Sunday, November 19, 2017

The denigration and delegation of the gospel, Mark 6:1-13

I’m going to try to tackle two sermons in one this morning.  I should perhaps have broken the text into two messages.  But somehow I felt that the faster pace of Mark’s gospel lends itself to a faster paced exposition.  We can spend a lot of time on historical details, and so forth, and not place the proper emphasis on the principles being taught.  And I don’t want to teach you a prolonged history lesson this morning.  But I want to present what I think are life changing principles in regards to the gospel of Christ, which I believe are evident in these verses.  

So as we have previously noted, Mark is not writing a biographical history here, but a gospel.  That is; the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to earth as a man, in order to present the truth of God concerning His plan to redeem mankind from the penalty of death and to give him life.  In the passage before us today we see first the example of Jesus presenting the gospel, and then in the following verses we see the application of the disicples taking the gospel to the surrounding region. This good news of God’s plan is meant to be shared,  and in these 13 verses, we see that plan practically worked out, first by Jesus returning to His hometown, the place where He grew up and lived, and then His delegation of the ministry of the gospel to His disciples.  And as a commentary on how the gospel is carried out, I have called today’s message the denigration and the delegation of the gospel. 

Let’s look first at the denigration of the gospel.  To denigrate someone means to disparage, to criticize unfairly, to slander or defame someone.  And we see that here as Jesus returns to His hometown and the reception of Him there is to denigrate Him and scorn His message.  Now you will remember that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He grew up in Nazareth, and He lived during His ministry in Capernaum.  Nazareth was about 20 miles from Capernaum. It was an extremely small town, only about 500 people at that time.  

This is the second time that Jesus came to His hometown.  About a year earlier He had come there, and if you remember that account in Luke chapter 4, when He had finished speaking in the synagogue they tried to kill Him.  Luke 4:28-29 “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things;  and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.”  I’ve had some bad reactions to some of my messages before, but so far no one has tried to kill me.  So I guess I shouldn’t feel so bad when people reject my message, because they also rejected Jesus’s message.  And perhaps that is the primary reason that we are given this incident, so that we may know to expect opposition to the gospel, even hostility towards the messenger.  For if they were offended at Christ, then it stands to reason they will be offended at us. I think it illustrates that rejection of the message and denigration of the messenger is often the first response to the presentation of the gospel.

Well now it’s a year later since that first visit, they have obviously heard of the fame of Jesus during that time.  They have heard all the amazing things He had been doing.  And so Jesus comes back again, to give them one more opportunity to respond to the gospel.  And as was His practice, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and preached.  

And notice the response.  They don’t necessarily try to kill Him anymore, but they are incredulous at the wisdom of His teaching.  They say, ““Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.

They admit that Jesus taught with a special wisdom, they admit that He has performed miracles, and yet their recognition of such things is overshadowed by their disdain for Him.  And I think that the reasons for their disdain is evident in their comments.  First of all, they call Him the carpenter.  I think the purpose in that title is to emphasize that He is not a priest, He is not someone classically trained in the school of the rabbi’s.  But He is a mere blue collar worker, a common carpenter.  Whether or not Jesus actually spent much time practicing carpentry is a matter of speculation.  No where else in the scriptures is this statement made.  In Matthew’s version of this event, He says that they said Jesus was the carpenter’s son.  Mark has a different emphasis which would be consistent with the practice in those days of a father passing on his trade to his son.  But we don’t know if that was necessarily true or not, it was just their accusation.  And while there is nothing wrong with being a carpenter, I think the emphasis was on discrediting Him as not being of the right school, not being backed up by the right institutions.  

And I can confess that sort of criticism can take you down a notch.  I never graduated from seminary.  I never even completed university.  And from time to time someone will approach me after a message and ask questions about my training or lack of it.  So I understand the criticism and how it can be intended to denigrate you.

Secondly, they try to discredit Him by inferring that He was the illegitimate son of Mary.  You need to remember that Mary was technically unmarried when she gave birth to Jesus.  And the public perception was such that Joseph her husband sought to put her away privately.  So this charge of being born out of wedlock was something that was hurled at Jesus from time to time, and now here it is again in His hometown.  And this is a small town.  Everyone knew everything about everyone.  And  his own family, His mother and brothers and sisters, were undoubtedly right there in attendance.

There is a possibility that the whole family clan wasn’t thought of all that highly.  They seem to disparage Jesus because they not only know Him and had known Him all His life, but they know HIs family.  Sometimes some members of our family can give the whole clan a black eye, can’t they?  We don’t know much about a couple of members of His family.  We know James, who became the leader of the church of Jerusalem  a few years after Pentecost, who also wrote the book of James.  And we know Jude, who wrote the book of Jude.  But the other two brothers, Joses and Simon, are not known.  Perhaps they were the  black sheep that hurt the family reputation, I don’t know.  And of course, they mention that Jesus had sisters.  Now there is some controversy about this, because the Catholic Church contends that Mary was a perpetual virgin.  So they say that these were either children from another marriage of Joseph, or they were cousins.  I don’t find any reason to believe they were not Jesus’s natural born half brothers and sisters.  The Bible doesn’t teach that Mary was a perpetual virgin.

By this time, it is believed that Joseph was long dead.  And so Jesus as the oldest child would have responsibility for the family as the head of the house over seven or more other siblings.  Therefore, it is possible that Jesus worked at carpentry until the other sons were old enough to take responsibility before leaving home. Under those circumstances they probably were very poor. But that is speculation.  In fact, the only Biblical record we have of Christ’s activities prior to His public ministry is when He was 12 years old, and then we see Him in the temple, about His Father’s business.  And afterwards He returned to Nazareth, where it is said in Luke 2: 52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

But as we see, when Jesus left Nazareth to begin His ministry, He fell out of favor with His hometown.  They became offended at Him.  And so in response to their criticism, Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” Sometimes your own family, your neighbors, have the hardest time accepting the fact that God decided to use you in some way. They think they know all about you, and certainly God wouldn’t have passed over them to  reach you. I guess the modern equivalent of that is the saying we have today, which is familiarity breeds contempt.  Having grown up around them, even though His behavior was beyond reproach, they find it offensive that He should now be in the position of teaching them concerning righteousness.  They find it impossible that He could be the Messiah.  He was too common looking.  He wasn’t the type of person that they thought the Messiah would be like.  

