Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bleeding and Dying No More [part three] ...

In this series, perhaps the World Series of establishing the identity of Jesus Christ, the first three events had happened in fairly quick succession.  In the space of only a few days, Jesus had commanded nature, and bent time and space.  In this first act, He established Himself as our world’s Creator, and the Author of physics (not its slave).  Next, the infinite power of His Love, commanded an entire host of nearly 2,000 demons to leave a tortured possessed man with a single command.  In this second act, He established that no amount of enemies could stand before His Love, they were compelled to heed the voice of the Son of God who they acknowledged despite what the Pharisees were saying about Him.  In the third act, a woman whose desperation led her to lift her self-imposed limitations and imagine a cure was possible if only she could secretly touch the hem of His garment, and her crazy scheme worked.  But in the third act, Christ wanted this woman to know that she and her terminal disease were important to Him.  He called her His Daughter, blessed her, and sent her home safe in the knowledge that she would never be unimportant to Him.  Now we resume an examination of his fourth and final act to establish and affirm His identity.
Peter recalls to John Mark in his Gospel in chapter five how the fourth act would proceed.  Jesus was still en-route to the home of Jairus to heal his daughter.  Jairus remained a part of the ruling class of Israel, part of the Sanhedrin that was already deep into conspiring to see Jesus killed.  Jairus maintained his association with the very group of men bent on killing Christ.  Justice would demand a life for a life.  Justice would demand that someone bent on killing Christ, should himself suffer the fate he intended for Jesus.  Even if Jairus was not personally a part of the group intent on killing Christ, he had done nothing to distance himself from them until this day, when he submitted in humility before Christ in order to see his own daughter healed from yet another terminal illness.  Justice is and remains the battle cry … of Satan.  It is Satan who cries for justice in the hallowed courts of heaven.  It is Satan that demands that we pay for our sins, for a penalty must surely be paid.  Those who demand justice, echo the demands of Satan.  Our God is not interested in ensuring equality, fairness, and justice; for His Love offers so MUCH more than mere equality and fairness.  His Love is willing to forgive what otherwise Justice could not forgive.  His Love is willing to serve that which does not deserve service.  His Love is willing to reclaim, re-create, and restore that which by self-decision had abased itself beyond comprehension.  There is no Justice in our redemption … there is only Love.
But the decision to humble himself before Christ must have been a hard one for Jairus.  When his daughter fell ill, Jairus must have done what all of us do, what the woman who was just healed did.  He called in the doctors, and physicians.  Money was no object to Jairus, he would gladly spend it all to see his daughter healed.  But alas the best of human wisdom is still often not enough.  And his daughter’s condition got worse instead of better.  Unlike the Roman commander, who “knew” Jesus could heal with a simple command, and did not need to be there to see it done … Jairus had made a different request.  Jairus had asked for Jesus to come to heal his daughter.  The faith of Jairus in Christ was there, but not as great as that of the Roman, who did not have to personally witness what Christ did, the Roman was content to hear the words from His mouth, and to know it would be done.  Jairus needed to see.  But the time Jairus had spent in seeking a cure outside of Jesus Christ, had proven to be time wasted.  Is it any different for us?
How often, in our desire to be redeemed, do we seek a cure for our sins, outside of the transforming power of Jesus Christ?  We look to find spiritual growth in the things we do.  We read the Bible.  We study our weekly lessons for church classes.  We attend services.  We sing our songs of praise, and pray our prayers for blessings (for us).  We give what we can afford to give, be it time or money, to those who are “less fortunate” than ourselves.  In short, we are like the rich young ruler of scriptures, who when he encounters Christ, states that from his youth he has “kept all the commandments” of our God.  But what we spend little time contemplating in our spiritual lives, and spiritual “accomplishments” is “why” we do what we do.  The list cited above is not a bad list.  In point of fact, the transformed heart does all of these things, but it does them for a different reason, and it experiences a different outcome.  Those who pursue doing these activities “in order to see themselves rid of sin” do not see their goals achieved.  It is not our actions that rid us of the desire to sin … it is our surrender to Jesus Christ alone.  It is only the power of Christ who can remove within us, what we cannot remove, no matter how many spiritual things we attempt to do.  It is not our power that can remove our sinful desires, it is the power of Christ alone.  When we seek another remedy for sin, outside of surrendering to Christ, we see only continued failure.
When however, like Jairus, in desperation, we finally decide to humble ourselves and admit we cannot do what must be done … taking our sin, and our sinful desires to the feet of Jesus Christ … we finally experience what His power alone can do for us; whether our disease is in a terminal state, or whether we have already died in it.  Jesus can revive not only those who are spiritually wounded and suffering from a terminal disease, He can revive a heart that has experienced spiritual death and up to now has wanted nothing to do with spiritual things.  The transformed heart, learns to love like Christ loves.  The transformed and resurrected heart learns to love others like Christ loves others.  In so doing, the transformed heart looks for truth in the pages of Truth, and studies through the lens of Jesus Christ leading.  The transformed heart gladly goes to church because it longs for the joy of association and the opportunity to serve others, not to be served.  The transformed heart sings songs of praise, not just in sanctuaries dedicated to that purpose, but in the car, on the street, at the office desk, and in the home; because it CANNOT keep silent.  Gratitude overflows and leads to continual praise.  The transformed heart prays only for others, because it knows its own needs have been far exceeded in being met.  The transformed heart gives everything it has to others, and holds nothing back for itself, because it cannot afford to pass up an opportunity to give.  And in humility it never claims to have kept the commandments, but rather re-directs any notion of goodness, back to the source of Christ, for nothing within it is good without Him.  Why we do what we do matters.
But alas, the time Jairus (and us) spent in looking for a solution outside of Christ was time wasted.  And in this case, it was too much time wasted.  Peter recalls to John Mark beginning in verse 35 saying … “While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?”  Game over.  You waited too long, wasted too much time, and failed.  It was too late.  She died.  There is no further point.  Once you were dead, you were dead.  Half the Sanhedrin did not believe in any form of resurrection even at the end of all things.  Jairus and his household may have been of that inclination.  But whether he was or not, the time to heal a terminal disease was done.  Might as well, let God move on to other priorities, help those who still have time to be helped, help those who have not wasted ALL of their time just yet.  Death was a bell that could not be un-rung.  In all of the scriptures Jairus was deeply familiar with, there had never been a story of the dead coming back to life.  They ALL slept, awaiting the final day of God’s Kingdom being established on earth.  There may have been ghost stories from witches who derived their power from Satan, but demons impersonating dead men, were still a far cry from an actual dead person getting a second chance.  So far, death was an absolute ruler over the fate of mankind.  It did not matter whether you were good or bad, faithful or not, everyone died.  So the game needed to be called for an expired time clock.  Death had claimed the players, and there was nothing left … or was there?
