The Life-Changing Power of Jesus

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Mark 5:1-20 NASB

And they came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;

4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

5 And constantly night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones.

6 And seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;

7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”

8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”


February 12, 2012
Mark 5:1-20 NASB, The Life-Changing Power of Jesus
Pastor Patti Ricotta, Brewster Baptist Church


10 And he began to entreat Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

11 Now there was a big herd of swine feeding there on the mountain.

12 And the demons entreated Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”

13 And He gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 And their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

15 And they came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.

16 And those who had seen it, described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.

17 And they began to entreat Him to depart from their region.

18 And as He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was entreating Him that he might accompany Him.

19 And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone marveled.

 

This is one wild story isn’t it? It’s got some pretty bizarre elements—a demon possessed man, howling at the moon, living in tombs because he is too violent to be controlled. Then you have Jesus casting the demons into a herd of pigs. They run headlong into the sea, and drown.

Then you’ve got the mad man being totally restored to perfect sanity. And… he becomes a preacher.

You may be thinking, “Oh, that’s a story from long ago and far away. It’s got nothing to do with my life.” But I want to show you that it does have significance in our lives. There are many aspects of this demon possessed man’s life that are not really that far off from our own.

This story shows us that Jesus’ power can break into the most difficult parts of your life and transform you. Then you can more clearly reflect the image of God and live out your holy purpose.

The story begins with Mark telling us that “they (meaning Jesus and his disciples) came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.” This sentence refers to much more than geography. Jesus is “going to the other side” in every possible way.

On one side of the sea, is Galilee and all things Jewish. But on the opposite side, Jesus enters into the world of all things “unclean” according to Jewish law: unclean tombs, unclean man, unclean spirits, unclean pigs. In fact, the country of the Gerasenes is part of a large predominantly Gentile region made up of ten cities known as the Decapolis (deka=ten; polis=city–decapolis.) All Gentiles were unclean to Jews. I can imagine Mark’s first Jewish listeners might be thinking, “Why in the world would any self-respecting Jewish man go all the way across the sea into Gentile territory? Just getting out of the boat would make him unclean.”

But Jesus breaks Jewish law in order to teach the spirit of the law. To Jesus, no one is so unclean, so far from God, that he or she is beyond the loving, redeeming, healing reach of Jesus. No one! Jesus had already traveled a far greater distance than the width of the Sea of Galilee to transform this tortured, lonely man. He had left home, and throne, and the glory of heaven for him. He’s come that far to transform you too.

What kind of transformation do you need? …Really! If Jesus walked into this sanctuary right now, what would he point out in your life that needs transforming? Are you reluctant to ask Jesus for a transformation in your life? Are you thinking: “The defects in my life are too deep”?

Or, “I’ve always be this way. I’m used to it now.” Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ve already prayed and nothing’s happened.”

Well think about this. There is no indication that the demon possessed man had been praying to be transformed. Being a Gentile, he probably didn’t even know who Jesus was. But even still, Jesus intentionally puts this man’s healing into motion way back in chapter 4 verse 35. In chapter 4, Jesus had just finished teaching on the west side of the Sea of Galilee when he said to his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side.” At this point we don’t know why he wanted to go there. He doesn’t say. But I believe Jesus knew exactly why he was going there. He wanted to set this man free. In fact, I believe it was the only reason he went there. He arrived, he healed the man, he got in the boat and came back home. He went there for this one man and that’s all. Jesus knew that his power was the only thing that could change the man’s life, even if the man didn’t know it himself. Jesus knows what you need too, even if you don’t.

So Jesus set out to heal him. But, then, as they were sailing across the sea at night a terrible storm came up and swamped the boat. Pastor Mary talked about this last week.

The disciples were terrified and it seemed like the boat would capsize and everyone would die. But Jesus was on a mission. He calmed the raging storm in the sea, so that he could calm the raging storm in the man.

Even before the demon possessed man met Jesus, the Lord was already on the way to transform his life! No matter what your problem is, Jesus is already on his way to you.

He’s already got his mission to restore you; he’s already chosen his route, and he is on the way, bringing your transformation with him. Pray for it! Watch for it! Ask the Lord to give you the eyes to see it coming!

This is a theme throughout the Bible. In Luke 15, the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 safe sheep to go out into the open field and look for the one that strayed away. He sets out to look for the sheep, and keeps on looking until he finds it (Lk 15:4). Then, there’s the woman who had ten silver coins, and lost one. She lights a lamp, she sweeps the house, and she search carefully until she finds it (Luke 15:8).

Eph. 1: 4 teaches that “God chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” To be “holy” and “blameless” requires a transformation. If God chose you that long ago—before the creation of the world—he is not going to give up until he has accomplished his task! The demon possessed man didn’t even know to ask for Jesus’ help. How much more will he come to you when you do ask? There may be storms on Jesus’ way to you—storms that have to be quelled; fields that have to be traversed; lamps that have to be lit in dark corners of your life; dust that has to be swept away. But he has been coming to you since the foundation of the earth, so don’t give up hope, and don’t stop asking. Keep in your mind that the life-changing power of Jesus is already on the way with your transform.

Before Jesus restored this man, Mark gives us a vivid picture of how completely Satan’s power had twisted God’s image in him. In verses 2-5 we read that he had his dwelling among the tombs. No one was able to bind him anymore, not even with a chain. He was often bound with shackles and chains, but he tore them apart and broke them to pieces. In verse 5 we read that he was in such deep torment that he was constantly crying out, wandering in lonely, isolated places night and day, gashing and cutting himself with stones.

