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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark

The Unexpected Kingdom

 

Mark 5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 

 Last week we left Jesus and his disciples on the calm Sea of Galilee.  Jesus had just calmed the terrible storm.  But, in calming the storm, Jesus had raised the fear factor in his disciples…

Mark 4:41 And the disciples were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"

Who is this?  Last week we discovered that Jesus is the one who has control over creation.  Jesus speaks and the wind and the sea obey him.  The creator, even though he has stepped down into his creation, still has power over creation!

The disciples were filled with not just fear, but megan-fear; great fear because there Lord is LORD.  But little did the disciples know, they were just getting started… with their fear factor… Listen to the next few verses with creepy music playing in the background.

Mark 5:2-6 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…

The disciples were momentarily thankful for being out of the boat and on solid ground. Then they looked up to see a crazed man running straight at them, chains dangling, blood flowing, from the tombs… screaming. The disciples decided that maybe the boat was not so bad.  From the frying pan into the fire.  The disciples were piling back into the boat…

When they turned to see Jesus… Jesus is standing calmly, watching this scary guy approach, with an odd look on his face.  Jesus’s face is a mixture of anger and compassion.  How do you even do that… Jesus is upset with the evil that is haunting this guy but there is an undercurrent of love for the man?  But there was no more fear on his face then there had been earlier as he slept through the storm.  Who is this that even scary demon guys in graveyards don’t phase him?

Mark 5:6-7 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." 

The words of the demon are confrontational… The phrase literally is, “What of you and me?” This is sort of like, “Mind your own business!” Or… “You have no right to be here!”  Or… “Get out of my face!”  Jesus is confronted with the forces of evil.

Once again, an unclean spirit attempts to control Jesus by naming Jesus as the Son of the Most High God… names are important to demons. There is something about naming and claiming.  Once the demon understands he cannot capture Jesus, it starts to beg.  I suspect it is torture for this unclean spirit to even be in the presence of Jesus.

“I beg you in the name of God to not hurt me.”  Ironically, the unclean spirit begs Jesus in the name of God, not to torture him.  A demon appealing to God to not torture him even though it has brutally tortured this guy… some nerve. 

Demons seek to destroy the image of God in a person.  We are created to be image-bearers of God.  Satan’s goal for all of us is to crush that image driving the image of God out of a person; to be animals or worse.  This poor guy has been turned into this monster who can’t be chained, who beats himself, who lives in the tombs.  This guy has been robbed of his humanity; his image of God.

So, here is the scene…

--To a Jew of Jesus time, graveyards were considered unclean places.  For a Jew, contact with the dead, or with graves, made you unclean. The place is unclean.

--We will read in a moment this guy is a Gentile. Contact with Gentiles is considered by Jews of the time to make you unclean. The person is unclean.

--This guy has an unclean spirit… We are about to discover it is more than one unclean spirit. Demons are the most unclean.

The scene is triple unclean. Not a place where you would expect the Jewish Messiah interacting with an unclean person.  That may be the point. 

The disciples, still hanging by the boat, ready to start rowing, listen to this weird conversation.  What? This crazy brute of a man was face down in front of Jesus, begging Jesus not to hurt him. “Who is this that even the possessed are afraid of Him?”  The disciples think they have seen it all.  But they aint seen nothing yet.

Mark 5:8-13 For Jesus 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. 

“You are kidding me?” The disciples had to be saying to each other.  “Did Jesus just let 2,000 demons loose on a herd of pigs? And the pigs jumped into the lake?” Let’s add to our unclean list, unclean spirits destroying unclean animals!  This is the weirdest encounter ever!

We might remember a previous statement by Jesus when he was accused of being in cahoots with Beelzebul…

Mark 3:27 “But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus has entered the Strong Man’s house, Satan’s kingdom, and ripped these demons loose from this tortured man.  Jesus is stronger than the strong man!  The power of the kingdom of God invades the kingdom of Satan. Who do you say I am?  You are the one who is stronger than 2,000 unclean spirits! The disciples are saying, “We’re with him!”

Obviously, someone owned those 2,000 pigs… that is a big pig herd.  Someone is going to be upset… If the average pig produces 130 pounds of meat , at an average cost of $3 a pound, there are 2,000 pigs = that would be $780,000 worth of pork floating in the Sea of Galilee.  “Someone is going to be upset!” 

Mark 5:14-17 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. 

Another crowd shows up to see $780,000 worth of pork bobbing in the Sea of Galilee.  But what is even more amazing is the guy, formally known as Legion, sitting calmly, clothed, coherent, conversing with Jesus.  The crowd has the same response as the disciples after the storm… they were afraid!  They wanted nothing to do with this Jew who was more powerful than Legion!  “Forget the $780,000 worth of pork, Jesus, will you just leave now, please?”

Now, Mark gets to the point of the story…  Well, the other point of the story.  The main point of the story is who Jesus is. Jesus not only controls the wind and the sea; the natural world, Jesus is the one who controls the spirt world as well… Jesus has power over the evil in creation!  That is the main point!

Now, Mark gets to the other point of the story.

Mark 5:18-20 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  And 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." And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

The guy, formally known as Legion, wants to be with Jesus. Wow, what would be wrong with that?  This guy, who owes Jesus everything, wants to be a disciple.  That is a great idea. “Please Jesus, let me go with you.” Jesus has all kinds of disciples, tax collectors, zealots, fishermen, what would be wrong with a former demon possessed Gentile?  It must have been hard for Jesus, but he said no.  I have a bigger job for you… “Go home and tell your friends what the Lord has done for you!” 

So, this bruised guy begins to spread the word about Jesus of Nazareth.  Not in Galilee or Judea or even Samaria… This guy takes the message of Jesus to the Decapolis; the Ten Cities. 

The “Ten Cities” was a group of towns on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, southeast of the Sea of Galilee.  The writers of the ancient world could never agree which ten cities they were talking about, but it was an central area for Greek and Roman culture in the region. The point, for our purposes, is clear… it wasn’t Jewish.  The people of the Decapolis were pagan.  The used to own 2,000 pigs.  The guy, formally known as Legion, was the first missionary to the Gentiles! Spreading the word of the Kingdom to unexpected places!

Wait, wait… that is what we studied last week in the parables.  Mark has not changed subjects from chapter 4 to chapter 5.  Jesus is still teaching about the kudzu kingdom. 

Mark 4:30-32 And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

The kingdom of God is not like a Sequoia that grows from small pine cone to be this massive tree.  No, the kingdom is like a nasty mustard plant that takes over the garden.  It is Kudzu. It is invasive and swarms and grows in unwanted places.  The kingdom is preached in the Decapolis by the oddest of all missionaries. 

Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, through a storm, to find a man who needed deliverance. Jesus went to this pagan graveyard to release a man from bondage.  Jesus went to the area of the Gerasenes to teach his disciples what the kingdom is ultimately all about.  Jesus wants his followers to understand the kingdom is going to grow and spread and invade Satan’s territory even to unexpected places! 

I believe that is what Mark wants us to believe.  Even this early in the kingdom invasion, Jesus knows ultimately the kingdom will spread to the ends of the earth.  Jesus lays the ground work for his world-wide mission. 

Looking back from 2017 AD to 27 AD, I marvel at power of this story for us…

--The Kingdom is still all about the power of the word of God going to unexpected places.

--The Kingdom is still all about reclaiming one soul at a time from the power of Satan.

--The Kingdom is still all about telling our family and friends what the Lord has done for you! 

I marvel at the kudzu kingdom!

 

Tim Stidham

April 30, 2016

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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