John Mark records the reaction of Christ in verse 36 saying … “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.”  This was asking the impossible.  Jesus, was asking Jairus, to do something to believe something, that there was no precedent for.  He was asking Jairus to believe in spite of the facts, in spite of scripture, in spite of his beliefs, in spite of his education, upbringing, and tenants of his job.  This was not a combination of scripture and God.  This was a request to believe only in Jesus Christ.  The interpretations of the Sanhedrin where it came to the Messiah were largely mistaken.  They had confused the second coming and final establishment of God’s kingdom with the first coming where the lamb would be slain.  They had scripture all jumbled up.  And in none of scripture was there hope of an early resurrection, and nothing about the Messiah doing one of those.  So the request of Christ required faith in only one thing … in the person of Jesus Christ standing before him right then, and right there.  Is it any different for us?  To have faith that Christ can do for you, what you have been unable to do, takes faith in only thing … in Jesus Christ.  It is not your understanding of scripture that can see you rid of your desire to sin, it is Jesus Christ alone.  Your doctrines will not do it, but your Savior will, if you let Him.
Then Jesus did something that is at first a little hard for us to understand, Mark records it in verse 37 saying … “And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.”  Jesus dismissed the crowd.  Even within His own disciples, only three were selected to see what was about to occur.  The obvious question was “why”.  The gospel of John we studied earlier offers us perhaps a little insight here.  John’s gospel highlights several occasions where the crowd was bent on forcing Christ to become their earthly king.  He had to use miraculous powers to escape those crowds or they would have succeeded.  The people at this time, and in our own, often look only at Christ through the lens of what is in it for them.  They seek Christ, like we seek Santa Claus and Bill Gates, to see what they might do for us.  We want, we want, we want.  Our prayers are like laundry lists of what we need God to do for us. 
Knowing He could heal, nearly the entire nation sought a health upgrade, and they got it.  Dealing with a matter of life and death, or more precisely, that death was no longer a barrier, might encourage a revolution against Rome where people would gladly kill themselves on Roman spears and swords, expecting to be raised up by their newly crowned Messiah.  If death itself could not stop their army, they would indeed be the greatest force on earth, and all the world including Rome would have to submit.  Even His own disciples harbored some of these feelings.  So the group of witnesses had to be smaller, in order to see this blessing occur.  Our inclination to selfishness necessitated a restriction of the vision of the power of God, as it does today.  How many believers today, if endowed with the ability to heal the sick without exception, would be able to withstand the temptation to take the credit for themselves, to accept the celebrity our society would heap upon them, to become a leader in the eyes of the nation, and in some ways be worshipped as a demi-god?  How many believers today, could refuse the praise of those impacted, and remain humble, dependent, and ever seeking ONLY the will of the Father as Jesus did.  Our inclination to selfishness, necessitates the restriction of the outpouring of the true power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter then recalls his own personal witness to what transpired next as John Mark continues writing in verse 38 saying … “And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. [verse 39] And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.”  There are several things to note here.  First the perspective of God is not like our own.  We see death as a barrier from which there is no return, Jesus and God see it only as a nap, or night’s sleep, like we take every day.  Time passes while we are unconscious, but when we wake up, we pick up where we left off, and resume doing what needs to be done.  From the perspective of Christ this remains true of death.  Adam is still sleeping.  Adam has no concept of the nearly 5000+ years that have passed since he fell asleep in death.  He is napping.  When Christ returns he will be woken up, and resume a life he is familiar with, but without the stain of sin any more.  When we sleep, we are unconscious.  We are not still living in some sort of ghost like state, we are simply asleep, unaware of time, or any other concerns.  The declaration of Christ is not just trying to get the crowd here to feel better about the girl’s condition, it is about getting all of us to understand better what death itself is actually like.
The second thing to note here, is that if death is actually not the end of our existence, if there is actually life possible after our earthly sleep of death … then what kind of life would that be?  Satan encourages us to sin like there is no tomorrow, because we only have “one life” and time is short.  But what if he is only half right?  What if time is truly short here, and our opportunity to make a difference, to lead someone else to the real eternal life is wasted?  A life after this one, intended to be permanent, and lived in loving others can actually begin here through the power of Christ.  But to waste that, is to waste the chance to help another see what you have seen, and learn from Christ, what you have learned.  If we spend all of this life focusing on only our own temporal needs, when in our next life, none of those things truly matter, do we not waste our lives entirely?  Whether you live 10 years, or 20, or 80, it is a drop in the bucket next to eternal life.  Would it not be better to live whatever time you have left fully, and intensely, with the primary mission of bringing others with you into the next life of eternity with Christ?  To connect them with the same Jesus who is saving and transforming you, is the ONLY goal that counts with whatever time you have left here.  To love others, like Jesus loves others, is truly living.  Everything else, is such as waste.
The perspective of those grieving people was a lot like our own, we do not see past the limits we have set for ourselves, past our ideas of the facts as John Mark records in verse 40 saying … “And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.”  The people in their grief, “laughed Him to scorn”.  They took their limited vision, and assumed that Jesus was making an alternate medical assessment of the condition of the child.  They could not see something broader, perhaps nor do we.  Jesus was talking about life and death, and what is truly important.  And what we see is limited by our own ideas of the facts, history, and certainty in our knowledge.  But we are wrong, misguided, and will not see what Jesus is truly saying.  So Jesus does what must be done, undeterred and non-responsive to their criticism and ridicule, He simply escorts all of them all out of the house. 
Even though Jesus is in the right, even though Jesus alone understands life and death better than anyone there, He does NOT force others to accept His own thinking.  He does not compel them to change what they believe or what they say.  He does not laugh back at them, and call them out for the fools they truly are.  He does not humiliate them for being wrong, and not understanding what He is saying.  But how often do Christians treat each other this way?  How often in our certainty about scripture and its interpretation do we use it as a weapon to punish those with less knowledge than ourselves?  How often do we “defend” ourselves against ridicule and scorn, by inflicting ridicule and scorn on those who “deserve it”?  Jesus does not react this way, ever.  He never “gets even”.  He never looks for justice against those who keep wrongly inflicting their own pain and ridicule on Him.  Instead He continues in acts of Love, undeterred by those who do not understand it yet.