Whether they realized it or not, they were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53 which says, “He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

I find such critical attitudes prevalent today in the church.  I often hear people begin a sentence with the phrase, “I am looking for a church that….”  The idea often expressed is a personal preference based on a perception of what they think constitutes the perfect pastor or the perfect church.  It’s a dangerous thing, actually, to look for a church that fits your template.  God doesn’t necessarily work that way.  He picks the foolish to shame the wise.  The weak things, to shame the mighty. (1Cor.1)  

These Nazarenes identified the one thing which was the definitive thing about Christ.  And that was His teaching was the wisdom of God.  It was the truth.  And Jesus taught in John chapter 7 that if you believed His word, then you would believe that He had come from the Father.  His message was truth, and truth was of God, and so therefore, He was of God.  That is the opposite of how we would approach a messenger, isn’t it?  If someone came to your door and said I have a message from God, we would probably say we want to see some identification.  Some sort of proof that they were from God.  And if we could validate their credentials to our satisfaction, then we would be more inclined to believe the message.  But Jesus came with the message, and He says the message is the truth and it authenticates Me.   Believe the truth and you will believe in Me.  

But people don’t look for the truth like that.  People look at the presentation, they look at the packaging.  They are more interested in presentation than it’s substance.  And Jesus didn’t have the right pedigree.  He didn’t have the right package for them.  So Mark says that Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.  Let me tell you what constitutes this great sin called unbelief.  Unbelief is prejudiced rejection of the truth.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t understand, but that you reject it based on prior prejudice against it.  Unbelief is nothing short of hatred.  It’s the kind of prejudice which causes things like racism.  It’s a refusal to see the truth, because you don’t want to believe it, not because it isn’t so.

And so it says that Jesus could not do no mighty works there, because of their unbelief.  Not that Christ had no power in himself to work miracles, because of their unbelief, but it was not fit and proper that he should do any there, since such were their prejudices against him.  Faith wasn’t required for  the miracle, but belief was the means by which Christ was pleased to exercise miracles.  So it was not that He could not do miracles, but that He would not do any mighty works in such a hostile climate.

But if some will not believe, then Jesus leaves those and goes to other villages where He might find a more receptive audience. If those who were first invited will not come in, then we are to go into the highways and byways and seek others.  Jesus is the sower, and He sows the seed in  fields here and abroad in hopes of finding fertile soil where it will be received and take root. So to that end, Jesus not only goes to preach in other villages, but He sends out His 12 disciples to do as He does, preaching and healing and casting out unclean spirits throughout the farthest regions of Galilee.

Now there are seven characteristics of the disciples ministry that are given to us.  And I have to believe that since Jesus sets these standards, they are applicable for us in the church today.  After all, we are commissioned to do the same thing they were doing, to go into our neighborhoods, our hometowns, and to the surrounding regions and preach the gospel, to make disciples of all men.  So as we look at this last section, I want to identify these seven areas that are fundamental to the  ministry which the Lord has delegated to us.  And that is what the church is to be about. Proclaiming the gospel to the world.  That’s job one.  

So the first point I want to make is that there were 12 ordinary men.  Even as Jesus was criticized for a lack of pedigree, you can lay the same charge against these men.  They are ordinary men.  They are mostly blue collar types, fishermen, tax collectors, guys without any formal training other than they had been with the Lord now for about 2 years. Not a priest among them.  No rulers of the synagogues.  No saved rock stars or ex pro athletes.  Just 12 regular guys that were probably the last guys you would have picked to set the world on fire. Now they were not just following Jesus anymore, but they were stepping out on their own, and following the example that He had given them in ministry.  

Notice Jesus sent them out two by two.  That’s a good model for ministry by the way.  You can encourage one another.  You can help one another.  You gain strength from one another.  But I hope that the lack of a companion doesn’t hinder you from proclaiming the gospel.  As they become more mature in the days after Pentecost, you will see more of them stepping out alone.  So don’t fail in ministry because you don’t have a partner.  

Secondly, they were to be in total dependence upon the Lord. Jesus told them not to bring money, or food, or even a change of clothes.   I think this principle is probably the least employed today in the church.  If you’re looking for an excuse not to minister, then you are probably going to claim the lack of funds, or the lack of resources, or the lack of support as a reason that God is not leading you in it.  You’ve heard the quote, “where God guides, He provides.” Well, my suggestion is that is overused.  God wants us to step out in faith, without a safety net, so that we might be totally dependent upon Him.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t plan, or that we don’t prepare, but that we don’t rely upon favorable circumstances or favorable winds before embarking on ministry.  If God says go, we say, how far.  We just go, and let God take care of the provision.  

I’ve found in 16 years of ministry that more often than not God has let me think I was going to starve, that I was going to run out of gas, or whatever my fear in the  circumstances provoked, but in reality God never left me without enough to do what He wanted me to do.  

And I can’t help but see another principle hidden in this instruction of vs 8, He added, "Do not put on two tunics.”  They weren’t even to have a change of clothes.  That’s pretty radical evangelism there folks.  But the principle I think is this, that as Christians, we are not to be about collecting wardrobes, collecting cars, or houses - all the financial emblems of success in the world.  Not tied down by things, by financial commitments that keep us from being devoted to the business of the kingdom. These things of the world keep us so busy that we are of little use to the kingdom.  The point is that the extra weight of this world’s goods will slow you down.  Hebrews 12:1 says “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Well, for that principle to be effective, it must be tied to the third principle.  Third, they encouraged hospitality. Vs.10 And He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town.”  Fellowship is essential to the practicality of the gospel.  Fellowship or communion was to be the ordinance of the church in a formal congregation, but there is also a need in practical everyday Christian fellowship. It’s the principle of sharing, and providing for one another’s needs.  It’s important to spend time with one another and get to know one another.  Christian doctrine is not all just theory, but it also needs to be practiced.  And the way you do that is to practice hospitality with one another.  Invite someone to your home to eat, to hang out, to get to know one another.  And I will suggest that you reach out to a broader spectrum of people than you would in a secular setting.  Don’t just gravitate towards the kind of people that you like.  Deliberately seek out the person that never gets asked out to a meal. Deliberately seek out those who might be alone. Christian love is to be made practical by practicing hospitality and putting the needs of others above your own.  

Fourth, they experienced rejection. Jesus told them in vs.11 "Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them." Listen, Jesus was rejected by His own family, by His hometown.  So they would experience no less.  In John 15:20 Jesus said "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”   

There are going to be some that reject the truth, or reject the messenger of the truth, and there will be some that will believe.  But we are not responsible for their belief or unbelief.  Results are not due to our charisma, or to our personality or lack of it.  We are responsible to sow the seed.  God is responsible for the growth.

