The way we were?

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Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. Mark 5:17

It’s one of the stranger stories ever recorded about Jesus. He and His disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee and witnessed Jesus calming the winds and the waves (they still didn’t know who He was), when they were met on the other side by a crazy man who lived among the tombs of a graveyard and could not be controlled. Whatever the authorities of the town tried to bind him with — even chains of iron — he would break, and so he wandered the tombs, night and day, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When Jesus asked the man his name, he said his name was Legion, “for we are many.” Jesus knew the man was inhabited by demons, and the demons knew who He was and that He had the power to send them out of the man. But, not wanting to be disembodied, the demons pleaded with Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs that were grazing on the hillside. So Jesus granted their wish, and as soon as they entered the pigs, the whole herd ran headlong into the lake and drowned.

When the people of the village heard what was going on, they came out to see for themselves and found “the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid” (5:15). They were afraid? Doesn’t that seem strange? They were afraid to find a man who had been the terror of the tombs, dressed and in his right mind? Wouldn’t they have been relieved to have this menace healed and no longer a threat to their town? What could they have possibly been afraid of about that?

They were afraid of change. They were afraid of Jesus. They were afraid of a man who messed with their reality. They wanted the crazy guy screaming and cutting himself among the tombs, and they wanted the pigs back on the hillside. Just leave us alone. We were doing fine before you showed up.

I think that sometimes we forget that Jesus is dangerous. He changes things. Sometimes we prefer the former state, even if the latter is an improvement. Jesus was a threat to this town. They were less afraid of the demons in the tombs than a man who could change everything.

Are we facing a spiritual revolution? Are we facing major changes to our society in our culture and in the church? What if following Jesus means some radical changes in our reality? Are we willing to go with that, or would we rather have Jesus go somewhere else? It’s so easy to become set in our ways where we would choose our weaknesses, our foibles, our dysfunctions rather than to have Jesus heal us and expect to use us for something greater. Do we want to stay the way we were, or do we want something far better?

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11 Responses to The way we were?

  1. As Matthew Henry commented, “Too many people prefer their pigs above their Savior, and so come short of Christ, and salvation through him.”
    Where in our lives as believers is this also true of us?

  2. Markus says:

    Definitely a strange story. Say, does anybody know whether the Jews had similarly despicable traditions like the old travelling freak shows in Europe and possibly also the USA? I mean, maybe they were angry that Jesus robbed them of a financially interesting tourist attraction?

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      Interesting question…

    • Not sure what you’re trying to get at with your question, Markus.
      Circuses and freak shows have been a part of almost every human society since the earliest formations of kingdoms and countries.
      It is almost certain that caravans of delightful and/or dubious entertainment traveled through Israel and may have even been owned and operated by less-devout or more worldly-minded Jewish businessmen.
      While the Bible reveals many “despicable” practices by Jewish leaders, both religious and political, throughout Israel’s history, those leading the country in Jesus’ day were probably not much concerned with what He did with the pigs or amongst the people of the Gadarenes.
      They already despised Him for His proclamations and proofs that He is God in the flesh and they probably saw Him (once again) as violating the laws of Moses by interacting with these Gentiles of the Decapolis along with their herds of swine.
      It’d be just another notch in their belts of accusations.
      So, I seriously doubt that they were angry or disappointed at a missed financial opportunity since they would have rather had no dealings at all with Jesus, the gentiles, and certainly not the pigs!
      They were already blinded by fury so losing potential shekels would probably not have been on their radar or caused any greater ire.

      Shalom, Peace to you my friend…

  3. Sandie says:

    Our human nature surely is afraid of change – even if it’s for the good. We have furred and feathered our ‘rut’ and fear anything that disturbs it.
    Unless…you are like Peter…the only one who dared to step out of the boat. Despite the screaming wind – despite the crashing waves – despite the fear of his companions (and his own, I’m sure), he dared it all and put his trust in Jesus. Sure he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink, but again he dared to trust Jesus and was rescued. HE GOT OUT OF THE BOAT!
    Sure he later denied Jesus, but again he dared to trust Jesus and was forgiven and restored. He had to get out of the spiritual ‘boat’ (rut) that told him he could never be forgiven and put his trust in Jesus.
    I have lost track of how many times I have ‘stepped out of the boat’ in faith, then almost immediately messed up by looking at the circumstance instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus. But praise God, His hand is always there to pull me up and secure me at His side!
    Peter’s story is evidence that there is hope for me…not only me, but everyone that that dares to trust in Jesus…over and over again.

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      I liked that at least Peter go out of the boat! Never heard it put that way. Often heard how he took his eyes off Jesus. At least Peter go out of the boat! I am not sure, right now if I ever had “stepped out of the boat’ in faith,” Other then when I woke up from a coma – that was pretty cool!

      Big Amen to this: “Peter’s story is evidence that there is hope for me…not only me, but everyone that that dares to trust in Jesus…over and over again.

      • Sandie says:

        I always thought too much emphasis is put on Peter’s failures; not enough on his overcoming his failures. Again, human nature. I think God cuts us a better break than we do ourselves. 1 John 1:9 was not written for unbelievers, but to the church. God expects our failures (because of the old sin nature) and makes provision for us to overcome them. I believe God is not so much disappointed by our ‘sinking into the waves’ as He is by our lack of trust in Him to dare getting ‘out of the boat’ in the first place.
        Remember: despite (or maybe because of?) his sometimes anguishing failure, he is the rock upon whom Jesus said He would establish His church.

  4. Mark D Seguin says:

    This is what I posted over Today’s Catch on Facebook:
    “… we forget that Jesus is dangerous. He changes things. Sometimes we prefer the former state,…”

    That’s so true for me, want others to change not me….

  5. John A Fagliano says:

    In the end of the story, Jesus did leave but he left behind the healed man to be His witness. That man had wanted to go with Jesus but Jesus left him among his people so he could show what mercy had been given to him. If the former demon possessed man traveled to distant lands no one there would recognised him as a miracle. Yes, people may tell Jesus to go away but guess who is still here among them? Us who have been shown His mercy. Our hope is that people won’t be afraid of change once they see how good change really is.

    • jwfisch says:

      I love this insight that we have been left behind to tell (show) our story. Great point. The people who would be most impacted by the change that occurred in our lives would be the people who knew us before. I could tell my story to other people but it wouldn’t have near the impact it would for those from my own “village.”

  6. peter leenheer says:

    The impact of what Jesus did for the demon possessed man is great but Jesus is always interested in more the advancing of the Kingdome of God. In fact Jesus not only healed the man but the entire region. In the gospel of Mark it talks about Decapolis or ten towns. This is in the area of Galilee an area that was very secular and evil, the pigs show that there was no adherence to the law of ‘Moses’ about eating certain foods and not others. Those towns in that region were all recipients of the gospel via this previously demon possessed man, what a wave of healing. He obeyed what Jesus told him to do. Besides for a Jew a herd of dead pigs is not such a tragedy. Jesus multiplies his impact wherever he goes. The region of the ten towns welcomed him some time later because the gospel had been spread as well as Jesus reputation for healing.
    Jesus creates change through one person. The mustard seed comes to mind. Change gathers momentum and multiplies but if we do not spread the gospel where we live the gospel disappears. Let’s have Kingdom impact.

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