Peter continues the story in verse 41 saying … “And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. [verse 42] And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.”  Perhaps Jesus took this girl by the hand before He offered that command, because without directing it specifically at her, the entire fallen mankind might have arisen at that moment in time.  A single command had only recently expelled nearly 2,000 demons at once, so we know what He says carries great weight in a world beyond our vision and self-imposed limitations.  The girl of course, did what Adam did when Jesus had breathed life into him, she arose.  Jesus was not calling this girl back from the paradise of heaven her disembodied soul would have surely preferred to stay in.  Instead He was doing what He had already explained, He was waking her from the sleep of death, and from her nap.  She had no concept of the passing of time, of the weeping and wailing that had been going on for her departure.  She was asleep.  And now through the power of Christ, life had entered her again, and she was awake.  For the first time the 5 souls in attendance had their self-imposed blinders lifted.  They were astonished.
John Mark concludes this series in verse 43 saying … “And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.”  What was being done, was to be witnessed by 5 people in person, and recorded not for them (they saw it), but for us.  The identity of Jesus Christ should have been firmly affixed in the eyes of three of His disciples, but all the more so for you and I.  What had just transpired was concrete proof that for those who believe in Jesus Christ, not even death was any kind of barrier to what He can do for us.  Our Creator has the power to re-create what we have by choice killed.  Our Creator can call life back into us, no matter how badly we have driven out every spiritual impulse in our lives.  But it is our Creator alone who can do this for us, not the power we mistakenly believe we have.  The dead girl was not a partner with Christ in her own resurrection, she was only a beneficiary of it.  Jairus did not “do” anything to see his own daughter raised, he was only a witness to it.  The disciples and closest followers of Christ, were not participant or partners in this ministry, they were only as witnesses.  A grieving mother, a hopeful father, a curious set of dedicated believers; all had different perspectives on what occurred and differing points of view.  But what was solely consistent was that Jesus Christ did ALL the work of raising the dead back to life.
It is exactly so in our Christian experience.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is the one who plants the seed of faith in us, we do not even do that much.  Jesus is the one who does ALL the work of bringing us back from spiritual death to spiritual life in Him.  We do nothing but let Him.  The dead girl could not refuse the command of Christ, nature could not refuse, disease could not refuse, the demons could not refuse the command of Christ; and our desires to sin will be unable to stand before the commands of Christ if we are but willing to let Him utter them on our behalf.  None of the opposition to Christ were working with Him to see change, all were working against Him.  But change occurred because He commanded it.  Your sinful nature is not going to just go away on its own.  Your love of sin, is not just going to be erased by the power of your will, or ability to deny yourself that which you love.  But a single command of Christ, can knock that desire out of your life for good.  A transformed heart, can lead you to focus on new priorities, until acts for others become “normal” and acts for self are never needed again.
The identity of Jesus Christ should be most affirmed in your mind and in mine.  The revelation of this gospel is a revelation of Jesus Christ to you and I.  It is an unveiling of the truth to us.  The stories are not mere history, they are predictive for our lives.  They are applicable in our here and now.  Disease is not our master, nor are the rules of nature and physics, we serve the Lord who is over all of them.  Not even death is a barrier to our God of Love who sees infinitely beyond the night’s sleep of death we may take, or the brief nap we enjoy between our last day, and His first day at His second coming.  What matters, is how we love.  What matters is who we love, in that it is others, and not ourselves.  We waste time when we love ourselves, and we enjoy life when we spend it loving others.  The identity of our God is a deep association with a love for others.  He won His world series.  We should enjoy that victory, and let Him win one in our lives, for us, that we too can benefit from …

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bleeding and Dying No More [part two] ...

We define our own limits.  We tell ourselves what is “possible” and then live our lives within the confines of the limitations we have set for ourselves.  But our definition of “possible” has been set by a very human perspective, and perspective is not the same as reality.  Because you have never seen a thing, or heard a thing, does not mean that thing does not exist … it is merely something you have never seen or heard.  Others may have experienced it.  So for a witness to this event, it is very real … for the person who has never encountered it, it remains only theoretical.  Our imaginations are the gift that enable us to briefly look beyond the limitations we set for ourselves, and dream or imagine what might be possible beyond the reality our minds have proscribed for us.  Our imagination questions our limitations, and poses the most important query to our self-imposed limitations … what if? 
For the Christian, for the believer in a God of infinite Love, a God who wrote the rules of science, any “limitation” at all, is an oxymoron.  Indeed self-imposed limitations are nothing more than chains that bind and limit the potential of a life that might otherwise be an existence our dreams could hardly keep up with.  What we define as limits, were never really limits at all.  They were self-imagined constrictions “we” placed on ourselves, not impositions our God placed upon us.  We are the ones who tell ourselves “no”, and “it cannot be done” and “there is no way”.  Like a contagious disease, we allow our lack of personal witness, and the limitations others have proscribed, to join and form our own ideas.  We adopt the limits others have dictated until we join them like mindless Borg drones, unable to break free of the collective.  Our educational systems are built around the idea of conformity, not individuality.  Our society is based on cooperation, and perpetuates “group think” over “unique think”.  So mostly every influencing factor around us from our media to our pulpits encourages us to be part of something larger, and if that means we limit ourselves and our potential, in order to stay in line with the rest of the drones, then so be it.
But for the believer in a God of infinite Love, why do we continually “limit” what infinite must mean?  Does our uniquely human power to say “no” to God and thus thwart what He would otherwise do for us make us think we have some power of our own?  Our sole ability to refuse love has been translated into thinking that saying no equals the end of possibility and potential.  But it does not.  What happens when we change our “no” answer to a “yes” answer to God’s love?  The change in our response becomes and is a life altering experience.  When we look from His perspective at our own limitations we begin to understand they were never limitations in the first place.  They were only ever the result of saying “no” to God over and over again.  When “yes” is our response to His love, what we thought was impossible becomes possible, achievable, then history, then even routine.  All of the sudden, miracles are not the unusual, they can become the common place.  Our imaginations must then work harder to dream beyond what the reality of our lives are.  For what we imagine Love to be, is never really enough to define, what Love can truly be.
And you or I, will not be the first believer to discover this truth.  Peter refers to another, he lists her only as “a certain woman”.  She has no name that he can recall, perhaps he never heard it, or knew it.  In recalling the story of Jesus’ third hit in the spiritual grand-slam going on near the edge of the Sea of Galilee to John Mark in his gospel in chapter five, Peter does not know the identity of this woman.  Perhaps this was by intent from God to you and I.  Perhaps Peter is unable to personalize this story by listing the woman’s name, because God wanted for you to substitute your name where Peter and John Mark say simply the words “a certain woman”.  If only our own imaginations could allow us to dream past our limitations the story of this woman might actually be the same as our own.  Imagine for a brief moment, that you are her.  Imagine for a brief moment, that the biggest challenge of your life could be substituted for the one she was facing.  Then using your imagination, see if how she conquered her own problems, might not be exactly the same as how you see your biggest challenge overcome in an instant.  How hard it is to imagine, might be an indication of how deeply you have limited your ability to really live.