But notice that Jesus said to shake off the dust off the soles of your feet as a testimony against them.  That was a practice among Jews that they would do when they had to walk across a Gentile area.  They had a view of anyone that wasn’t a Jew, that they were dogs, like wild, snarling, dirty dogs, and so when they could they avoided walking through a Gentile area, but when they couldn’t avoid it, they would stop on the other side, in plain view of the Gentiles of course, and ceremoniously take off their sandal and shake the dust off them as if to say “I don’t want to even track your dust back into Israel.”  It was a kind of condemning thing to do.  And so here Jesus is instructing HIs disciples to use that same method against the Jews who did not accept His gospel. 

But in the Lord’s case, it wasn’t meant to be mean, it was meant as a judgment against the unbelieving town.  In Matthew’s version of this event we read that He adds, “It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”  In other words, Sodom would have repented at the preaching of the gospel and the accompanying signs that were given in Galilee.  Jesus would give that same judgment against Capernaum, the other hometown of Christ, in Matt. 11:23-24 where He says "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.  Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

Listen, not everyone who hears will believe.  But God has sent us to preach the gospel to everyone, so that everyone will be without an excuse on the day of judgment.  There are many people that have rejected my preaching, but I still fulfill my ministry that they might be judged for their unbelief.  A lot of people are not going to have an excuse on the day of judgment because they heard the truth and they rejected it.  And it’s not going to matter if they didn’t like the preacher, or they didn’t think he was funny enough, or nice enough or refined enough.  They will be held accountable for hearing the truth and walking away from it, just as the people of Nazareth and Capernaum will be judged for looking at Christ and saying, “Nah, He doesn’t look like a Messiah to me.”

Fifth, they preached repentance.  Ah! that’s why people rejected them. Vs 12 "They went out and preached that men should repent.”  It’s not simply enough to believe, it’s also necessary to repent.  That was the message of John the Baptist, he preached a baptism of repentance.  That was the message of Christ, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  And that is the message of the disciples.  On the day of Pentecost, it was still the message of the Apostles.  Acts 2:38  Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Repentance needs no interpretation here. I preach it every week. But once again I say that to repent is not merely to feel sorry that you were caught, or to feel sorry about the consequences of your sin, but a desire to turn from your sin and go in the opposite direction.  And perhaps your sin has such a hold on you that you don’t feel that you can turn, then turn to God and confess your sinfulness and that you need Him to change your heart, and change your mind and will and take away your desire for that sin.  Call on Him with all your heart and mourn for your sin.  That is repentance.  

And I got news for you.  Repentance is a daily exercise for most of us mortals.  Recognizing how we have fallen and asking God to renew us , to purify us, so that we might be useful to His kingdom.  David prayed in Psalm 51 a prayer of repentance.  It’s a good template if you want to repent.  He prayed, “Renew a right spirit within me.  Create in me a clean heart O God.”   That’s the attitude of repentance that makes us useful to the Master.

Sixth, they showed compassion.  Vs 13 “And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.”  Listen, there is a need for Christian compassion for those that are sick with the sickness of sin.  James 2:15-17  “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,  and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

There is a danger in Christianity today to look down upon the sinner from our lofty perch in the church of righteousness and see that poor soul in addiction, or adultery, or poverty and say that their sin has brought this consequence upon them and it is not really helping them to try to relieve their circumstances.  We see their circumstances as a just judgment of God.  But our position is not to be a judge, but a giver of mercy.  What mercy you have received, give it to others who need mercy.  Jesus healed out of compassion for the souls who were enslaved by Satan to sin and were reaping indirectly or directly the consequences of sin.  All suffering ultimately is a consequence of sin.  And all of us are sinners.  All sin leads to death. And all of us need mercy.  There will be a judgment of us all one day.  But James says, in chapter 2:13 “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

And then finally number seven, they were obedient.  Vs30 “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.” That’s kind of what church ought to be like.  You come back together every week and report all that you have accomplished as ministers of the church during the previous week.  I suggested the other night at Bible study that we all make a commitment that we will ask at least one person a week to come to church.  You don’t have to ask just one, but you at least ask one.  And I suggested that if we did that every week, then in a month we could expect to see at least one person come to church as a result of our asking.  I can’t guarantee what kind of results we might see.  But I can guarantee you that if you will believe in the power of the gospel, and you are obedient to the mandate of our Lord, then we will see some people respond to the truth.  We will see a lot of rejection as well.  But that is part of the plan.  We just need to be faithful to do our part, and let God take care of His.  I pray that you will be obedient to your ministry this week.  Go out and proclaim the gospel and come again next week and give your report of what the Lord has done.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Gospel’s salvation illustrated, Mark 5:21-43

Today we are looking at a tale of two daughters.  Two females, both referred to here in the text  as daughters. One is older, having been sick with a serious ailment for 12 years, and one who was only 12 years old, being sick unto death.  Mark doesn’t give us insight into why these two daughters are connected in this way, but it is evident that they are connected for posterity by the very chronology of the events described.  There are two separate events recorded here, but the second plays out in parentheses, so to speak, after the first incident has already begun.  And I have to believe that in the providence of God, these two events are meant to be looked at as a couplet.  They are not intended to be studied separately, but concurrently, because together they will provide a clearer, more detailed picture of what God intends for us to understand.

I have said on numerous occasions, that every miracle presented in the gospels is intended as a spiritual parable designed to teach us a spiritual lesson.  Now that is a very important principle to understand, otherwise you will miss the point of the passage altogether.  Do you remember what Jesus said in chapter 4 what a parable was designed to do?  It was used to deliver truth to a larger audience, while at the same time veiling it to those who are not spiritually appraised.  Real spiritual truth can only be discerned by those with spiritual insight who receive spiritual illumination from God.

So that principle applies  here as well in studying this spiritual parable.  If you do not have spiritual insight when studying this text, then you are likely to assume that Mark’s purpose is just to record the supernatural miracles that Jesus was able to perform.  And that superficial understanding is going to lead to an attempt at a superficial application, which is that you will expect God to do the same miracles today at every occasion of illness or death.  And yet nothing can be further from the truth or the point of the text.  If that was the goal of these miracles, then why would Jesus drive everyone out of the house, so that no one witnessed Him raising Jarius’s daughter from the dead, except for His three closest disciples?  Why would Jesus command them not to make known what He had done?  Isn’t that counter productive?  I mean, if that power was available today, then we would broadcast it, wouldn’t we?  We would go into every hospital, every funeral home, and deliver people from sickness and death. We would use miracles as an evangelization tool to reach the masses. That is the logical extension of that kind of application.

But in fact, Jesus does the exact opposite.  He illustrates in the way that He performs these miracles that they are intended to be spiritual parables designed to teach spiritual principles to those who are seeking spiritual truth.  Thus, His statement in the previous chapter, (Mark 4:25) Jesus says "For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”  And in vs11 He said "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables,  so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.” In other words, the parables are meant to veil truth from the masses, while revealing truth to the believer. Jesus isn’t interested in attracting the masses just for the sake of drawing a crowd.

