Sunday, November 16, 2014

Talk of the Town

     I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do it’s more often the Hallmark channel’s sappy romances than the blood and gore of horror movies.
     When I read my Bible, I take a similar path.  I like the “Jesus loves you,” scriptures.  The ones that tell me I am healed, forgiven, and whole in Jesus.  I avoid the messy ones where people are cruel or crazy or killed.  So, I know that this is not a scripture that I’ve shared about before and yet this was where I felt led and ironically, I found a “Jesus loves you scripture” that tells about a madman in a graveyard.
  Jesus and the disciples arrived on the other side of the sea in the country of the Gerasenes. As Jesus got out of the boat, a madman from the cemetery came up to him. He lived there among the tombs and graves. No one could restrain him—he couldn’t be chained, couldn’t be tied down. He had been tied up many times with chains and ropes, but he broke the chains, snapped the ropes. No one was strong enough to tame him. Night and day he roamed through the graves and the hills, screaming out and slashing himself with sharp stones.
 When he saw Jesus a long way off, he ran and bowed in worship before him—then bellowed in protest, “What business do you have, Jesus, Son of the High God, messing with me? I swear to God, don’t give me a hard time!” (Jesus had just commanded the tormenting evil spirit, “Out! Get out of the man!”)
  Jesus asked him, “Tell me your name.”
  He replied, “My name is Mob. I’m a rioting mob.”  Then he desperately begged Jesus not to banish them from the country.
  A large herd of pigs was browsing and rooting on a nearby hill. The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs so we can live in them.” Jesus gave the order. But it was even worse for the pigs than for the man. Crazed, they stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned.
  Those tending the pigs, scared to death, bolted and told their story in town and country. Everyone wanted to see what had happened. They came up to Jesus and saw the madman sitting there wearing decent clothes and making sense, no longer a walking madhouse of a man.
  Those who had seen it told the others what had happened to the demon-possessed man and the pigs. At first they were in awe—and then they were upset, upset over the drowned pigs. They demanded that Jesus leave and not come back.
  As Jesus was getting into the boat, the demon-delivered man begged to go along, but Jesus wouldn’t let him. Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” The man went back and began to preach in the Ten Towns area about what Jesus had done for him. He was the talk of the town.  ~Mark 5:1-20, The Message
     The first few verses of Mark 5 describe a man as sad and down trodden as a person could get.  He lived in a graveyard.  He was naked.  He cut himself with sharp objects.  Then Jesus’ boat bumped against the shore of his life and he, and his demons, recognized the Son of God immediately.  He begged Jesus,”Do not torment me!”  This madman’s life was a total disaster and he was afraid that Jesus was about to make it even worse.
     When some of us first glimpse Jesus, we have a similar fear.  We are afraid of what it will cost to follow Him.  Jesus might ask us to give up something of great value.  It could cost the approval of friends, or things that we do for fun or pleasure.  We might be asked to give some money.  We might even be asked to do hard things.
     Jesus responds to the man’s pleas by simply asking, “What is your name.?”  Anyone else would have defended themselves or left, refusing to make eye contact, to not see the need of this scarred, naked man.  But instead, Jesus sent him a message.  “You matter to Me.”
     Jesus knew exactly how to solve the mystery of this man’s broken life.  He sent the demons into a large herd of pigs, who ran squealing into the water and drowned.  Then the pig farmers were concerned about the cost of meeting Jesus.  Jesus had done something great and wonderful, but they were worried about the pigs.  Were they afraid that Jesus would change them, too?
     The delivered man clearly had been changed by the grace of God.  He recognized that Jesus had touched him at his most unloveable.  He was no longer a naked wild man.  He pulled on clothes.  He was able to hold a conversation.  His chains were truly broken and had no power to hold him.  He no longer needed to cut himself to feel.  He was no longer living with the dead in trespasses and sin.  He knew that Jesus did not love him because he was charming, attractive, eloquent, or talented; his former self was none of those things.  He recognized the depth of his healing.  Jesus had delivered him completely.
 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
  heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
  save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.

Who praises you from the grave?
     the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer. ~Verse’s from Psalm 6 
     When Jesus was about to leave, the man begged Jesus to let him accompany Him.  He went from begging Jesus to leave, to begging Jesus to take him with Him.  A complete reversal of his former demands.  Instead, Jesus sent him home to his family and friends to share the story of what had happened to him when he met Jesus.  Restored and whole.  Heard and accepted.  The talk of the town. 

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