John Mark picks up the story in verse 25 saying … “And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, [verse 26] And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,”  This woman was likely a hemophiliac.  She had a degenerative health condition which in her time had no cure, nor effective treatment.  She was losing blood constantly over a twelve year block of time.  She did not take this ailment without attempting to fix it.  She did what all of us do, she went to the doctor for it.  But when the first doctor failed, she got a second opinion, and then a third, until she had seen every doctor she could find.  And in the end, all of her best efforts, all the best of humanity had to offer, was only a further level of misery from the original condition she faced.  How many times, have you faced a challenge in your life, and done your best efforts to meet it, only to find you have actually made things worse?  The temptation to give up all hope becomes even stronger when everything you do, only makes it worse.  But for her to give up, meant to die, so giving up was not an option for this certain woman … or perhaps for you.
Mark continues in verse 27 writing … “When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. [verse 28] For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.”  Here is where a certain woman puts me to shame.  No one told her this would work.  No one had ever tried it.  No one had ever experienced it.  In point of fact, she concocted this idea completely in her own imagination, and set about to carry it out.  There were no sermons outlining a 5 part plan that begins with her own acknowledgement of her need, a donation into the offertory, and then an effort to touch the hem of Jesus’ clothing.  This idea was crazy, and had never been done.  It was going to be a first.  It was the product of her imagination.  But it was something more than that.  This woman did, what you and I, have refused to do.  She let go of her limitations.  She determined that her problem not only could be solved by Jesus, but that it was going to be solved by Jesus, and all she had to do was imagine that truth. 
If she had shared her plans with the other drones in her life, they would have surely and universally, condemned it.  Just like your family and friends would do to you, if you came up with such a clearly hair-brained scheme.  Her pastor or Rabbi, would have pointed out to her, that NOWHERE in scripture (at least up to now) has this EVER been tried, let alone been successful.  There were ZERO documented cases of people walking around that had personally experienced any such thing, and many, many, people had touched Christ before on their own, without any such results.  Up to now, Christ had to make some sort of effort to heal people.  They did not just encounter him anonymously and walk away healed.  They had to interact with Christ, talk to Him, ask Him for what they wanted, and then wait for Him to respond.  Her plan was completely different.  She would not bother Him to talk to Him.  She would not even ask Him to stop doing what He was doing, or going where He was going.  She would just attack Him from behind, get a quick anonymous touch of His clothes, and then resume her life in complete secrecy. 
Her challenge, or issue, was a lethal one, and she had already exhausted all her money, time, and effort on conventional means with only worsening results.  Human limits had been fully employed and fully failed.  Perhaps it was only in this condition, that she was able to imagine a solution beyond human limits.  Must it be so with us?  Must we face a life threatening issue before we even begin to imagine a solution to our problems beyond the limits of humanity?  What if the fact that there is NO money, and NO prospects to finding any, or finding enough; was NOT the limitation we chose to impose on ourselves when it comes to spending on a ministry for others?  Or putting what we have in the offering plate.  What if our very real looking human limitations, could be seen through the lens of imagination, and faith in a God of infinite Love.  Could we too come up with a plan where God solves our problems without so much as a formal request to do so.  The plans of this certain woman were banking on God’s love and ability to solve a problem He would not even have to slow down to do.  That is some radical faith folks.  That is some life altering ideas there, and reflects a complete lack of self-imposed limitations.
So how does it turn out?  Mark continues transcribing in verse 29 saying … “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”  It worked.  This crazy plan worked.  Her challenge was overcome by a Divine power of infinite Love, that could work even without a formal request for it.  A miracle could happen just by following the crazy plans of her imagination, combined with a belief that “no” was not the answer from God in this situation.  She did not do this plan thinking “maybe” it would work.  She did it, believing there was NO limit to the love of God, that God’s Love could flow to her just by touching clothing anonymously in the crowd.  And it worked.  What if we put the money we cannot afford to give in the offering plate when it passes by?  Would we find ourselves destitute as a result, or perhaps blessed beyond what we could have imagined instead?  What if our church spent money it does not have on missions for the poor and those in need, instead of heeding the limits of frugality and financial responsibility it self-imposes?  What if, instead of being devastated by our diagnosis, we imagined that just a mere prayer to our Lord, could heal us of whatever illness we faced, with 100% certainty?  Would we find our crazy imagination was more real than our limited and self-imposed reality we too had constructed?
It is our limitations, that cause us to think, there is only one way we can be healed by God.  It is our limitations that cause us to think, that God often says “no” to us when we face a challenge instead of “knowing” He has an answer for what our collective human might could not solve.  The entire Bible is a series of stories of how God solves problems we could not, including our redemption and reclamation.  Yet we believers are content to construct limits on how God can and will interact with us.  We see limits in our lives when no such limits even exist.  We construct limits, instead of seeing beyond our perspective, that from His viewpoint no such limit exists.  What for us is difficult, is for Him child’s play.  But Jesus did not want this incident to be a private one.  He wanted you and I to know that crazy imaginations can and will be real.  He wanted you and I to know that “we” can be a certain woman who ignores her own limitations and those of her family and friends and see done, what no one believed could be done.  So Jesus decides to see this story recorded.
Mark continues in verse 30 saying … “And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?”  So one crazy plan deserves another.  The very nature of a press, is that people are pressing in on you, they are touching you, crowding you, and in effect are all over you.  They are patting Jesus on the back, trying to hug Him, trying to be as close to Him as a person can be.  They touch His arms, try to hold His hands.  They just want to be close to Him.  This is what a press is by definition in this instance.  And in the midst of His walking with Jairus to the home of Jairus to heal His daughter, Jesus pauses to ask who touched His clothing?  The question makes NO sense to anyone there … except this woman.  She knows, that Jesus knows, what she has done.  But the disciples have no clue.
John Mark continues in verse 31 saying … “And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?”  The disciples decide to take on the role of Captain Obvious, and ask the question, “what are You talking about?”  A thousand people are trying to get close to you and touch you, and you want us to identify everyone who might have been close enough to do so, a moment ago?  But the disciples are viewing this question through the lens of humanity, Jesus is viewing it through something wider than just this view.  Mark continues in verse 32 transcribing events … “And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. [verse 33] But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.”  Jesus begins looking at the crowd to find this woman.  It won’t take Him long.  But the woman realizes her anonymity is not going to last.  The idea that God did not need to be bothered to see her healed was actually not as true as she had imagined.  God wanted to be bothered.  God wanted her to know, He had the time to make time, just for her.  She too was special to Him.  She too mattered.  Just like you do.  Just like I do.  He wants to slow down to meet our needs, He is willing to be delayed in going where He is going, to take a minute for us.  She needed to know this.