The purpose then of the truth contained in parables according to 4:12, whether a parable in word or in deed, is to illustrate salvation.  And in this illustrative couplet we are looking at today, we see two aspects of salvation illustrated; one, salvation from sin, and two, salvation from death.   

Now then let’s take a look at both of these miracles as Mark lays them out for us, and let’s see what principles of salvation Jesus is teaching us through these incidents.  The text starts with a man named Jairus, a synagogue official, coming to Jesus about his daughter that was lying at the point of death.  And he implores Jesus to come home with him and heal her.   
The fact that he is a synagogue official is interesting, because for the most part, such people were part of the same class of religious officials such as priests, scribes, Pharisees, etc, who were hostile towards Jesus.  Jesus threatened the livelihood and power of such people, because He exposed the corruption and hypocrisy of the Judiastic system.  A synagogue was the primary religious meeting place for religious Jews who were living outside of Jerusalem.  A synagogue would be the equivalent of the local church.  So this high ranking official, who is probably hostile to what Jesus is teaching, suddenly is confronted with the impending mortality of his daughter.  And as many of us that are parents know, perhaps by experience, all prejudice, all reservations go out the window when the life of your child is on the line.  You are willing to do anything to get help in that kind of situation.  So we see this official suddenly break rank, and having every certainty that Jesus can heal, go and throw himself at the mercy of Jesus.  

That attitude on the part of Jairus illustrates  an essential prerequisite to salvation. There has to be a humbling of yourself, relinquishing of your authority, of your pride, and bowing down at the feet of the Savior.  When times are good, when everyone’s healthy, it’s easy to think you don’t need the Lord.  But when you or your loved one is staring at death’s door, then a lot of times that rebellious facade falls away.  And that sort of humbling of oneself is a prerequisite.  Bowing down at the feet of someone is the posture of a beggar.  And that is the attitude which we are to have in regards to salvation. In Matt.5:3, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  He is speaking of the need for a person to realize their abject poverty in coming to Christ for salvation.

And note a couple of more things indicated in his approach to Christ. Jairus recognizes that his daughter is dying.  No one can receive salvation unless he first recognizes that they are lost and they will die in their sins, eternally estranged from God. Death is the punishment for sin for which all men are destined. Romans teaches us that the wages of sin is death, and death has passed upon all men, because all have sinned. So there needs to be a recognition of that penalty of death. 

But that leads to  the other thing indicated in Jairus’s approach; a belief that Christ has the power over life and death. Jesus taught that He was the way, the truth and the life.  And somehow Jairus has believed this and come to Jesus as the source of life for his daughter.  I want to elaborate for a second on that statement though, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  That statement could have equal signs between the three aspects of Christ.  The way = the truth = the life.  God has established a way for man to live.  That way is the truth of God.  And following that truth produces life with God; vibrant, meaningful, fulfilled, joyous, abundant and eternal.  

Well, at this point in the story, we come to an interruption, what might be considered as a parentheses. In writing, when you add parentheses it is for the purposes of further explanation.  And so I think that is what is intended here.  This parenthetical interruption provides further explanation of this sinful state that produces death. And that parenthetical explanation comes in the form of a woman who approaches Jesus who has had a hemorrhage for 12 years.  And I think that the significance of the 12 years is that it ties her to the daughter of Jairus who Mark tells us in vs42 was 12 years old.  So, in that sense, it would seem that this woman, whom Jesus calls “daughter” in vs.34, is to be looked at as a further commentary or exposition of the condition of the first daughter.  As the first daughter is dying, the second daughter serves as a more in depth look at that condition.

So notice what Mark tells us about her condition.  First of all, we are told she has a hemorrhage for 12 years.  What this probably was, according to many people that are a whole lot smarter than I am, is a vaginal hemorrhage, which not only was a serious physical ailment, but in Jewish society, especially according to Jewish law, it would have made her a social outcast.  She would have been unable to go to the temple, she would have been excluded from relations with her husband, and she would be considered “unclean.”  Now I am not going to comment on all of that beyond what has been said already, except to say that this concept of being unclean is another prerequisite for salvation. The law of God reveals that all of us are sinners, and as such, all of us are considered unclean. Our sins have made us unclean in the sight of God.  Our sins have put up a wall between us and God and we are helpless to remove it.  

Notice that this woman had used all her money to try to have her condition helped by doctors, and yet it had only gotten worse.  What a picture of our sin situation!  We spend all our resources trying to get better a better life, trying for self improvement, trying to improve our standing, and yet, if we are honest, we just end up going from bad to worse. Sin is an affliction that curses life.  Our situation is hopeless.  We hopelessly estranged from God and all our efforts can do nothing to alleviate our affliction.  

But, thankfully for this woman, vs27 tells us that she had heard about Christ.  Someone told her about the Lord, and in her hopelessness, she suddenly sees a ray of hope.  Listen, we all believe that everyone needs to be saved, don’t we?  But do we realize that if they are to be saved, then they must hear about the Lord? And if they will hear, then we must tell them?  Or are you hoping that someone else will tell them?  Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”  Jesus later in vs34 will say, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.”  But before her faith could save her, she had to hear about the Lord.  

Imagine if you knew the solution to cancer and didn’t tell anyone about it.  That would be almost criminal, wouldn’t it?  And yet you know the way of life, but you keep it to yourself.  I have a feeling that will one day be considered almost criminal as well.  That you hid the truth under a bushel, and did not let the world know that there was a solution to their deadly infirmity.

Well, this woman heard enough about Jesus to desperately want to see Him.  And then an even more bold plan took form in her mind; “If I just can touch his garment, then I can get well.”  Some of you may have a translation which shows the literal meaning of a word, when it is different than the editors have translated it.  And in this case, you might see an asterisk or something which indicates the phrase “get well” has another literal meaning.  Well, the Greek word is sōzō, which means to be saved.  And I think that is just further justification for my exposition of this miracle as a parable teaching a greater spiritual truth.  Our salvation is accomplished by the power of salvation which comes through Jesus Christ.

Notice that when she touches His cloak, in vs30, it says, “Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth.”   Her touch of Jesus’s garment is symbolic.  It represents first of all that we must apprehend what He has done for us on the cross.  Jesus died for the sins of the world upon the cross, but the sins of the world are not expunged, unless one personally looks upon the serpent on the tree.  We must apprehend by faith in what Jesus did on the cross, FOR US.  We must receive Him.  We must believe that His blood avails for me.  That Christ died for my sins.  I must take Him to be my Savior.

