Man of Action, Part 3

1a

During His earthly ministry, Jesus encountered all kinds of opposition. Very often He was opposed by the religious elite of Jersualem: Pharisees, the scribes, and the Saducees. These groups didn’t much care for each other, but were definitely united in their opposition to our Lord. It was rare, but sometimes even regular folks stood in opposition to Jesus. One time, some people from His own home town tried to toss Him off a cliff! Now that’s serious opposition. Another time the winds and the waves conspired against Him. And, of course, Jesus Christ routinely faced opposition from the demonic spawn of Hell, and from Satan himself.

We may not be the Son of God, but we are children of God, thanks to the new birth. And by virtue of our relationship with God through Jesus, we’ll face opposition in this world just like He did. Of course, He warned us of this. But still. Opposition isn’t fun. Thankfully, our Lord’s work isn’t done. He still delivers His people from evil, and He still set them free from bondage. Let’s take a look at how He did this during His earthly ministry.

Mark 5:1 – 20

Chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel contains some significant miracles. This first group of verses demonstrates Jesus’ power of demons. Yes, demons are real; they aren’t make believe. And they do cause trouble.

Today, there are some who think the man Jesus met living among the tombs of Gerasenes was mentally ill. Would a sane man live in graveyard? However, the Biblical text doesn’t say that he was mentally ill, but that he was possessed by an evil spirit:

When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. (Mark 5:2 TNIV)

You’ll recall that Jesus and His disciples had crossed the lake in the evening, when a fierce storm arose. Jesus calmed both the storm and the nerves of His nervous friends. The men that disembarked from the boat with Jesus were definitely not the same men who got into it with Him! They had witnessed a side of Jesus they had never seen before: Here was a man able to make the wind and the waves obey Him. The disciple’s experience out on the open water brings to mind a piece of wisdom from Hebrews 12:11 –

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (TNIV)

These men had changed. And it’s a good thing they did. What they would encounter here would be like nothing they’d ever seen before. From a storm-tossed sea to a storm-tossed soul. The description of this man is the picture of what sin does to one without the hope of Christ.

Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (Mark 5:5 TNIV)

This was a true “wild man,” completely untamed and unmanageable. As one Bible scholar has noted, “sin is public enemy Number One, because it means: (1) Suicide – dwelling among the dead (vs. 3); (2) Insanity (vs. 4); (3) Self-destruction (vs. 5).

When this wretched man saw Jesus, the new translations get it right: the man simply fell to his knees. What he said is startling:

He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” (Mark 5:7 TNIV)

This demon – not the man – recognized that it was in the presence of one who posed a great threat to its existence. One wonders how it knew Jesus’ name. Had it heard the disciples addressing Him? Had Jesus’ fame spread across the lake? Or did the demon know Jesus from before the Incarnation? It’s all speculation, of course, but the point is the demonic spirit was scared of Jesus – scared that it would be forced out of its human host. In fact, this man wasn’t possessed by one evil spirit, but by many, and this demonic horde was known as Legion. It’s interesting that we have its name, and its also not an insignificant thing Jesus did when He demanded to know to whom He was speaking. For an adversary to obtain the name of his opponent was the first step in gaining the upper hand and seizing control of him. Look at the words Legion used –

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” (Mark 5:9 TNIV)

“My” and “we” show the full extent of this man’s possession. He must have been completely overwhelmed at the presence of so many personalities inhabiting his being. Some have tried to estimate how many demons were making their home in this man. We have no way of knowing for sure, but a Roman legion had between 4,000 and 6,000 soldiers in it.

Possession by multiple demons was not uncommon. Later on in Mark, we learn that Mary Magdalene was set free from seven demons and in Matthew’s Gospel there was a man possessed by eight. Basilea Schlink, born Klara Schlink, was the leader of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, and she remarked:

The world of demons, fallen angels, is real – a fact we need to know. We have to face up to this terrible reality, so that we do not fall unsuspectingly into their hands and come under their tyranny.