So Jesus reveals a deeper truth to her and us about the nature of His infinite love to her beginning in verse 34 saying … “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”  He does not refer to her as “a certain woman”, nor does He state her name.  Instead He has a much more intimate term for her.  He calls her Daughter.  He has made her family.  He has rewarded her imagination with more than just a physical healing, He is adopting her into His family, and making her know just how important she is to Him.  He is not humiliating her, He is uplifting her.  He lets her know that He knows exactly what she was healed of.  He lets her know that He wanted all along to bring her and you and I this kind of healing.  We too can be healed of our plagues.  We too can see our challenges melt away, if we are willing to embrace the crazy.  If we are willing to let our imaginations become our reality, instead of denying His love and power because of our ideas of facts.  We need to be like a certain woman, who recognized the power and magnitude of His love was big enough to reach her in an unconventional means.  It did not take a pastors intercession, or a group of prayer warriors, or a donation into the plate.  It only took a crazy scheme she made up in her head, that banked on the size of His love for her.  Perhaps our own crazy ideas about how much God loves us, are not so crazy after all.
But the spiritual series of miracles had one more hit to yet put on display …

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bleeding and Dying No More [part one] ...

In a spiritual grand-slam, Jesus was about to complete 2 more miracles that combined with His first 2 would produce 4 sequential “proofs” of His identity as the literal Son of God.  In just the space of a few days, Jesus opens with commanding nature and it obeys.  In this He proved He is our Creator, and the Creator of this world, no matter what evolutionists would like to say about the rules of science.  For wind, wave, and storm though inanimate, hear the voice of He who made them and do His will in an instant.  The distance across the lake is transcended in the blink of an eye, thus bending time and space, all within the first hit of this spiritual grand-slam … nature, time and space bend to the will of God alone.  Next He commands nearly two thousand demons to leave the body of a man beyond human ability to help.  Satan and his many hosts cannot stand in front of the light of love that emanates from Jesus Christ.  Nearly 2 legions of the supernatural are dismissed in a single command.  Satan and his followers do not cede to the commands of men, but in front of Christ are powerless to resist.  In his second hit, Jesus demonstrates no enemy can stand before Him, truly Love conquers all.
As Peter continues recounting the story in the gospel of John Mark in chapter 5, Jesus will end a lifelong disease and fatal in His time of (hemophilia); which was again beyond human capacity to heal.  No illness was beyond His ability to heal, no affliction including that of our deep-rooted addiction to sin, was or is beyond His reach to heal even now.  Then finally as the fourth act in this sequence, Jesus would bring back to life she who was dead.  Not even death was beyond the scope of He who was and is the author of all life.  Four times in a row, Jesus would demonstrate time and time again, that He was and IS our Creator.  He can bring back to life that which was dead and dying.  He can restore what we cannot.  He can heal what is beyond our reach.  Perhaps it is our reach itself, that interferes with His ability to do just that for us here and now.  Perhaps if we were to be satisfied with the role of stunned observer, relying solely on Him to do what He has demonstrated He can do, our lives would be entirely different here and now.  The lessons of these stories were not meant to be those of history alone, but object lessons of what is possible in His name today.  Perhaps we should ponder this perspective as we examine the opening of His third and fourth acts in this sequence.
Peter picks up the recollection in verse 21 as John Mark transcribes saying … “And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.”  Jesus had accomplished His mission to free the demoniac and now returned back to the other side of the sea where He had recently been preaching.  There was no point to attempting another storm to kill Him, as His command over nature had been firmly established.  The disciples did not need a repeat encounter to remember what would forever be etched into their memory.  A lesson perhaps for us; we sometimes encounter the miracles of Christ in our lives.  They are great, mysterious, and have a profound impact on us.  But as time passes we tend to forget how great His love to us truly was.  It fades, and we begin to ask, where God is, as if He had never interacted with us at all.  Yet what happened, happened.  It does not have to be repeated to be as real.  No matter how often, or seldom (due to our convenient memories), our God interacts with us, He does in fact, interact with us.
Peter then recalls a surprising encounter as John Mark writes in verse 22 saying … “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,”  A closer examination of this truth is warranted here.  In our day there is movement entitled Black lives matter.  It is a slogan based on the point of view of oppression.  Our black brothers and sisters attempt to call out the injustice they experience from our policing organizations sometimes based solely in the difference in skin color.  Our black family calls for an end to injustice and oppression from those who have no basis for this treatment - though not all police are guilty of it.  The broader prevailing view is to extend the sentiment to encompass not only our black family members, but ALL our family members.  To say ALL lives matter is to say that injustice and oppression are experienced more by the poor than by those of means.  Poverty is often more the recipient of injustice and extends not just to those of black skin color, but of Hispanic, Asian, Native Americans, and White.  The idea of ALL lives matter extends even to our policing organizations as their service is critical to our social order and well-being, and not all policemen are corrupt or inflict injustice to those who are poor, or of darker skin tone.
But what Peter describes here is a level beyond that.  The Pharisees and Sadducees, the “rulers of the synagogue” were committed to killing Jesus Christ.  This was not just injustice and oppression by the powers of the day, by the policing force of the day, it was an intention to kill innocence with the full knowledge of innocence.  This ruling group was unlike our police force.  Our police force has a small minority of participants who wreak injustice, and reveal corruption, but the majority of it are well intentioned and trying to do their best for our society.  The facts bear this out, as crime is not out of control and it would be, if the majority of police officers were corrupt themselves and also engaging in it.  But the rulers of the temple can barely count three or four of the hundreds in charge who were not actively trying to kill Christ.  Nicodemus, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, and here Jairus are some of the only names not directly tied to killing Christ.  Talk about corruption.  If this were our condition, it would be like having 98% of our police force, who by the way were well armed, organized, and trained … intent on killing us … who are poor, untrained, and undefended.  Not one of us based on these conditions would start a movement to declare that the lives of our ENEMIES matter.  Justice would demand we condemn this group.  Anyone with ties to it would be universally guilty of its sins.  People would have to resign from this group in order to be treated better by us, or fairly by us, as a group this completely corrupt would have “no redeeming value”.