And then I think the fact that she touches His garment is an illustration that we are clothed in His righteousness.  Jesus’s righteous robe, you will remember, was not torn, but it was left there at the foot of the cross to be worn by the worst of sinners.  And by laying our hand upon Him, our sins are transferred to Christ, and His righteousness is transferred to us.  Just as in the Passover lamb, their hands were laid upon the innocent lamb, which signified that their sins were passed on to him, and the lamb would be slain for the forgiveness of sins.

Well, as the story tells us, the woman was healed instantly of her disease, and the blood flow stopped.  And Jesus calls out to the crowd pressing around Him, “Who touched Me?” Now the way this is written reveals the way that it looked to those in attendance, but certainly Jesus already knew who touched Him.  He knew everything about this woman.  He was fully man, but He was also fully God.  So He knew, when hundreds of bodies were jostling about Him, when many hands were reaching out to Him, He knew that this one trembling hand had reached out to Him in faith, and power had come from Him to her in response to that faith, and she had been saved from her disease.  And so He asks this question not because He does not know who touched Him, but because He wants her to know the full extent of her healing. 

Vs. 33 “But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”  Notice,  first of all, her confession.  Romans 10:9 tells us that confession is necessary for salvation:  “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  And James speaking in chapter 5 vs16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Confession of your sins is a necessary component of salvation.

And then notice “Your faith has made you well.”  Actually, this is the same word as we looked at before, sozo, "your faith has saved you.” Jesus is indicating much more than just physical healing, but spiritual salvation as a result of faith.  Mark, more so I think than all the other gospel authors, makes much of the principle of faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.”  Faith is the conduit of our salvation.  In Hebrews 11, all the heroes of the faith are displayed for us, that we might know that we, even as Abraham and all the rest, are saved on the basis of faith, even as this daughter of Israel.

Well, we can put the other parentheses after vs.34, and we return in vs 35, as they say in television, to the previously scheduled presentation.  That is, we return to the dire situation of Jairus’s daughter, who is lying near death.  Jesus has been delayed for some time with the woman.  That incident was probably summarized for us by Mark, and could well have taken some time to be concluded and all the while the 12 year old girl lay dying.  But now there are people who come running up to Jairus to tell him that it’s too late, his daughter had died.

I can only imagine the impact that must have made on poor Jairus.  Here he had the cure, he had the Healer, and they were on the way, and yet they were too late.  His beloved daughter had died.  “Why trouble the Teacher any longer?”  What’s the point? It’s too late, everyone go home.

But I think Jesus planned it this way all along.  He had a greater purpose, a greater glory in mind.  So Jesus, “overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.’”  Now that’s a really significant statement there by Jesus.  “Do not be afraid any longer.”  What had Jairus been afraid of?  His daughter dying.  There was no longer any reason to be afraid, she was dead.  But only believe?  What did that mean?

Well, faith and belief are the two ways of saying the same thing.  And belief means not only believing who He is, but what He came to do.  I suggest that it meant that through Christ, we who had been under the fear of death are set free from that enslavement, through faith in Christ.  Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,  and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

Listen, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that life in Christ is far more abundant life than we can imagine.  But one thing we can know for sure, that as Jesus said in John 11:26 “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”  God is able to raise the dead.  He is able to give life to those things which are dead.  And all of us, the Bible says, were dead in our trespasses and sins.  But through the blood of Jesus Christ our sins are washed away, and we receive everlasting, eternal, abundant life, even the life of God.  So that we no longer need to fear death of the body, because He is the source and sustainer of our life.

Well, Mark tells us that when they came to the house, Jesus allows only Peter, James and John to accompany Him inside.  I addressed the reason for this in the introduction.  Jesus is not interested in attracting people through a miracle ministry.  He is interested in teaching the saving truth of the gospel.  And so He chooses these three to impart a deeper spiritual truth to, who will then teach others.

And notice the commotion, the professional wailers, that’s what they were.  Whether they were already hired, or these were just neighbors that responded in the typical fashion of the culture, to wail and rip their clothes as a show of mourning and grief.  They are in stark contrast to Jesus who is composed, in control, and confident that the girl is not dead, but sleeping. 

Listen, I don’t have time to belabor this point too much this morning, but it’s important to understand that the death of a believer is referred to in the New Testament as sleeping, or entering their rest.  The death of an unbeliever though is referred to as dying.  Now the Bible is not teaching soul sleep as some people have erroneously inferred from such references, but rather it’s teaching that the body sleeps, while the soul and spirit are alive.  

So Jesus says that this little girl is not dead, but that she is sleeping.  I think that is some indication that the age of accountability is not until sometime after the age of 12.  It’s possible that this girl was a believer, that somehow though there is no indication that her father was a believer at this point, yet somehow the girl had been.  But I think it’s more likely that she was saved by virtue of her age.  The Bible teaches that children under the age of accountability are safe from condemnation.  And so this girl is brought back from the abode of the dead, which is Paradise, and is given back to her parents.  

But as He approaches the house and says this statement that she is not dead, notice that the mourners start laughing at Jesus.  That would indicate that even in their mourning these people were not sincere.  A lot of commotion and noise does not necessarily indicate sincerity nor truth.  

Jesus gets the people together who are interested in truth, who believe in Him; her parents and His three disciples, and He puts the rest out.  The believers are privy to a greater revelation, but for the skeptics, even what they had would be taken away.  

So Jesus holds the little girl’s hand and says, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded.”  I want to just point out one more essential point of salvation that is taught here.  And that is the power of the word. The word of God is powerful unto salvation. It is living, and active, and able to pierce the hardest heart, even a dead heart.  Christ is the Word made flesh, the word incarnate.  And so the Creator of Life, the Giver of Life speaks to her, and she responds.  Her soul and spirit immediately return to her body, and she gets up and starts to walk. 

And then Jesus tells her parents to give her something to eat in vs.43.  I’m sure she needed to eat after her ordeal.  Who knows how long her little body had probably been without food in the days of her illness.  But it’s also a sign that she was now completely revived and healthy.  You know, there have been reports of people in some countries who sat up in the coffin at their funeral.  And there have been incidents where it seemed someone came alive only to find out later that it was some sort of muscle spasm.  But when Jesus speaks life into her, she walks, and she eats.  She is totally alive and acting normal for a 12 year old kid.  She probably had a lot to tell her parents as well.  I would have liked to be in on that conversation.  

