A well-known, spirit possessed, local man was found cured, and 2000 pigs drowned?
If newspapers and journalists had been around 2,000 years ago, I wonder what the headlines would have been concerning the overwhelming change in this man? Or would their focus be more upon the fact that the local farmers had lost over 2000 pigs? We read "The herdsmen fled and told it (the story) in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened." (Mark 5:14)
People love to see unusual sights and disastrous happenings. The media and television are full of it from all around the world! As the news spread they had to come and see for themselves the 2,000 floating pig carcasses. What did they make of it all? It must have been an amazing sight. However, we also read: "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." (Mark 5:15)
What amazes me is that the local populous who rushed to view this spectacle from the surrounding area witnessed these things and were afraid. They begged Jesus to depart from their region! Why? One can perhaps understand the herdsmen being afraid after all the cost of the lost pigs must have been a small fortune! Or was it the effect Jesus had on their consciences? Were they afraid of the power and authority of Jesus? This formerly demon possessed man was well known to them. They knew full well what he was capable of. He had fearsome strength! He had often been bound with chains, but he "wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces, No-one had the strength to subdue him." (Mark 5:4)
How can a man bend and break chains and shackles? This was a person who was to be left well alone. A very dangerous mad man on the loose! Where he lived among the tombs was a no go area we might say. No-one dared to go near him, including no doubt the authorities. His fearsome strength needed more than one man to hold him down. We would also say today he was into self-harm, "he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones" (Mark 5:5)
Today, this man would be locked up somewhere, and given drugs to subdue him. However, I guess he was no particular danger to anyone so long as people stayed well clear, away from him and the area. Why hadn't the Romans done anything is also a mystery. I guess they thought the same way, he is of no danger unless provoked. Also, they were deeply superstitious, and perhaps they thought he was "touched by the gods", so don't interfere.
Yet now the locals saw the once famous naked, uncontrollable, dirty, bloody and raging man who ran about crying out, now fully clothed and in his right mind! Calm, relaxed, composed and sitting with Jesus. The madness had gone. Perhaps for the first time in years, he was smiling at them, even talking to them. They witnessed a startling transformation, and they were afraid. How could this be? If Jesus could do this, who is he? What authority and power does he possess to cure such a man like this? This is the question we must also dare to ask ourselves. Does Jesus have the same effect on you? Yes, you have heard some of the stories surrounding Jesus, but are they true? Do you rush to find out more, or do you deliberately stay away for deep down you are afraid of him, of who he is and the consequences upon yourself of knowing he is your Creator God? Your sins convict you. Instead, you wish him to depart from your area, your life. You wish to be left alone.
There were many unclean spirits possessing this unfortunate man. The one in charge, the spokesman for the group was named Legion. (Mark 5:9) They knew full well who Jesus was, they didn't need any evidence or proof. Jesus had just stepped out of the boat he was in when they recognised him and caused the man to run out to meet him. "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 (Jesus) was saying to him come out of the man you unclean spirit!" (Mark 5:6-8) These spirits fully expected to be punished there and then, for here standing before them in the flesh was their maker.
Just prior to this encounter on the sea of Galilee, Jesus has just calmed a storm by just a word of command. Now by just a word he orders the spirits to "come out" of the man. Then Legion pleaded with Jesus for permission to enter the pigs foraging nearby. Amazingly, Jesus gave them permission! And when they came out of the man and entered the pigs, the pigs rushed into the sea and were drowned.
Don't be Afraid
On another occasion when the apostle Peter was confronted by the authority and power of Jesus over nature. Peter on another boat had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. But because Jesus asked him to put out from shore, Peter tried again. This time the nets bulged to the point of breaking, and the other boat had to come to help! When Simon witnessed the miraculous catch of fish he fell to his knees and pleaded "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Luke 5:8) Peter was confronted with the realisation of just who Jesus was and his own personal sins. His soul was completely crushed.
This is always the case when Jesus draws near to any person; when he is preached from the pulpit, or we read of him in the Bible, it is uncomfortable! We don't like it! Our natural reaction is to recoil, to shrink away from the Holiness of his person and the shame of sin in ourselves. We feel dirty, exposed. However, Jesus says reassuringly to Peter, and to you "Don't be afraid." (Luke 5:10) Jesus is able to save us from this fear, and instead of shrinking away, we should go to him confessing our need of him. And he will take away the guilt and our shame, and cleanse us from all sin.
Lovingly, Jesus asks him to become a fisher of men instead, to become his disciple and servant. Because of what they witnessed, not just Peter followed him, but many other fishermen left the enormous catch in their boats and followed Jesus. In this they are an example to us, we must leave aside all that may hinder us from following after him.
It's fascinating to read not once was anyone able to lay hold of Jesus to cause him any physical harm, or contain him, right up until the night of his betrayal. He wouldn't let them for his time had not yet come. They tried, but couldn't until he willingly allowed them to arrest him in the garden of Gethsemane. Such was his complete control over all events. Now was the time for him to go to the cross to die for our sins. But here Legion, knew here before them was one stronger than all their combined strength and power. All they could do was to fall at his feet, and cower, and beg for mercy before the Son of God. Now if unclean spirits who deserve no forgiveness from God, could do this. How much more should we sit up and take notice, and beg for mercy for our rebellion and sin while it remains the day of grace? Yes, there is a day appointed for judgment, but it's not now. Instead, he wishes all to come to him and bow the knee before its too late.
For you there remains the chance to be saved, if Jesus could save this spirit possessed man from Satan's grasp, he has the power and authority to save you too, if you only come to him. Do not fear and draw away, he is tender-hearted. Instead, fall into his kind arms and ask for forgiveness. He does not wish that "any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) You too can become a follower, a disciple of Jesus. Your life will also be transformed, just like this man. And all Jesus asks in return of you is this – "go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you " (Mark 5:19)
"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33
Jesus had something radically different to say. He puts us under the microscope, by saying that:
"There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” (Mark 7:15)
"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13
What is true salvation? What does it look like to be in a right relationship with God, our Creator so that I can call him God my Redeemer?
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt.11:28-30)
"I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)
This Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector as they come to the Temple, is rich with spiritual truth. In fact, it contains the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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