She’s not wrong about that. We need to acknowledge the existance of demons, but the child of God need never fear them. Old timer, Adam Clarke, makes this interesting comment:

Since a demon cannot enter even into a swine without being sent by God himself, how little is the power or malice of any of them to be dreaded by those who have God for their portion and protector.

An even older timer, John Calvin, wrote about demons and Christians, and his observation is worthy:

Though we are not tortured by the devil, yet he holds us as his slaves until the Son of God delivers us from his tyranny. Naked, torn, and disfigured, we wander about, till he restores us to soundness of mind.

You know the story. Jesus drove the demons out of the man – He literally set this poor soul free – and sent them into a herd of pigs. Jews wouldn’t have anything to do with swine, so we may be sure a Gentile owned them. As soon as the demons entered them, the pigs stampeded to their death. This shows exactly what they wanted: to kill. Had they remained in the man, they would have eventually killed him.  But the man was finally free.

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (Mark 5:15 TNIV)

The “they” refers to some townsfolk who had heard from the pig hurders what happened. This formerly demon possessed man was well-known, and you’d think the people would have been happy for him; that he was restored to his right mind. Never underestimate the selfishness of people, though.

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

These people were more concered with losing pigs than in the fact that a man had been healed. Jesus never fails to cause disruptions in the lives of people. It’s no different today.

Mark 5:25 – 34

Here’s another famous incident in which Jesus heals a woman who had been bleeding a dozen years. She’d been all over the place looking for help yet found only the opposite:

She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. (Mark 5:26 TNIV)

While in many respects Jewish physicians were skilled and ahead of their Gentile counterparts, this verse is telling. The more doctors she saw, the worse she got!

The structure of this section of Mark is interesting and shows that our Gospel writer was no dummy. Consider:

Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. (Mark 5:22 – 24 TNIV)

Luke tells us (Luke 8:42, 43) that Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old. A sick and dying 12 year old girl needs Jesus and a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years also needs Jesus. Again, Mark portrays Jesus as the man of action; the man in demand. The miracle of the raising of Jairus’ daughter is, of course the main miracle. But this poor woman shows the depth of Jesus’ compassion. Interrupted on His way to perform a wondrous miracle, our Lord takes the time to perform another.

She was at the very end of her resources. She spent what meagre resources she had on these quack doctors and only got worse. She had lost her health, her wealth, and her standing in Jewish society.

Yet she had hope: Jesus. She had admirable faith:

When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:27, 28 TNIV)

We learn something of the incredibly broad appeal of Jesus. Not only very prominent people like Jairus turned to Jesus in their hour of greatest need, but also people like this pitiful woman. These two souls discovered a deep and profound truth: the ability of God to meet any need transcends social class and customs. What our Lord sees is the need.

Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:29 TNIV)

Her healing was instantaneous. She not only stopped bleeding, but she knew she was healed.

Her faith was far from perfect, but the Lord saw it and rewarded it. His treatment of this woman is not unlike how God protected Rahab in the Old Testament. Like this precious woman here, Rahab’s faith was immature and rough around the edges. Yet God saw it and saved her and her family from destruction. Jesus saw this woman’s faith and healed her. His healing power responded to her faith.

She had been healed, but had not yet given God the glory. What’s interesting is Jesus’ insistence on knowing who had touched Him. Of course, He knew, but she had to admit it – she had to give God the glory. When she finally came forward, the exchange is precious:

Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:33, 34 TNIV)

Those are two significant verses. When we are blessed by God, whether that blessing comes in the form of a healing or something else, we can’t keep it to ourselves. We have to tell others. The truth about what God has done must be made known.

This chapter of Mark is a wonderful chapter because it shows both the majestic power of Christ and His soulfull compassion. Jesus was never too busy to meet a need or unable to change a life. He is truly the Lord of all circumstances in the world and the next.

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