But if there is one other application you can make from that, it’s that when the Lord gives life it’s not just to be propped up in a chair, like there is hardly any spiritual life in you whatsoever.  My daughter brought home some old tintypes she found at an antique store yesterday.  And there we’re two photographs that were very unusual.  They were both photographs of dead people who were all dressed up and propped up on a stand.  And the only way you could tell that they were dead and not alive was that you could see the bottom part of the stand on the floor behind their feet.  They were all dressed up, their eyes were open, but they were stone cold dead.  One of the photographs she found was of a little girl dressed up in a little fancy dress and shoes.  It was kind of sad.  

But I couldn’t help but think that’s like a lot of people in church today.  They are all dressed up, their eyes are open, they look alive, but in reality they are dead.  There is no spiritual life there whatsoever.  But when God makes someone alive, they walk, they talk, they eat.  They exhibit spiritual life, walking after the Lord, working for His kingdom, speaking the word of God to those who are in need.  

Well, let’s be sure that we have the life of God living in us.  What a tragedy to go through life, spending all your time and resources, filling your life with activity, with work, with even religious activities, and yet be unsaved.  These two daughters illustrate all that is necessary for salvation, for real life in Christ.  I hope that everyone  hearing me today have been saved; that you have entered that life; you have humbled yourself, you recognize the uncleanness of your condition, you know you are a hopeless sinner whose only hope is in Christ.  And by faith in what He has done, you have received His righteousness in exchange for your sins.  And if that is true in your life, then the evidence will be that you have spiritual life, and you can have confidence that this life extends beyond the grave, even into eternity.  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Gospel’s power over darkness, Mark 5:1-20

There is no doubt that we live in an age when occult practices and an interest in the occult has skyrocketed.  One look at the cable television lineup and popular movies  shows an unprecedented resurgence in the popularity of occult themes such as witchcraft and vampires and so forth.  A couple of days ago I read an article from the New York Times called the Season of the Witch.  I want to read a few excerpts from this article by a woman named Michelle Goldberg, just to illustrate the current popularity and acceptance by the culture of demonic practices today. 

She says, “On a Wednesday evening last week, I sat in on a class called “Witchcraft 101: Curses, Hexes and Jinxes,” at Catland, a fashionable occult boutique in Bushwick, Brooklyn. More than a dozen people, most of them young women, sat in folding chairs in the store’s black-walled event space. The instructor was one of Catland’s co-owners, Dakota Bracciale, a charismatic, foul-mouthed 28-year-old former M.A.C. makeup artist dressed in flowing black, with a beard and long, lavender nails.

The author goes on to explain the well-documented resurgence of occultism among millennials. “Some of this vogue is about witch-as-metaphor, an icon that captures the boiling rage and determined independence of legions of nasty women. But some of it is a real, if eclectic, spiritual practice, adopted by people skeptical of organized religion but unfulfilled by atheism. 

Bracciale, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns they and them, grew up in an evangelical household — somewhere “between ‘Jesus Camp’ and snake handlers” — and said that the new atheism of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens had a profound effect on their generation. But atheism wasn’t enough, said Bracciale: “It left this huge vacuum, and that vacuum had to be filled with something.”  (so atheism produces a vacuum which has to be filled, and rather than filling that with God, they chose the devil). 

The author goes on later in the article to give some of the history behind this resurgence of interest in the occult. “Theosophy, the mother of all new age movements, was founded in the 19th century as the discoveries of Charles Darwin undermined faith in Christian creation stories, which led some to abandon religion altogether but others to embrace new forms of mysticism. The rise of occultism among the counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s befuddled scholars who assumed that American society was moving toward ever-greater secularism.”End of quote.

I would agree with the writer that the origins of much of what we see today as an explosion of interest in the occult, and open practice of witchcraft and sorcery, found it’s origin in the 60’s and 70’s, when counter culteralists thought that they had become enlightened through drugs, and had discovered real truth.  In fact, they had discovered nothing new, but rather through mind altering drugs rediscovered the occult practices and spiritism disguised as yoga, transcendental meditation, hypnotism, Wicka and other far eastern practices which were repackaged as New Age Spiritism.

But if I might demystify demonology for a moment, it is nothing more than the effect of sin and rebellion against God taken to it’s next level. And with the hippie revolution, sex, drugs and rock and roll became the vehicle of choice by which rebellion reached it’s apex, and demonic influence pervaded the culture en masse.  The word in the Greek used in the Bible in places like Rev.9:21 which is translated as sorceries, is from the Greek word pharmakea.  Its the root word from which we get our word pharmacy.  And so we can understand from the Bible that drugs were used as a means of sorcery, of entering into a state where demons can work on the mind.  And I firmly believe that this widespread use of drugs in our society today has opened up our culture to a new level of Satanic control.  

While the news media reports that  overt demonstrations of occultic influence are becoming ever more frequent in our society, the fact is that demons prefer to work in secrecy. The Bible says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  In fact, the Bible really doesn’t use the term demon possession. The idea expressed is more of someone being demonized.  In other words, they are under the influence of Satan.  The Bible teaches that to some degree or another, all the world that are unsaved are under the influence of the devil.  Paul, speaking to Christians in Ephesus concerning their prior manner of life in Ephesians 2:1 says,  “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

So note that Paul is saying that everyone who is unsaved is under the control of the prince of the air, that is Satan, and he is presently working in the sons of disobedience, which is to say all those who are unbelievers.  Another reference is found in Colossians 1, and again Paul is speaking to believers, who, he says, were rescued from the domain of darkness.  Unbelievers are enslaved in the domain of darkness, evil authorities in the spiritual realm, that’s what that means.  And in vs 21 he goes on to say that in that state they “were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,  yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.“

So all those who are unsaved are under the domain, or authority of darkness, under the realm of the devil, and they are alienated in their minds from God, and engaged in evil deeds, and are hostile to God.  But as I alluded to earlier, the hosts of darkness prefer to work in secret.  They prefer to disguise lies as truth, to twist the truth into a lie, and by such practices cause men and women to be duped into captivity, while thinking themselves to be enlightened.  

Though the gospel accounts make it seem that demons or evil spirits were acting out all the time, the truth is that a study of the entire Bible shows very little demonic activity in the Old Testament, other than in Genesis 6 and the book of Job and a couple of other minor instances.  And even those incidents are very sparsely described, interspersed over hundreds of years.  Yet during the time of Christ there was a period when demonic influence was manifest to a great degree.  But I would suggest that was because these evil spirits recognized the Spirit of Christ.  Spirits recognize spirits.  And so they became manifest when Jesus came around because they knew that He knew them and could not only reveal them, but disarm them because He had authority over them.  And by extension, Jesus gave His apostles authority over demons, and I believe that had to include the ability to recognize demonic influence, and as such we see the activity of Satan manifested in the times of the apostles.  But after that age passed, we see very little of that kind of activity.

