Sunday, August 4, 2013

Scary Sanity

So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee.  As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him.  For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in a cemetery outside the town.  As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him.  Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!”  For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him.  This spirit had often taken control of the man.  Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.  Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”  “Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons.  The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit.  There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs.  So Jesus gave them permission.  Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.  When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran.  People rushed out to see what had happened.  A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons.  He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid.  Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed.  And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.  So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake.  The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him.  But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.”  So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.        (NLT)
What do you do with a crazy man?  (My wife maintains she married one!).  In a very real sense the disciples were confronted with their boss, Jesus, whom they couldn’t understand.  He did things…very strange and wonderful things.  They had just docked at Gadera after a really weird and frightening experience on the Galilean Sea.  It was weird in that they went through a storm that was so violent the boat was sinking; but they had to go down in the ship’s hold to wake Jesus up!  He almost slept through all the excitement, but got up to tell the waves and the winds to “hush”…and they did!  Weird!
Docking at the Gerasene side they no sooner got the boat tied up than they were confronted by a wild, shrieking madman.  His hair was matted; he was naked, except for clinging parts of broken chains that couldn’t hold him down.  He was not in his right mind…to say the least. 
His “home” was living in the tombs that dotted the hillside.  The man was like a wild animal, growling and threatening.  Had I been one of the disciples it would’ve been a hard call to decide which craziness I wanted…the almost certain death of drowning back on the Sea of Galilee, or this mess.
When the man saw Jesus the fear started pouring out of him.  In a spiritual “tug-of-war” the demons surrender to Jesus and beg him not to send them to confinement in the abyss…the place Revelation calls the final prison for Satan and all his demons.  They chose to enter the pig herd, and that drove the pigs mad…they went over the cliff. 
The man was healed, and when the townspeople got wind of how this had played out they came and begged Jesus to leave town.  This is a story of destruction, deliverance and decision.


Sin is destructive; what an understatement!  We all have pictures in our minds of
the kinds of madmen that scare us…Sadaam Hussein, Charles Manson, and Adolph Hitler.  They even look wild and unhinged!  One that really gave me a case of uneasiness was Jeffrey Dahmer.  If you recall back in the early 90’s Dahmer admitted to killing and cannibalizing nearly two dozen people.  His dark side didn’t just show up one day.  He had been killing all his life.  He is the poster-boy for the doctrine of total depravity; that doctrine, by the way, says that you and I are no better than Jeffrey Dahmer.  Given equal circumstances, total depravity says that any one of us could have done what he did…and worse!  It says we’re capable of the vilest sin.
In America today we are seeing a quickening pace of total depravity’s toll as we tear God out of public life.  The more proficient we get at  removing prayer, Godliness and holy living from this generation, the more certainly we will see more and more Columbines, Darfurs and personal slides down the dark slope of the ride to the abyss.  It is not a pretty picture of a bright tomorrow for the land of the free!
The destructiveness of sin running unchecked in the tombs of American media and behind the closed doors of our communities will bring us down!  We, as a nation, are as naked and unhinged as the Gaderene madman!  Destruction!


Jesus dealt with the man’s fear by confronting him with who he really was; he asked him to disclose his name.  Whether you view this as entirely a spiritual issue, or a psychological one, it was a masterful way to begin the counseling session.  Can you possibly NOT think of all your life and the kind of person you are when someone asks you that personal question? 
Jesus does that kind of thing.  His presence creates a moral crisis.  For the demoniac, being required to announce his character, disclose who he really is…there was only one outcome, submission to Jesus.  The demons knew his strength…it was only a matter of how – they were going to do this easy, or they were going to have it hard.
In the curing of this poor tortured soul we see the principle once again in Scripture that when you meet Jesus you are never the same again.  And that sword cuts both ways; some people are left for the better, and some decidedly for the worse.  Whoa, preacher!  You’d better explain that one.  Glad you asked, there was destruction…sin’s slippery slope – and there was deliverance…Jesus’ healing the man – it creates the need for a…


The townspeople were left for the worse; why?  They decided against the Savior, just like America is doing today.  It couldn’t have been just the loss of a few pigs…it was more, much more. 
Seeing the crazy man sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and sane, was scary.  They preferred the wild screams of the man rather than entertaining this kind of radical transformation.  They wanted normal, even if it was painfully gross; Jesus doesn’t do “normal”. 
We do the same thing when we start to hear about becoming a radical Christian, sold-out for Jesus.  You know, if you really start to believe in who Jesus really said He was, then you’ve got to entertain the notion that he could radically change YOU too!  That is scary!
Of course it’s scary!  A little boy asked his Mom where she and he came from.  She gave him the old “stork story”…the great feathered bird dropped Mom and her little guy in a white napkin from the sky.  Skeptical, the little guy called Grandma, “Where did you come from?” he asked.  “Oh, I was found under a rock, darlin’”, she replied.  Later that day the little boy was walking with his best friend from the neighborhood.  His friend asked him, “What you thinkin’ ‘bout?  You look so sad.”  The little boy said, “It’s disturbing…there hasn’t been a normal birth in our family in three generations!”
It’s hard to entertain radical stuff!  The townspeople chose fear over faith.  They opted to live in the tombs.  The demoniac came out of his fear and began operating in faith.  It changed his life!  Where once he roamed the tombs, fear driving his wildness, robbing his life – now, his one desire was to follow Jesus and return to the sanity of loving his creator and Lord.  This was a man who moved from fear to faith!

This is what we do today…we come to the table and sit down with the One who is able to radically-transform our lives.  Come, eat – let the chains fall away…be found sitting at the feet of your Savior, in your right mind and clothed with his righteousness!

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