The Other Side
When reading the story of the demon-possessed man in Mark 5, with all of its subtle cultural implications, it can be challenging for us Westerners, 2,000 years after the fact, to grasp the fullness of what was going on let alone see how it relates to us today. Yet, we see very clearly the God who leaves the 99 to rescue the 1, who cares deeply for each of His children, and invites us to share in this journey with Him and in community.
In Christ we see God in human flesh. He is the Saviour who takes time for the ostracized and “less-thans”, who, in that time, were the women, children, gentiles, tax collectors, adulterers, blind, deaf, lame, lepers, demon-possessed.
On the heels of calming the winds and waves, Jesus arrives on “the other side” of the sea with His disciples. A very broken man, whose literal demons implore Jesus not to “torment” them, meets him. What an ironic and chilling request. This man has a story; it seems to be quite well known in the area.
It is heart-breaking thinking about the life this man has lived. Lost, alone, depressed, misunderstood, shamed, hated, and definitely “tormented”. The fact that he made his home in a graveyard speaks of how cast-out he was. Maybe he just wanted it all to end.
And then, He sees the face of God.
Light, finally breaking through the darkness.
Fresh air, gasped into collapsed lungs.
Something is about to change.
The demons are agitated, and afraid.
I hear Jesus say to him “you may live in the tombs, and feel like you are already dead. But I see a broken child whose soul is worth everything to me. I came to meet you where you are. I did not come for the ones who think they are healthy; I came for the ones who know their sickness and need; who face it everyday. Come and enter into my rest. Come find healing in the deepest parts. Come drink of the living water and never thirst.”
Now the discarded has a voice. The hopeless has a song. The wounded becomes a healer.
Jesus seems to land on this shore with the sole purpose of delivering one man from his burden, but I believe he also wanted to impact the whole region in a way that they didn’t expect.
This is an often-overlooked part of the story. The people of the area were most likely Gentiles, with a smattering of non-practicing Jews. They knew this demon-possessed man in some way. He was notorious. Maybe some had tried to help him. But when Jesus heals him, many actually demand that Jesus leave them, as this Jewish Rabbi was responsible for sudden death of their herd of swine. Not to downplay the huge hit to the local economy and the confusion and fear that they experienced. But it does give some perspective to what they valued most.
In a way Jesus exposed the failed human attempts to help the suffering of this man, but also revealed their hearts and their idols.
It is reminiscent of the Pharisees discrediting the blind man for being healed on the Sabbath. For in the way that religion blinded the eyes of the Pharisees when a blind man was given sight: the obsession with security and wealth stopped these people from sharing in the joy of seeing a brother set free from years of tyranny.
I personally feel convicted by this passage, and believe we should ask ourselves some questions when reflecting on it.
What is our sickness? What is our poverty?
Is it actually our obsession with perfection, health, and security?
What is the idol that stands in God’s way to our heart?
Is it religion?
Do we obsess and form our identity on our weaknesses?
What do we choose instead of Jesus?
N.T. Wright says, “God accepts us for who we are, but doesn’t leave us where we are…. God’s inclusiveness is always a transforming inclusiveness.”
God invites us to love the least of these, for that is where we will find Him. Only when we recognize our brokenness and experience the grace of God can we truly embrace others, for we know that we belong.
“I once was lost, but now I’m found. Blind, but now I see.”
A reflection on Mark 5:1-20
Best When Broken Teaching Series