Now speaking of that ability of Christ to recognize demons and have authority over them, we look at this passage before us as an extreme example of demonic control over a person.  Jesus and the disciples have just landed on the other side of the Sea of Galilee after weathering an extremely violent, intense storm that may have served as a prologue to this event, going from a violent wind to a violent manifestation of evil in human form.  But as I indicated, the demons recognize Jesus and the man in whom they reside runs down to Jesus and falls down before Him imploring Him not to send them out into the abyss. 

Now this poor man who is presented here is really to be pitied more than anything else.  It says the townspeople feared him, and I’m sure that they should have.  He had superhuman strength, he was a wild person living in the tombs, screaming night and day, cutting himself with stones and running around naked according to Luke’s gospel.  He was certainly a scary person.  But I want you to notice that while the townspeople were scared of him, Jesus has compassion on him and goes to him, calling out the demons.

I want to emphasize that for a moment.  I have seen people that I thought were very scary looking.  I’ve seen people in San Diego or Los Angeles  that were walking down the street screaming, smashing things, cursing people out.  People that looked like they had been living in the tombs.  People that were pierced and tatted who had altered their bodies in such a way as to be as hideous as possible.  And it’s natural to be intimidated by such people and head the other way.  And I’m not suggesting that we be ignorant or flippant of the supernatural powers that might be at work in such people.  They can be dangerous.  But at the same time, we need to be compassionate, and realize that we know the One who has authority over the demonic realm, and that He came to set the captives free.  Jesus has compassion on this man.  Others would have fled from him, but Jesus goes to him. Alienated, alone, hurting, out of control. And as I said,  I have seen people such as this man.  He is a tragic, caricature, an extreme illustration of a man apart from God and left to Satan’s destructive power.

I toyed with the idea of trying to introduce a 500 year old hymn by Martin Luther to you this morning, with the hope that we might be able to sing it.  However, I didn’t think I could do it justice with the guitar at this point, so instead I will read the first few stanzas from “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” written hundreds of years ago by the great reformer who certainly had experience in dealing with demonic forces and which I think gives great insight into the way we should deal with them.

“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe, does seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing. You ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same; and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”

Now while this demoniac in our  text is an example of an extreme case of demonic control, I believe we can find several characteristics exhibited in this man that parallel a perhaps more subtle, if not hidden, demonic influence in people today.  I hope that maybe a look at these characteristics may reveal that  even some of us may have similar areas of our life that Satan has exerted his control over, in his continuing efforts to render us unfruitful for the kingdom.  So I am going to give you six characteristics that we see in this demoniac, there are probably more, but let’s look at them in hopes of identifying common areas in which Satan operates in varying degrees in people today, albeit covertly.  

The first word we see in reference to this poor man is “unclean” in vs.2.  This demoniac was considered unclean because he lived among the dead.  Such was against the law of God, and a person that touched a dead person was considered unclean.  But remember the verse from Ephesians 2 which we referenced earlier which said, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…”  Touching a dead person is not a sin, but having sin in your life is equated with being dead.  And thus someone who harbors sin, who lives in sin, who doesn’t renounce their sin, is dead  spiritually and they are unclean in the sight of God. Let me make something very, very clear.  The person that harbors sin, that lives in sin in an unrepentant state, is opening up their mind and body to demons.  And the devil will come in like a lion through the gate which you have opened up and take over completely.  It’s a very dangerous thing for a person to live in defiant, open sin in rebellion against what the Bible has identified as sin.  I can’t emphasize that enough. 1Samuel 15:23 says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Even as a Christian, if you deliberately turn back to sin and don’t repent of it, you just took off your armor and invited Satan to come in an make himself at home.  And it will have tragic consequences.

Secondly, notice he was living in isolation.  He was living away from his community.  He lived in the tombs, in the mountains.  Listen, I don’t want to over stretch a metaphor here, but there is a tremendous danger to isolation.  God designed us to live in fellowship with one another.  And as Christians, that fellowship takes on even more importance.  When a Christian lives in isolation from the rest of the body, that is the church, then they set themselves up for demonic attack and control.  I was watching this cable show the other night with Susie about animals in the wild, and especially these wolves which were filmed while they were hunting.  And their technique which is instinctive with them, is to separate one animal from the herd.  They get them isolated from the herd and then they can conquer them.  The same is true of the devil, who 1Peter 2:8 tells us goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  And those in isolation are prime targets for the devil.

Third, he had supernatural strength.  Let us be wary of seeking the supernatural, folks.  There is a danger in seeking the supernatural.  Many people have been led astray in the devil’s schemes by seeing some supernatural thing and finding it exciting, thrilling.  They will even go so  far as to attribute such things to God or the Holy Spirit, regardless of whether or not it agrees with scripture.  God IS a God of supernatural power.  But not everything supernatural is from God.  Satan is able to counterfeit, just as Pharoah’s magicians counterfeited Moses’ miracles. Satan also has supernatural power.  Beware of the supernatural.  1John 4:1 says, Test the spirits, because many spirits have gone out into the world, and not all are of God.

Fourth, he was in torment.  Notice he is described as screaming day and night, and cutting himself with stones. There are obviously degrees of torment.  At the one end there is a lack of peace, and a searching for peace using anything that they can to try to find it.  Often today it involves alcohol or drugs, searching for that peace that can only come from the Lord.  At the other end of the spectrum, instead of finding that peace through drugs or alcohol, they end up tormented by the demons of those drugs which rob them of their sanity. I can’t even begin to tell you about all the people that I know of who have lost their mind because of drugs.  This demoniac had obviously ended up tormented to the point of losing his mind.  He was out of control.  And that is where sin always leads; to tormented souls who search for more and more and yet can find no peace.  And a lot of times that leads to suicidal tendencies, as we see here with this man hurting himself.  Satan is a destroyer, and that is his end game strategy for those he can control through sin.

Fifthly, there is the immediate recognition of the authority of Jesus Christ.  This man comes to Jesus and bows down to Him as the Son of God, even as he is resisting and crying out.  It’s amazing to me how so many people that manifest demonic influence in their lives come from some sort of so called Christian background.  And their rejection of Christ as Lord spurs their further enslavement to the devil.  Though these demons recognize Jesus as God, they do not recognize Him as their Lord. Notice the distinction in this passage.  The demoniac under the influence of demons call Jesus the Son of the Most High God.  Yet that recognition doesn’t save him.  But at the end of the passage in vs19, Jesus says to tell your family what the Lord has done for you.  James says that the demons believe and tremble, but they do not accept Jesus as Lord.  That recognition of God yet rejection of Jesus as Lord of their life is a key component of demonic control.  Refusing to surrender your will to the Lord.

