’ permission.  They knew the power of Jesus!

In v. 13 Mark tells us that Jesus granted their request to enter the pigs.  As a result, “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 were drowned in the sea.”  This is not an every day occurrence.  In fact, this seems downright strange.  It would be easy for us to wonder why this happened, and why Jesus would allow it to happen.  But we need to notice a couple of things:

  1. The damage that was done to the pigs was minimal compared with the damage that was being done by the demons.
  2. “The demons’ leaving the man and entering into the swine were invisible events, but the frenzied action of the herd was visible evidence of the reality of the transition.”[3]

There are a lot of details in this passage, and they all point to one thing—the power of Jesus.  In v. 4 Mark said that no one had the strength to subdue this man.  And yet, Jesus had no problem subduing the demons and rescuing this man.  He had the power to bring about immediate change.  Think about it.  Jesus stood toe-to-toe with an entire legion of demons, and He won.  In fact, the demons were begging Him for mercy.  They had to obey Him, there was no other option.  Additionally, Jesus was able to completely and instantaneously change this man’s life.

We will see this more clearly in the next few verses, but suffice it to say that this is good news for us.  Jesus has the power to change us.  I love the way Romans 8:1-4 puts it:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Jesus has the power to change us—to deliver us from sin.  The question is how are we going to respond to that power?  In the next two acts of this story we are going to see two different responses to the power of Jesus.  As we look at these responses we need to be careful to examine our own hearts.


[1]R. Kent Hughes, Mark : Jesus, Servant and Savior, Preaching the Word (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989), 120.

[2] Hendricksen, 193.

[3] Hiebert, 134.