Monday, October 08, 2012

my sermon from sunday: mark 5:1-20

Here is a link to the audio. And here is Matt's really excellent class--Part One. More to follow through the month. Enjoy!

Last week, you might remember, Jesus calmed and rebuked a great hurricane of a storm raging over the Sea of Galilee.The day before, Jesus had preached for a whole day,and then the storm was during the night and now, as the night is giving way to day they arrive on the other side of the lake in Gentile Country.

I know what I'd be thinking as the boat hit the land. Coffee, for heaven's sake, and some delicately fried fish.You know that quiet restful meal in the aftermath of a crisis.So grateful to be alive, that the dawn has risen, and the sky is rippled with pink and golden and stillness. And yet, we do not have perfect peace. As the boat slides up on the beach, though the wind and waves are calmed, the disciples, are living with the new sure and terrifying knowledge that the person in the boat with them,Jesus, is the person of Psalm 89:9 who controls the weather, who speaks and all creation obeys him. He is the Lord of Creation. Nobody in the boat really wants to find out
what else he is Lord of as they climb out of their boats, stiff, exhausted, relieved, casting the eye about for breakfast.

Mark tells us that Immediately, as Jesus stepped out of the boat, a Man with an Unclean Spirit came suddenly towards them. Matthew and Luke both recount this event. Matthew remembers two men
but doesn’t tell us anything about the second. Luke adds
that the man "for a long time had worn no clothes." All three gospels make the special point that, 'he came from the tombs.'
So here you are, a straggler on, following Jesus. You've just nearly died. And as you step on to sane dry ground, a crazy crazy man,
completely naked, comes racing down from the tombs. You don't want to really be here anyway in gentile country, and you notice there are foul unclean pigs everywhere and so on top of being hungry, worn out, and afraid of your good friend Jesus, you’re calculating in the back of your mind how long it will take to ritually purify yourself once you get back home, but the straw that breaks the camel’s back is this man running maniacally towards you, covered with a stench of death.
Naked, crazy, living in a cemetery—and not like cemeteries where we might go and walk around and picnic on the gravestones—no this is a cemetery of open tombs hewn out of the side of a hill, tombs you could walk into where bodies were laid out to decompose and then all the bits gathered up and put in a box. He lives there. The word is to dwell, to settle down.
And he's crazy. Mark says that he had been previously bound. Over and over again the community had tried to restrain him. What kind of person do you try to restrain? A person who is out of control, who is dangerous. Matthew says he was so fierce no one could pass by that way. you restrain someone who is ruining everything, hurting people, hurting himself. There's an indication that he has been becoming more and more violent and out of control because they used to restrain him, but they no longer do. He became strong enough to wrench the chains apart, to grind the shackles.

And now, he lives among the tombs, and, verse 5, 'he was always crying and cutting himself with stones.' 
 We don't really have this in this culture, but where I grew up there were people who we called 'fou'—crazy. There was a woman in my village who wandered from place to place moaning and carrying on.
In the towns and cities you would often see a single solitary man or woman, filthy, dressed in scraps from the trash heap, shouting or carrying on. You wouldn't stop and greet a fou—they live in a separated way, outside, crazy.

In cold countries we incarcerate people like this, but this man, this man seems like the hulk. He can break chains, he's super human. And that's exactly the point. It’s not just him, he has what Mark calls an Unclean Spirit. And not just one unclean spirit, because look at verse 9, Jesus says, 'What is your name,' and the man doesn't answer, a spirit inside him answers that the name is Legion 'for we are many.' 

As unpleasant as it is for us sitting quietly in this place with nobody screaming or yelling, we need to deal with what this Unclean Spirit is. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6 verse 19 …do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? Remember that when you come to faith in Jesus, when you give yourself to him and trust in him for everything—for salvation, for the needs of the body and soul, for the renewing and transforming of the mind—he comes to live in you through the Holy Spirit. All of us are a body with a mind and a soul,
but within us can live Jesus, through the Clean Pure Perfect Holy Spirit, God. When you give yourself to Jesus, he gives himself to you, he lives in you. The Holy Spirit has power over you. Anyone who is in Christ has had the many supernatural—that is, not natural—experiences of sorrow for sin, of joy, of gratitude in the midst of things being kind of a wreck, of peace, that is, knowing that everything is going to be ok even when all circumstances suggest that nothing will ever be ok again. The Holy Spirit has power in our lives
to make us do what we would not naturally do.

This man had a Legion of Unclean Spirits living in him. A Legion is like 6000 Roman Soldiers. It’s a way of indicating a very large number. This man is overrun by filth, depravity, brokenness and hell. He is naked. The first act of bringing sanity and forgiveness to Adam and Eve in the face of their sin was God's slaughtering an animal and covering them with the skin. This man is naked and wounded. He has been cutting and hacking and destroying himself. The spirits in him are the complete opposite of the Holy Spirit who lives in you if you belong to Jesus. The spirits in this man are from hell. They belong to Satan who rebelled against God, who was cast out of heaven, and who is allowed to roam over the earth, joining with us in ruining God's creation. These spirits can take up residence
bringing their power and devastation into the human mind, heart and body. They can, and they do. They have in this man. They have made hell alive in him.