Jesus is aware of the intentions of this ruling class.  He already knows what He will suffer because of this group and it will be injustice in the highest form.  “None” of these enemies “should” be given the time of day.  But this is far from what happens next as Mark continues recording Peter’s account in verse 23 saying … “And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”  One of these enemies has done the unthinkable.  He has come to Christ and fallen at His feet.  He begins to beg Jesus Christ to come to his home and heal his daughter who is gravely ill.  In front of a great crowd who has assembled to hear Jesus preach and watch Him do His miracles … comes a sworn enemy of Christ.  This enemy who by reputation alone is supposed to have nothing to do with “this carpenter from Nazareth” where nothing good comes from; has come anyway, and has prostrated himself in humility before the feet of Jesus Christ.  He begs for the life of his daughter.  This is the motivation for the actions of Jairus, but in these actions are revealed a few facts.
Jairus “knows” Jesus Christ “can” heal his daughter.  He is not there on a maybe.  If Jesus were just another physician, Jairus would not have ruined his own reputation to seek Him out.  The miracles of healing of Jesus Christ are so widely publicized by this time, and so widely witnessed, they have been established as “facts” by the people who live in this day.  The ruling class can deny these miracles all they want, but like the atheists of our day, it is a choice NOT to believe, where for others who have personally witnessed the transforming power of God, there is “proof” of His existence and power and love.  Despite all the denials of the ruling class, when push comes to shove, Jairus knows the miracles are in fact true.  Jesus can heal his daughter when no other doctor will be able to.  But then why should He?  Jesus has no logical incentive to help one of the members of His enemies.  Jairus was not breaking ties with the ruling class, in order to heal his daughter.  He remained one of the rulers of the temple.  In point of fact, even as he throws himself at the feet of Jesus, he remains tied to the group who is bent on killing Christ.
Jairus, like us, is not yet ready to give up everything for the sake of his daughter.  He could have abandoned the temple and committed there to become a disciple of Christ.  He could have given away his wealth and become the thirteenth disciple, but he was not ready to go that far yet.  So why should Christ help this man, if spiritually this man was not ready to be a disciple?  Why should Christ help us, if like Jairus, we are not even ready to give our all to Him in exchange for His help?  For Jairus to come to Jesus reveals yet another “fact” he was counting on … namely the love of Jesus Christ.  Jairus knew of Jesus’ love for His enemies.  This was not just a slogan, or a myth.  He had heard enough about it, and seen it perhaps for himself, in how Jesus responds to those who mean Him harm, to have faith and confidence to come to Jesus and beg for help.  Jairus trusts that Jesus will love him, even though he is a sworn enemy as tied to this group.  Jairus is banking on the love of Jesus, if not for himself, then for his daughter.
But the response of Jesus was consistent with who Jesus is.  Our God loves us.  Not just some of us.  Not because of our skin color, or level of wealth, or job we cling to in our society … instead He loves ALL of us, because to Him even the lives of His enemies matter.  In fact, our God would rather die for His enemy, than see an enemy suffer that fate.  So perhaps predictably Peter recounts the response in verse 24 saying … “And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.”  Jesus does not argue with Jairus, He does not delay him to debate the merits of going with him.  He does not demand that Jairus publicly denounce the evil intentions of the ruling class, before he is worthy of assistance.  Jesus just goes with him, without a single precondition.  He asks Jairus for nothing.  He does not ask for money, or future fairness and consideration.  He does not ask him to think about the group of folks he is working with, or to reconsider killing Him later on.  He does not ask Jairus to be part of a reform movement that might work to correct the corruption of the ruling class.  In short, he does not ask Jairus to change in any way, shape, or form, before he goes to help him and his daughter.  He meets Jairus just where he is, hears his request, and is answering it, without a single precondition.
It would be like the cop who pulls the trigger completely unwarranted and without cause, coming to the mother of the deceased, and asking for help … without being willing to apologize, change his profession, or even stop doing what he did that caused her so much pain.  And the mom going without a word, to help the cop out.  This is the level of love Jesus has for the life of His enemies.  He does not try to change His enemies by demand, or as precondition.  Instead He lets His love speak for itself.  Instead He shows His enemy how He loves them, and how much He loves them, and the power of love melts the heart steeped in evil.  There is no heart of stone that cannot be reached by the depth of the love of Jesus Christ.  Love does not need to command obedience.  When Love is truly witnessed, when Love is truly experienced, obedience is the natural response.  It is automatic.  Jairus will be changed by these events, but not because he was commanded to be changed, but because he witnesses the power of love in his life and the life of his family.
But the second half of this spiritual grand-slam had only begun, on the way to the final act to demonstrate the identity of Christ, was the third miraculous story which will continue in our next installment …

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ending Satanic Infestation ...

There was a reason why Jesus had chosen to cross the Sea of Galilee with his disciples and the small band of follower’s intent on watching what happened next.  It was not a random act.  It was by intent.  For on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in the country of the Gadarenes was a man who desperately needed help only Jesus could provide.  This poor man was burdened with a Satanic infestation.  As we sit in our homes today, in the comfort of modern conveniences and advanced technologies, we do not dream of living in a condition where our decisions and actions are possessed by powers beyond our control.  There are very few actual demonstrations of supernatural power reflected through mankind today, and this too is by intent.  Atheists are constantly demanding “proof” of God, if Satan were to be too open in the demonstration of his own power, offering “proof” of God’s enemy might inadvertently prove the existence of God Himself.  So modern Christians believe they live beyond the reach of the supernatural, and cannot identify with someone whose decisions and actions are governed by a power beyond their own control.  The idea, that “the devil made me do it”, is now only a joke we recite about criminal defendants we believe have no real reason for their crimes and should suffer the maximum penalties allowed by law.  But are we yet again self-deceived?
To understand how real an infestation can be, one need only look at the nature of addiction itself.  An observer who is not burdened by addiction, looks at the actions and behavior of a drug addict, and simply cannot make logical sense of them.  It is clear that drugs have a horrible effect on our lives.  They destroy our health, evaporate our money, demean our relationships, and will ultimately kill us.  Apart from a momentary chemically induced “high”, they have no redeeming value.  And in point of fact, the “high” itself is based on the destruction of brain cells which do not regenerate.  Nothing about doing drugs offers the addict anything more than a rapid progression to the grave.  Yet the addict will pursue his next fix, with a dedication of singular intent.  Why?  This is not a logical course of action.  This is NOT in the self-interest of the addict.  This is the most self-destructive action the addict could possibly take, and yet he does it anyway in full knowledge of these facts.  An addict is not actually trying to commit suicide, but for all practical purposes, seems to be “unable” to refuse this course.  In point of fact, brain chemistry is altered over time, making doing this action easier than not doing it.
