I recently found an entry in one of my old journals; "You’ll find me seated and in my right mind, pointing anyone and everyone to the man who crossed the sea and storm to respond to my cries."
Out of all the Bible characters, one of my favourites and the one I have related the most with is the demon-possessed man. His encounter with Jesus has stayed with me through my few years of being a Christian. The Gospel of Mark introduces us to a man who had been outcasted, excluded and deeply tormented.
This man continually lived among the tombs, and no one could subdue him any more, even with a chain; For he had been bound often with shackles for the feet and handcuffs, but the handcuffs of [light] chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he rubbed and ground together and broke in pieces; and no one had strength enough to restrain or tame him.Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones.
Mark 5:3-5 (AMPC)
Jesus in the previous chapter rallied His disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” Living on assignment, He recognised there was a mission that needed His presence across the lake. He knew there was a man on the other side of it to encounter - a man who had been shunned and lived in the graveyards. Night and day, among the tombs and in the mountains, the cries of a distressed and tormented man rent the air.
We are followers of the Way who have encountered 'so great a salvation' (Hebrews 2:3). Salvation is the greatest miracle. It's a miracle to be forgiven by a loving and merciful God, in spite our sin. It's a miracle to have a record of wrongs wiped clean when all we deserved was judgement. It's a miracle to be made white as snow and have our sins, failures and mistakes thrown into a sea of forgetfulness. It's all a miracle. A miracle we get to extend to others who have not yet experienced this.
More often than not, we fail to tell of this miracle to others. Night and day the demon-possessed man cried out. Night and and day, in my mind's eye, the people of the town said, "Oh it's just our local madman. Nothing new there."
Their cries can become like background noise as we go about the hustle and bustle of our Christian lives. What sounds like irritation, annoyance and inconvenience to everyone else reaches the heart of God.
We can easily become deafened to the cries of others and numbed to their pain. We just keep going. We have goals, ambitions and pursuits and no time to stop. It's easier to bind, or send far off. It's easier to judge and dismiss than to stop and understand. It's easier to place labels than to sit and extend grace. We see their symptoms but don't have the discernment, patience and compassion to look past the symptoms and into the root-cause.
On the voyage across the lake to the other side was a ferocious storm. Perhaps Jesus, all-knowing, merciful, compassionate and loving knew more than everyone else did. Perhaps what He knew to be true about the man led Him across that lake - even though He knew there would be a storm on the way there.
So often, the loudness of the sinful ways of others hinders us from approaching or going out of our way for them. What if we were those who resolved that a storm was not going to get in the way of our going to the other side for those who have been shunned? Yes, they may have just acted out more than ever before. Yes, they may have relapsed. Yes, they may have made the worst mistake and may be steeped in sin. But if you listen close enough, their lives and actions are a cry.
That person who's deeply bound in addiction? That's a cry. That person sleeping around? That's a cry. That person jumping from relationship to relationship? That's a cry. That person dependent on applause, praise and approval? That's a cry. The cry of creation will never fall on deaf ears - at least not God's ears. Scripture tells us he collect all our tears in a bottle and keeps track of our sorrows (Psalm 56:8) and He who formed us know the things that no one else knows.
After Jesus delivered this man, the writer of the Gospel describes the man as 'properly clothed' meaning that this man previously had not been well-dressed. I again envisioned, the time in between Jesus casting out the demons from the man, the herdsmen running to the villages and people coming to see what had happened.....someone had dressed him. There, was the once demon possessed man, seated, properly dressed and in his right mind. He who was naked was now clothed. He who lurked around a graveyard was seated. He who snapped the chains, broke the shackles in pieces and cut himself with stones was now in his right mind.
And as Jesus began to get into the boat to depart, the man who had been set free from demons asked him, “Could I go with you?” Jesus answered, “No,” but said to him, “Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had mercy on you.”
How do we tell others of the mercy He has had on us? Faithfully following Jesus looks like, paying attention to the cries of others. It looks like braving storms for others through compassion, intercession and persistent prayers for their salvation and deliverance.
As Jesus prepared to depart, the once demon-possessed man asked to go with Jesus and leave the place where he had lived a tormented life. Jesus, however, gave the man a different mission - to go back to the place he was known as a madman and tell of the mercy God had on him.
We've all been that demon-possessed man at one point or another. We've all encountered His mercy. We don't just walk away from the places where we have had a reputation in the past, we go back and tell of the mercy He has had on us in the hopes that they may know He can have mercy on them too. The man went on into the Decapolis (the ten cities) telling of what Jesus had done.
I'm still reflecting on that old journal entry and my desire to be one of those who was once lost and broken, now found and whole, telling others about my encounter with this man from Nazareth. Here's my new desire: To not just to be one who you'll find seated and in her right mind, pointing others to Jesus but to be one actually going and crossing divides to snatch others from the fire. To be one who correctly translates the cries of others. To be one willing to go back to places I had a different reputation with a mission to tell of the mercy that God has had on me.
Jesus did only what He saw His Father do (John 5:19). As followers, we are called to do only what we see Jesus, the One we follow do. He endured storms to get to the other side of the lake. He heeded to the call, harkened to the cry and took action. He endured the ferocity of the storm and he met the man at the shore of the graveyards. How beautiful are the feet that bring good news (Romans 10:14-15). The feet of those who will go after the lost and the broken, regardless of whatever stench of sin or barrier of mistakes they may find along the way.
He's still going after the ostracised, the ignored and the rejected today. He's still listening to the deeper cry of their hearts. He's still crossing seas and voyaging through storms in response to their cries. And if He's doing it, we should too.
To those that live among the tombs, He sees you,
To those whose cries have gone on deaf ears, He hears you,
To those who are judged, broken and ignored, He loves you,
To those who are far off, He's coming after you.