Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Man who Lived Among the Tombs: The Gospel Hidden in Plain Sight

In my hometown growing up there was a main drive you’d go down called Grand Avenue. And as kids we’d often be traveling with the family in the car. And along grand avenue there was this huge grave yard, I mean like 5 blocks long, and we’d always say, hold your breath, as we passed by the graveyard. Because if you didn’t the dead would come to haunt you, because they were jealous you were alive and breathing. Silly kids stuff of course.

But I remember people who would hang out there at night. People drawn to the graveyards. People who felt a connection with the dead. It was strange. Even growing up there were groups of kids very much fascinated with darkness, we called them goths.

I’ll tell you this, for much of my life I was drawn to things related to death. I was drawn to zombies, the undead. I was drawn to darkness. I was drawn to the occult. Many people in our world today are drawn to evil. They wear shirts with skulls and cross bones on them. Have you ever noticed that?

There is this dark thread that runs through humanity. Self-destructiveness. We find something good, and later we seem to self-sabatoge. We find a good situation but we implode, and we discover later, many of us do, that I was my biggest problem. I was the problem.

Well, just as people are drawn to horror movies, drawn to evil today, long ago, in the time of Jesus, there was a man who lived in the tombs. He lived in a graveyard. And we’ll see how Jesus changed his story forever. Just as he continues to do for millions in the world today.

From Mark chapter 5, 1-5, “They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.”

Jesus and his disciples had crossed the lake during this storm, which Jesus calmed by an apparent act of will. Astonishing. But now they arrive at the other side of the lake.

And this man who was living the graveyards comes to Jesus.

This guy wandering in this area, I’ve seen people like that even today, in every city in the country, people who wander the city on foot, act strangely, often with mental health issues, struggling, out of control, in fact I was once similar to this man, wandering the city, out of control, and no one could bind me.

This man would wander the area, cry out in madness, and he would cut himself with stones. How little things change, we have people today in our society, who cut themselves, I know some in our church here had done that in the past themselves. I had a close friend in my twenties and she would cut herself.

In many cases that cutting is based around sorrow, pain, an inability to express what they’re feeling inside, and so they cut themselves. In this case in the scriptures, it’s because this man has been possessed and influenced by demons.

What exactly is possession? It’s when a demon has actually entered someone and is exerting a level of control over the person. All of today have been influenced by demons from time to time. It’s much more rare that any of would’ve actually been possessed by demons. Its rare in the United States for some reason. But in other nations, in non-Christian nations I understand it’s more common. But I’m sure it still does happen even here in our city.

Let’s see how Jesus deals with this situation.

Verses 6-10: “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 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!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.”

Whose in control in this situation? Jesus is. Complete control. It’s not a fair fight between demons and God. God has total authority over demons. Just like in the book of Job, Satan needs permission from God to do anything to Job.

Similarly here, we see the demons basically pleading with Jesus for mercy. This man has apparently many, many demons, and if you were to count them, it would be about two thousand demons were inside this man. Scary stuff.

As Christians, demons can still influence us, but we shouldn’t fear them. We should fear God. God has authority over us and them. They can’t do anything to us without God’s express permission. Why would God give permission? To test our faith, to make sure it’s genuine and stands the test of difficulties and problems.

This is an odd portion of scripture though isn’t it? We’re all wondering, what’s really going on here. It’s about the man, and his redemption. But it feels like something more is going on here. There’s a picture here for us, of some deep theological truth.

In verses 11-13, “A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.”

This is something modern Christians and modern pastors don’t like to talk about. It just seems kind of detached from modern society. But it’s 100% real. Demons and angels are completely real. They exist here in our world today. There are millions and millions of them at work in our world. I tend to think they outnumber us massively, like for every one person there must be thousands of angels and demons at work in various ways. We can’t see them. But we can often sense their presence.

Non-Christians really don’t have any defense against demons. But Non-Christians do have angels assigned to them. Christians have total authority over demons. Christians also have angels assigned to them. Church facilities do as well. Areas do as well.

In the name of Jesus, basically, we can remove demons at any time, as we choose to. We can command them out of our homes, verbally. We can command them out of people if need be. The way Jesus talks to these demons is the way we should talk to them, in the authority of Jesus Christ, they simply have to obey, end of story.

So claim that authority in your life. When you sense the enemy nearby, cast them out in Jesus name.

So the demons request permission to go into the pigs, two thousand of them, and as soon as they went into the pigs, the pigs stampeded off the hill and into a lake below, off a ledge basically, and drowned in the waters below.

Next, verses 14-17: Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 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. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.”

The people of the region are terrified but what has happened. They are afraid. They see the man and he’s completely healed. He’s ok now. He’s safe. And the people are afraid. Sometimes we’re so used to things being a certain way, it’s almost scary when it changes. I was a lot like this guy, wandering the town, confused and self destructive, and people were shocked when I became a Christian. They didn’t know what to think. So they demand Jesus leave. They are pleading with him to leave. They don’t want change. They want things to stay the same.

Sharply contrasted with… verses 18-20: As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The man who was healed is begging to go with Jesus. He doesn’t want Jesus to leave. But he instead wants to go with him. But Jesus says no, hold on, I want you to go and tell everyone what God has done for you. You’ll be my witness. And the man did so, he started telling everyone. No one could deny it. They knew about him. And how crazy he was. But they now saw that he was healed. And the people were amazed. They feared Jesus himself, but later would listen to the man tell his story.

Let’s put it all together. What’s really going on here? All of these things really happened. Like we often say, if we went back in a time machine to this moment in history we’d see Jesus, the disciples, the man, the pigs, all of it. But, it’s also symbolic for us today.

The man living among the tombs, represents you and me, before we knew Christ as our savior. We were dead in our sins and transgressions, self destructive, harming ourselves, like the man cut himself, among the tombs, dead in our sins.

But we were drawn to Jesus, even though our sinful nature fought against us, and tried to keep us away from Jesus, we came to Jesus and fell at his feet, just like the man.

And Jesus forgave all our sins, he cast out our sins. Just like Jesus cast the demons out of the man, and into the pigs. All that impurity, then rushed off the cliff and into the waters below, just like our sins had to be washed away in the waters of the blood of Jesus shed for us. The pigs were drowned in the sea, just like our sins were drowned away, destroyed by the blood of Jesus.

All of this becomes a public spectacle to display God’s righteous judgment against impurity, for all those in the region. Just as Jesus’ death and resurrection became a public spectacle for the world about God’s righteous judgment.

The man who had been in the tombs is made new. He becomes a new person with a new mission, he begins to proclaim what Jesus did for him, he becomes a witness of the Lord Jesus. Just as we as Christians are witnesses of what Jesus did for us, and we proclaim it to others in our city.

God often doesn’t send us out of our city, but keeps us here to testify to everyone about what God did for us, and the people are amazed.