Once a person becomes an addict, they are going to need external help, to find a way out.  For the non-addicted person, this is hard to understand.  But before we look away from the plight of a drug addict, I would ask the non-addicted audience “why” do they still commit the sins they find pleasure in?  Sin, in every form, has the nature of addiction, in that while we know it is harmful to us, and destroys everything it touches, we still consciously choose to embrace it.  Sin is also degenerative in nature, meaning the more we embrace what looks at first like little sins, the more we find ourselves rationalizing bigger and bigger sins, until at some point we refuse to see sin as sin at all.  Could it be that we suffer from our own modern versions of Satanic infestations more than we would like to admit?  Could it be that our ability to “control” our desires and our actions was never in our control; that we are in fact out of control, as we have quietly ceded it to our enemy of souls?  Is it possible that ALL human behavior is enslaved to a supernatural influence, whether to Jesus in a journey of redemption and restoration, or to Satan in an illusion that tells us we remain in control when we do not?
For those who believe themselves to be fully in control of their own desires, decisions, and actions, I would pose the question … why have you not embraced perfection yet, when you clearly know what benefits it offers.  The lack of perfection in your life, is a reflection that how you are trying to achieve it is fundamentally flawed.  While you may be able to abstain and refrain from acting on your darker impulses, the desires for those darker ideas remains in place.  Only external help can break the chains of slavery that exist within our minds and hearts.  Only Jesus Christ can make us free from the bondage of souls we have ceded to the enemy of God over time.  Our apathy, and our greed, lead us into submission to Satanic influences, and only God can even offer us the clarity to make a different choice.  It is not our strength to combat these evil influences that is required of us, it is instead only our willingness to submit to a different power, to the power of the love of Jesus Christ that will make us whole.
Our societal advancements have lulled us into spiritual lethargy.  We no longer concern ourselves about behavior that might be governed by powers beyond our control.  We no longer believe it is possible to suffer from a Satanic infestation, particularly without our knowledge and consent.  Yet we remain dumbfounded as to why we do what we do.  And there are fleeting moments when we seem to be watching ourselves commit actions and deeds we know to be wrong, don’t even want to do, yet do anyway, as if watching a movie of ourselves committing these heinous destructive deeds.  There are no logical explanations for these events.  There are no psychological reasons that are anything other than self-destructive for the courses we pursue, yet we blaze down these paths of destruction attempting to accelerate our speed within them.  Perhaps, our false sense of security, and disbelief about the power of our enemy, has led us to this point.  Perhaps we, like the man Jesus was en-route to assist, need to be made free from the influences beyond our control.
Peter resumes the story of this man’s redemption in the beginning of John Marks gospel in chapter five and verse 1 saying … “And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. [verse 2] And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,”  It is perhaps no small amount of symbolism that a man burdened with a Satanic infestation chooses to live among the tombs of the dead.  For as we are slave to our sins, and our desire to sin, we too have found ourselves in a life more filled with the dead than with the living.  Our ability to love is stunted, our ability to do good for others dissipates until it no longer exists.  We become consumed with a level of selfishness that has no ability to be satiated.  Our hunger to please self grows like the mindless zombies of movie lore, until we stumble from one act of self-pleasure to the next one, not knowing or caring what will happen next.
The condition of this poor man, was known not only to God, but to those who lived in the area.  He had become a dangerous threat.  Peter continues to recount his condition before meeting Christ beginning in verse 3 saying … “Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: [verse 4] Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. [verse 5] And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.”  This is the level of depravity to which all sins leads, a level of self-destructive behavior that no sane person can understand.  The local residents were intent on squelching this threat.  Anyone willing to hurt themselves by cutting their own flesh with stones, obviously would have no problem hurting a passerby.  Anyone who ventured near the mountains or the tombs was sure to encounter this man, and could possibly be killed in the process.
So from time to time, the local residents would band together and attack this man in great numbers intent on putting him in iron chains and bracelets to bind him hand and foot.  This would easily subdue a normal person, it was how the Romans did it.  But not so for this guy.  Because of what resided within him, a supernatural power allowed him to break chains as if they were made of straw.  The iron bracelets seemed to shatter like glass on the stones around him.  What was fully capable of binding a normal person, was for him only a minor aggravation.  This man did not sleep like the rest of us.  What he ate and drank were unimportant to him.  He existed in the mountains and near the tombs of the dead perpetually looking for an opportunity to terrorize others.  Human abilities to contend with this situation had been exhausted.  No person could bind him, or tame him.  The best that could be done was to avoid him.  You can imagine that both Jewish Rabbi’s and Roman Authorities, had been employed at one point or another to fix this man, but neither were up to the level of this challenge, and both sought to simply avoid further confrontation.
But what man finds impossible, Jesus does not.  Satan tried to kill Christ before He could free this man in the storm that had come upon the lake during the journey.  Satan did not want to lose the value of this man in this region spreading fear.  The demons however, also knew what was coming, they too had fears as hard as that is to imagine for us as John Mark chronicles beginning in verse 6 writing … “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, [verse 7] And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.”  What was left of the man inside this hollow shell sought out Christ to worship Him and fall at His feet.  Even in this act, the man could not control his own speech.  And instead of the words to cry for help that he longed to utter, came only the voice of demons entrenched in the body of this man. 
These demons spoke in front the disciples and of the crowd of followers who were there as well from the little boats that followed Jesus across the Sea.  They once again immediately identified Jesus as the “Son of the Most High God”.  This public declaration was not meant to flatter or uplift Jesus, it was designed to cause controversy and a crisis of faith in His followers who were not ready to accept this reality of truth as to the identity of Christ.  Each time before Christ had commanded the demons to keep silent, but this time perhaps the crowd was small enough, and perhaps dedicated enough, to accept that He may indeed be the Son of God.  So this time silence was not commanded of them.
The second part of what the demons spoke revealed their own versions of fear.  They ask that in the name of God, for Jesus not to torment them.  The torment they refer to here is not what you and I would immediately think of … some sort of interdimensional version of hell where a lake of fire tortures but does not consume its victims.  By that kind of traditional logic and thinking, the devil is supposed to be “in charge” of that place, and demons are merely his helpers tormenting the souls of evil men.  Hardly a place demons would wish to avoid.  If it were real, they would love to be there watching and helping men to suffer.  But that was not what the demons feared or did not want to be exposed to.  Instead it was something completely opposite.  The memory of the perfect harmony and fulfillment of love and life in heaven was what they did not want to have to endure again, in the degenerated state in which they found themselves.  To be exposed to the pure and intense and infinite love of God, and know by contrast how horrible it is to be separated from that love is what the demons wished to avoid.  It was too great a punishment for them to endure to be forced to remember how good was the life and existence they left, when they sided with Lucifer, and made war in heaven itself.
