As we saw in our last post (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tomhobson/2018/04/jesus-world-champion-exorcist/), Mark gives us Jesus’ most remarkable case as an exorcist, a case involving not one, not seven, but hundreds of evil spirits. We can only imagine the misery they have caused this man whom they are holding in bondage.
Jesus will not allow these spirits to destroy this man. They must settle for a lesser victim. They choose a huge herd of unkosher animals. Jesus cuts them a break and lets them go. And to the amazement of the herdsmen on the scene, the whole herd suddenly takes off running down the steep slope near where they were grazing and drowns in the lake below.
See how much this one man’s soul is worth in the eyes of Jesus! Two thousand hogs die, so that one man can live!
The herdsmen who witness the scene flee. They tell the rest of the neighborhood what Jesus has done. The local residents are stunned. They come and see for themselves. There sits the newly freed man, “clothed and in his right mind.” It’s him, all right, the madman they’ve put up with all these years. But the change in him is absolutely astounding. They almost don’t recognize him, quiet and with his clothes on!
What’s crazy about this story is what happens next. The local townspeople ask Jesus to leave their neighborhood. Why?? For some reason, these folks would rather put up with a wild man who’s been terrorizing their neighborhood with random acts of violence, than have Jesus around. They can tolerate a man full of demons, but not Someone who has the power to cast them all out. No wonder the demons don’t want to leave this man. He lives in a place where the powers of evil are most likely to be left alone, unopposed, undisturbed.
Jesus gives these local folks the creeps. Having someone around who has so much power over the spirit world makes these people nervous. Perhaps they are afraid that someday Jesus might use that power on them.
The Gerasenes pass up all that Jesus could have done to help them. They don’t bring him their sick. They don’t bring him others in need of exorcism. They fearfully but politely ask him to leave – the only One who can offer them freedom from bondage! They’re the ones who appear to be out of their minds.
Jesus wants this man to be his agent on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, to be a ready-made cross-cultural bridge to the non-Jewish people who live here in the Decapolis. Instead of taking this man back to Jewish territory with him, Jesus wants this man to stay there and spread the good news of what God has done for him, to people who otherwise might never hear that news. The man is more than happy to tell his story far and wide. People on the far side of the lake hear that Jesus has unequalled power over evil. And all those who once knew this man can now rejoice, because if he can be set free, there is also hope for them!
If Jesus can heal this man, who suffered from the worst case of demon possession ever recorded, then Jesus can most certainly set us free from the powers that hold us in bondage. Maybe you can relate to this tormented man. You may not stand in his exact same shoes (you are probably not demon-possessed), but you find yourself imprisoned by forces that are destroying your life. You’ve known insanity. You’ve known unrelenting torment. You’ve known what it’s like to be out of control. You know what it’s like to fight with beasts within. You long to be set free from your chains of misery.
If you can relate to this man, then let me assure you that Jesus is far more powerful than any of the forces that torment you or hold you in bondage. Those forces will not give up without protest, but they cannot win. They are toast in Jesus’ hands.
Jesus is the One who comes to set us free. We are nuts if we send him away, like the Gerasenes, who were afraid of what Jesus might do if they let him stay. Jesus goes where he’s welcome. Wherever he’s welcome, the forces of hell cannot prevail. Let Jesus be the One who sets you free, the One who heals your soul. Let Jesus be the One who drives the torment out of your life.