It might not be too hard for you to see hell in the news and the ruined lives of others but if you look very far down, into the depths of your heart, not making excuses, not blinking or turning away, you might see some very ugly things in yourself. I looked at myself this week and found that I was really angry about some things. Am I justified in being angry? Not so much. Has God given me his own self? Then I do not do well to be angry. And yet, that blackness is down there, abiding deep. We have to look hard to find hell around here, this man, it was all over his poor broken body.

I read this week that this man had it worse than Job. Job lost everything and was sick, but he had a long conversation with God.
This man is not even allowed the use of words. The demons,the Legion, speak for him. 

They propel him toward Jesus and fling him down on the ground, the word is for worship, for obeisance to someone greater, of kissing the hand, and when Jesus speaks to the man, they answer. In fact, as soon as they see Jesus, they become hysterical and screaming, 'what have you to do with us?'  And they try to force Jesus into an oath--'I adjure you'—not to torment them. They are asking for Jesus not to send them into the Pit, the place of waiting for the ultimate and final torment of hell. He has the power to send them there, but they beg him not to, and then they beg him not to send them out of the region, for, says Mark, 'Jesus had been saying',
that is, he began saying and kept on saying from the moment he saw the man, 'come out of the man.' They know they've got to obey.
They are trying to buy time. And so Jesus, verse 11, lets them enter into a herd of pigs. 

Now, some of you might be thinking, poor pigs. And others of you might be thinking, why didn't he cast them into the pit. For those of you upset about the pigs, well, there's no answer that will make you feel better. Jesus is Lord over heaven and earth, over the waves and the wind and over the demons. Just as he has the power and authority to rain down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, the power and authority to send his people into Exile, just as he has the power and authority to dispatch any of us this morning, he has the power and authority to consign these pigs to the devil who hurls them down the beach to their watery grave. What can I say, it’s not pc. This is not going to be the place you go to make Jesus relevant. But I think our worry for the pigs very often eclipses our compassion for the man.
Look at the visual of all that evil coming out of the man. You can see it. It takes up a vast herd of pigs—That’s how much evil was in this man. And then it’s gone, in one word. 

Now to those of you upset that Jesus didn't just send the demons into the pit. This is the great mysterious providence of God, isn't it. The fact is that God let Satan in in the first place, knowing that he would ruin everything, knowing that we would plight our way with his,
knowing that it would culminate in the death of Jesus himself. And yet he allowed it. He not only allowed it, he uses the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against him to sharpen and hone us, to test us like metal is tested or tempered in fire. He allows Satan to persecute those whom he loves so that we will be weak, so that we will be forced to depend on him, so that we will not be able to take credit for the work that he does in the world and in our lives. Which takes us back to the man.

This man is so broken, he is so wounded and there is no pulling himself up by his bootstraps to clean himself up and come into church. He doesn't have any bootstraps. He is nekked. He is bleeding. And this is where I want you to stop identifying with the poor sorry disciples clustered together in sheer horror, nor with the pig herds who are pulling pigs out of the water as fast as they can to haul off to market, and making ready to run to town to tell everyone what's happened,nor Jesus. Don't put yourself in the place of Jesus—
because that's what we like to do, isn't it? Look at that poor sorry hellion over there. Let me go help him put on some clothes and stop cutting himself. No, put yourself in the place of the demoniac. 

Before Jesus saved you, you were on the road to hell. You may not have had 6000 demons making themselves comfortable, but you were in the dark, you couldn't make it better, there wasn't anything you could do to climb up the long sides of the pit you were in. And then Jesus just spoke, he made you alive, while you were dead, while you were a sinner, while you were his screaming naked enemy, he breathed into you gave you a desire for himself and clothed you, and gave you your mind back. Look at verse 15, he was clothed and in his right mind.

And that's when everyone is scared out of their boots. The whole town is here now. The pigs are still being hauled out of the lake. And this man, this crazy crazy wounded man is sitting, like a reasonable person you could have inside for dinner. Just like the disciples in the boat are more afraid after Jesus calms the storm, the people in this town are more afraid than when they had a crazy guy living in the tombs. They beg Jesus to go away. Get out of here. We're happy with the evil we know and love. You, you go away.

Don't be upset when people utterly revile and reject you and are repulsed by your love for Jesus. Don't take it personally. These people beg Jesus to leave. And he does. He gets back in the boat
with his probably now totally hysterical disciples. And, verse 19, he doesn't let the man come with him. Here, even before he sends out the 12 and the 72, he sends out this man. This is the first man who's allowed to talk about what Jesus has done for him. He says 'go, tell your family'. And this man goes to all ten cities of that region. He goes to every market, every dinner party he can get invited to, and he tells everyone about Jesus. Can you imagine the story from his perspective? You should be able to. What has Jesus done for you? Did you used to be awfully angry? And now you're still angry but you feel really bad about it, and it’s getting to be less every day? Were you dead but now you are alive? Jesus is the Lord of Creation,
and he is Lord over Hell and the Power of Hell.

Let's pray together as we close.
Lord Jesus Christ, cast out the works of darkness and destruction in our lives. Clothe us in your love, transform and renew our minds, fill us with yourself. Amen.

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