Now, in the degenerated state they were in, they were living inside a man, dwelling among the tombs of the dead.  Their entire demonic existed consisted in torturing and causing fear in men.  There was no love among them, or for them.  All love had gone away.  They had driven it out of themselves because of the degenerative nature of sin and self-love.  They were now only shadows of their former angelic state.  They were creatures far diminished from what once was.  They still had power, but had lost all love.  Then came Jesus Christ into their presence, and they were forced to confront the perfect love they had abandoned.  It was too much for them.  They did not wish to be reminded that redemption was possible.  They did not wish to see and feel the lure of love on their decrepit existence.  Better to be left alone, better to be sent away, they must hide themselves from the source of infinite love.  They must flee from the light in front of them.  Better to seek the abyss of darkness than stand in the light of love that emanates from the Son of the Living God.  So they beg for mercy to leave them to their suffering without the memory of how good, good can really be.
Peter continues to tell the story to John Mark in this gospel in verse 8 saying … “For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. [verse 9] And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. [verse 10] And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.”  The conversation between Christ and the demons continues as Christ does what He came specifically to do.  They are first commanded to leave the man.  There is no argument here about whether they will be able to stay in him or not, the commands of God cannot be argued with.  They will leave.  Jesus asks them their name.  The name is revealing as well.  For it is not just a single demon living in this man, but “many”.  A legion in the Roman vernacular referred to a thousand men.  Lest we think this Satanic infestation is limited to only one, it is not.  Lest we think we may only contend with a single demon in our struggle, we may face considerably more than that.  But it is in Jesus we find, that a single command has the desired effect to make us free from our slavery to self and to the enemy of souls.
The demons could not stand to be in the presence of Christ and His love, but they did not want to leave the country yet either.  They wanted to remain to torture men who refused the freedom Christ offered when He left this region.  So they begged to stay nearby.  A solution seemed to present itself to them as John Mark continues in verse 11 saying … “Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. [verse 12] And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. [verse 13] And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.”  Pigs do not have the same capacity for self-preservation as men do.  When Christ granted the demons request, the demons entered the pigs.  This proves that Satanic infestations are not just limited to mankind, but can impact creatures and animals in nature as well.  But the pigs fear and rage resulted in a quick stampede off a cliff into the sea.  The number of the pigs is also mentioned here as it turned out there were about two-thousand pigs (a great deal bigger than just one legion, but instead nearly two).
It is easy to focus on the demons in this story … how many there were, the conversation they had with Christ, the fears they revealed, and the end of their reign in the herd of dead pigs drowned in the sea.  But this is not a story about demons and their fate or pain.  It is a story about the redemption of a man beyond all human hope.  It is the story of a man who was infested by Satan with 2,000 demons and yet with a simple command of Christ was made free from this lifelong bondage.  While demons are entering pigs and stampeding to their doom, the man is completely restored to his own right mind.  He is offered clothing, perhaps borrowing from the disciples and other followers there with Christ.  He is calm.  He is aware of what has happened.  His gratitude is beyond measure.  He has a life for the first time in his memory.  And there will be witnesses to these events.
John Mark continues the story in verse 14 saying … “And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. [verse 15] And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. [verse 16] And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.”  The pig herders were watching all these events, and when they occurred they ran into town to spread the news.  Local residents could scarcely believe their ears, and went to investigate for themselves.  But upon arriving at the scene, they find the man perfectly restored, not a demon left in him.  The pile of dead pigs 2000 strong reveal the extent of the damage that had been in him.  Everything the pig herders had reported was true.  And the fear of these events continued to plague them.  Rather than embrace Christ now, they were not ready to do so.  So John Mark records their response in verse 17 saying … “And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.” 
The locals no more understood how the demons left this man, than they did who commanded them to do so.  They feared that Jesus having this much power, might be something worse than what they had already seen.  The residents did not hear who Jesus was as declared by the demons.  All they had heard about Jesus was from the religious establishment and none of that was very good.  Of course, none of this impacted the newly freed man in any way.  He was ready to be a disciple of Christ and was determined to follow the orders of Jesus to the end of the earth.  There was no doubt in his mind.  He jumped into the boat to leave when Christ left.  But Jesus had a greater mission for this new disciple.  John Mark continues in verse 18 saying … “And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. [verse 19] Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. [verse 20] And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.”
The personal testimony of this man worked.  ALL men did marvel throughout the entire region from the edge of the sea to the city of Decapolis.  This newly minted missionary was not subject to having demons re-enter him and take over once more.  The command of Christ to free him would last the entire length of his life.  It is thus with us.  When we submit to the power and authority of Jesus Christ to remake us, He can remove our sins, and our desire to sin, so that they do not return to us again.  This is the power the Lord has to alone break the cycle of addiction.  For it is not just our actions Jesus can alter, He can alter the underlying desires that fuel them.  It is the desire to sin that must be ended within us, if we are to know peace.  We are as powerless as this poor man, to change our desires.  But our Lord is completely capable.  The only caveat, is that Jesus will not force His will upon us.  We must ask for it.  We must allow it.  We must “let” Him give us the change and re-creation we so desperately need.
However, when once you have tasted the freedom the Lord offers from a sin or slavery you were once bound to, your personal testimony will begin to have great effect.  We will not become instantly perfect in this process.  We will not be instantly without “any” sin in this life.  In point of fact, starting this journey tends to reveal to us that the count of our demons was way beyond the one or two we were aware of.  And during the journey we should never look at each other as standards of the faith, but only to Jesus.  There will be those of us who fail, who slide back, and re-commit sins we thought ourselves rid of.  While these painful events may cause delays in our journey, the source of our freedom remains ever capable to restore us once again.  It is not our past that will dictate our future, it is our willingness to allow Christ to re-create our future, and thus alter our present that will dictate it. 
Our modern technology is no protection against the powers of darkness.  The same legion of demons that were once cast out along the Sea of Galilee have only degenerated further over the last 2 thousand years.  The same Satan who tried to kill Christ before He could free this man, is still actively looking to kill the followers of Jesus wherever he can.  The powers arrayed against us are still as intent and potent as they ever were.  And should we find ourselves deluded into the idea that they are no longer a threat, we are all the more likely to be suffering under their influence.  But the power of the love of Christ is no less today than it was then either.  His ability to utter a single command and drive the demons from our lives is no less potent today than it was on that beach so long ago.  We need only look to Jesus, and like the demoniac, fall and try to worship Him.  Jesus can and will save us.  Even if our speech is not our own, the intent of our hearts is known by our God.  He can, and He will restore us.  It is His greatest desire, and our sure-fire way to see a Satanic infestation finally come to an end within us …