There are many terrible things that tormented this demon possessed man. But many of us have experienced some of these things too. Have you ever been homeless, incarcerated, isolated? Have you ever felt that your hands and feet were bound because you just couldn’t seem to move forward in your life. Have you ever been sleepless because of the frightening, or shameful or worrisome thoughts that run through your head at night? Invite the power of Jesus into those situations.

Have you ever felt so disturbed or sad that you wanted to shriek or cry all day and all night- like the man in our story? Have you ever been in so much emotional pain that you cut yourself just to feel the pain in a different place than your heart? Jesus’ power can heal it all.

How’s your temper? Is violence or anger robbing you of the image of God you were meant to reflect? Do you use your anger to control the people around you like this mad-man did? Do your spouse and your kids walk on egg shells around you because they are afraid of saying or doing something that will arouse your displeasure? Why do you do that?

This man used violence to get free from the chains that bound him because that was the only freedom he knew. But just because a person isn’t chained, with steal or iron, it doesn’t mean the person is free, does it?

If you think that controlling others with your temper is what you need to do to feel free, then your vision of freedom is too small. The love of Jesus brings real freedom because the love of Jesus is more powerful than your anger. Author Dan Allander says that, “Love is the most destructive force in the universe…” Let me say that again: “Love is the most destructive force in the universe because it is the only force powerful enough to utterly destroy evil.”[1]

If you are experiencing any of these kinds of internal issues, then you are being robbed of the image of God that you were created to reflect to the world. Jesus knows and cares about every-little-intricate-detail of the issues that demonize your life. The Lord transformed this guy, who was in way worse condition than any of us, and he did it without breaking a sweat! He can give you a breakthrough too.

In John 10:10 the Lord said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus has the power, the authority, and the desire to disentangle you from everything that hides, disguises, blocks or blurs his image in you. Romans 8:29 tells us that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” No one is beyond the reach of Jesus’ transforming love and power. He is more powerful than anything that binds us. And when he transforms us, the result is that the image of God is restored in us. You are the only one who can give the world the picture of God’s character that you alone are designed to reflect.

Jesus takes the initiative to restore us, but then we must respond to him. That’s what happened next in Mark’s story. Jesus arrived at the shore of the Gerasenes. And when the demon possessed man saw him from a distance, he ran up to him and fell at his feet. Then Jesus asks him, “What is your name?” He said, “My name is Legion for we are many.” “Legion” is the term for a Roman regiment of 6,000 soldiers. This man was possessed by 6,000 demons.

 

It seems to me that even though his personality was shattered into 6,000 pieces, there was still some small part of him that recognized his need for Jesus. He could have just hidden in the tombs, or the demons could have driven him away to another place. But instead, the scripture says he ran to met Jesus and prostrated himself before him.

This is a very hopeful piece of information to me. There are people I have been praying for—for years, decades even. Sometimes I get weak and I start to feel defeated when they tell me they don’t believe in God or that they don’t see a need for Jesus. Then I think about this guy. 6,000 demons had carried him away, into a world completely devoid of the knowledge of God and the need for Jesus. But still, there was some tiny something, deep inside of him, something God put in all of us that made him recognize Jesus and what him.

I’m encouraged because when the time was right, that little covered over and crushed, hidden flicker of faith made its way to the surface and the man ran to the feet of Jesus…even though he still had 6,000 reasons not too. Don’t give up praying for your loved ones. Jesus is on his way coming and if the need for Jesus in this guy made it to the surface at the right time, it will happen for our loved ones too. Believe it. Pray for it.

The last thing I want to talk about is that when Jesus transforms our lives, it is because he loves us, and he has created us for a holy purpose. Jesus cast the demons out of the man, giving him a clear and dramatic picture of the reality that the demons were really gone. Instantly, the man was restored to the image of God for which he had been created. Attached to that image— attached to the image of God in you and me, is a holy purpose that is perfectly suited for the way we were created.

When the townspeople came to see what had happened, they found the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed, and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion.” As Jesus was getting into the boat to go back to Galilee, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him (Mar 5:18). You see, he was no longer bound by the demons; he was no longer bound by the shackles that other people had put him in—he wanted to be bound to Jesus.

But, Jesus did not let him go. Instead, he said, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.”

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone marveled.” When Jesus restored the image of God in this man, he gave him a specific holy purpose for his newly transformed life. This purpose included two things: a direction and a message.

The direction the Lord gave him was to go back to the people who had shunned him, chained him, and shackled him—the very people he had shamed, hurt and terrified.

The message Jesus gave him was simply to tell his own story; the story of how Jesus had restored him, and had mercy on him. He didn’t just go home, he went into all 10 cities of the Decapolis and told them the great things the Lord had done for him, and everyone was amazed. His holy purpose was to be the first person to preach about the salvation of Christ to the Gentiles.

He was the first missionary to the Gentiles, even before Paul. It’s possible that his ministry paved the way for Paul.

What is your Holy Purpose? In what direction is God sending you? What is the message he is giving you to share? As we leave here this morning, I hope you will seek out the answer to those questions. Keep in mind that Jesus has been on his way to transform your life since before the creation of the world. He is coming with a transformation designed to restore the image of God in you so that you can live out the Holy Purpose for which you were knit together in your mother’s womb. There are nearly 7 billion people in the world, but when you are the one in need of the life-changing power of Jesus, he will cross to the other side just for you.

Why? Because no one else can be the reflection of God that only you were created to be, and no one else can accomplish the holy purpose that you were created to accomplish.

 

 


[1] This comment was made at a conference I attended in which Allendar was the keynote speaker.