Sixth, note that there is a duplicity or multiplicity of personalities exhibited by this man.  And while his case may be extreme, there is often a sense of a Jekyll and Hyde personality in someone who is being influenced by the devil.  One way I think that is common is a tendency to project one persona at church, or around other Christians, and yet live a different sort of life in secret, or out of sight of the church.  I’m not talking about schizophrenia necessarily, but living a double life.  And I think that is a lot more common than what it may appear.  The scripture says as a man thinks in his heart so is he.  It’s possible to put on a front in public, but live a completely different life in private.  And furthermore, I have seen a number of instances where someone seemed sort of normal, and then one day this other side of them just erupts in a way that is nothing short of demonic.  And when that happens it reveals that Satan has a foothold in that person that has reached a point where it is becoming manifest.  Luke 12:2-3 “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”  That’s a warning that surely your sins will find you out.  They will become manifest.

The good news is that Jesus has compassion on such people, as illustrated towards that demoniac, obviously tormented by his sin and under the control of the devil.  Jesus came to seek and to save those that are lost.  And I would suggest that the text indicates that the only reason Jesus came to this region was to save this poor man.  He went through a fierce storm, exhausted and robbed of his sleep, to come to this pagan region and deliver this man from Satan’s captivity.  What a wonderful illustration of the compassion and mercy of God for lost sinners.  

Jesus fulfills the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 of the promised One who will crush the serpent's head, and He was demonstrating His power over the kingdom of darkness. You remember 1 John 3:8 says, "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."

Now let’s look briefly how Jesus accomplished this deliverance. Note first of all that Jesus asked “what is your name?”  Many people mistakenly take this as an indication that we should go around asking demons for their name as a means of binding them.  It is silly if not downright dangerous for people to think they can tell demons what to do -binding demons here, or binding Satan here. You don’t have that authority, they're laughing at you like they laughed at the sons of Sceva and say, "Jesus we know, and Paul, we know, but who are you?” And if you remember those sons of Sceva ran out wounded and naked because they had no authority. Such people are as those described in Jude vs10 “But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.”

I think that Jesus asks him “what is your name?” for our sake, not for HIs sake.  Jesus knew their name, just as He knows your name.  He asked him so that we might know that there were thousands of demons in this poor soul, so that we might know the extent of Christ’s power and authority over the demonic realm.  So they answered “Legion, for we are many.”  A legion was up to 6000 soldiers in the Roman army.  Some think that since the number of pigs were two thousand, then there were 2000 demons.  Or perhaps there were three demons per pig.  I don’t know.  All I know is there were thousands of demons.  And yet Christ Jesus is victorious over thousands of evil spirits.

Next, notice that they ask not to be cast out of the country.  Luke 8:31 tells us that the demons  begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.  I am not a Greek expert, but I found it interesting that the word translated as country is a derivative of a word that means an empty expanse.  And Strong’s concordance defines it as the space lying between two places or limits.  So there is really no conflict between the two terms.  I think they are speaking of the pit, or the abyss where 2 Peter 2:4 says the angels who were disobedient during the days of Noah were put under chains until the judgment.  

Now these evil spirits know what God did to those disobedient fallen angels, and so they do not want that fate for themselves, they want to be free to roam the earth, particularly in this pagan country.  And for these demons to have their greatest expression, they need to have a body to live in.  So lacking anywhere else to go, they ask to be cast into a herd of swine.  I want to point out something here.  They ask Jesus for permission to enter the swine.  Just as Satan asked permission to sift Peter like wheat.  Or Satan asked permission of God to afflict Job.  Satan has no authority, no power that God does not first give him.

So Jesus gave permission to the demons to enter the pigs.  Now I don’t look for animals to be possessed by demons. I don’t think you have to worry that one day your little pooch could turn into Cujo or something.   I think this passage indicates that the demons needed special permission to go into the pigs.  And  I think that is born out by the result, which undoubtedly came as a surprise to the demons, which was that the pigs committed suicide.  If they had any experience with animals before, they would not have asked to be cast into the pigs.  

Well, the herdsmen run away and report it to the townspeople.  And the result is that the entire town comes out to see the former demoniac sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.  And this is the really crazy part.  You would think that they would have bowed themselves down and worshipped the Lord as a result of seeing this man delivered from the power of darkness.  But instead, it says that they were frightened.  

It’s interesting to note that the disciples were afraid during the storm, but they became even more afraid when Jesus stilled the storm.  And in this incident, the townspeople were afraid of the demoniac, but they became even more afraid of Jesus who cast out the demons.

Most of us would like to believe that that kind of miracle would cause a revival. But instead they tell Jesus to go away.  They’re more comfortable with living in darkness than they are living in the light. They love their sin more than holiness. Such is the nature of depravity, that's the nature of sin. It is more comfortable to be in the presence of evil than to be in the presence of righteousness. That's one of the reasons that the world hates Christians. The forces of evil are more welcome than the mighty power of God.  How often do we find it pleasant to talk about things of the world, but uncomfortable when the conversation turns to things of God?

Well, as we see in this passage, sometimes the judgment of God is to give people what they want.  And so Jesus gets in the boat to leave, and as far as we know, He never came back to that region.  The people get to continue in their sin and reject Jesus.  And God’s judgment is that they get what they want.  And I think that carnal interest on the part of the townspeople is indicated by the request of the demons.  They say don’t cast us out of the country.  They knew that this pagan country of the Gerasenes was a ripe area for their controlling influence because they had no interest in righteousness.  

But the man who had been delivered comes to Jesus in the boat and is begging to go with them.  But Jesus tells him to stay there and be a witness. Prior to his deliverance, he bore witness to the destructive power of Satan.  After his deliverance, he bore witness to the transforming power of God.  And so Jesus does not leave the area without a witness.  You know, that is what we are called to be; witnesses.  Some people misunderstand what a witness is.  They think that it’s a well contrived plan of evangelism.  Maybe some of that can be incorporated into being a witness.  But really it was pretty simple mission for this guy.  He had been a Christian just a few hours.  He didn’t know all the do’s and don’ts of evangelism.  He didn’t have all the answers.  He certainly hadn’t taken any classes in evangelizing.  But he could be a powerful witness to the saving power of the gospel of Christ.  He could tell all his friends and neighbors who knew what he had been, what he had now become by the power of Christ.  His life was a witness to the transforming power of salvation.  He was forgiven, he was a new creation in Christ.  He could tell them that.

Listen, Jesus wants you to be a witness today as well.  I am going to leave you with the same commandment that Jesus left with the demoniac; “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”