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When we meet together on Sunday morning, we take some time to share our joys and concerns. If you have any prayer requests you would like to share, you can add them to the comments on this post. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
Lord, thank you that our comfort abounds through Christ. Nothing in the world can bring us the comfort and peace that you alone can offer. Thank you that you understand our trials, and you care. Through our own struggle and pain, help us to be your vessels to offer comfort and strength to others who are hurting. Thank you Lord that through every weakness and hard place, your strength is displayed in our lives. We can’t do it on our own. But you can, through us. Your power is Mighty within us, you are our Helper and our Strength. All things are possible through you. Amen.
This week's lesson is on Mark 5:1-13, 18-20.
Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to a region of 10 cities called Decapolis. When they left the boat they encountered a man coming from the tombs. These tombs were where they buried their dead. Any Jew would consider this man unclean because of his living among the caves with dead bodies. Jesus never mentioned that. Jesus' greater concern was wholeness in the Lord, rather than with outer, ritual uncleanness.
Once the man lost control of himself, his community tried to step in. Though binding him with a chain may once have worked, the demon within granted such perverse strength that the demoniac tore those restraints apart. His strength was matched by a wildness that no one could subdue. The image is of a dangerous, undomesticated beast. The best course of action for the community was to be wary and hope the demon-possessed man would not come among them and cause harm.
A healthy person generally makes decisions that maintain his or her overall well being. In the demoniac's case, he had lost so much control that even his instinct to care for himself was overridden. No one could prevent him from hurting himself or others.
When the demon-possessed man saw Jesus from a distance he shouted, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” The demon must have been doing the talking. No human had yet acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God, another clue that the demon knew what the others did not.
The title Most High God emphasizes God's absolute rule over the heavens and of the earth and under the earth, including every creature within those realms- supernatural or not.
When Jesus asked the demon his name, the demon said Legion for we are many. Ancient people often believed that invoking the name of a spiritual being granted some power over that being. But Jesus needed no tips or tricks to obtain power over the demons. Instead, Jesus was preparing to teach the disciples a lesson of the utmost importance: no matter how the powers of evil stacked against him, Jesus was always in charge.
The demon begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. Jesus could send the demons to the abyss. Instead the demons wanted Jesus to send them among the pigs. The pigs must have been owned by a gentile population. They recognized that Jesus was in complete control but perhaps Legion hoped to linger in the unclean pigs; then when Jesus had left the region, they could reenter the man or find a new victim. With Jesus' permission Legion might have thought they had succeeded in outwitting the Son of God. The impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. What the impure spirits experience here was a foretaste of the defeat that Satan would experience following Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Though Satan looked for victory over Jesus, what the devil experienced was unexpected.
In theory, the numbers involved should have put Jesus at a disadvantage. However, even though Jesus seemed outnumbered, there was never any doubt about his victory in this encounter. The herdsman did not see this extraordinary sign of God's goodness and victory over evil. Instead, they felt fear. This explains why the community asked Jesus to leave there after this encounter.
The man who had been demon-possessed begged to follow Jesus. Jesus did not let him but told to go home to your people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on You. So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
The Sunday School books state this was a different outcome than when Mary Magdalene was delivered from seven demons. She became one of Jesus' most dedicated followers. Luke 8:2.
Throughout Mark's Gospel, Jesus frequently told people to stay quiet about what he did for them. Given that we know Jesus ultimately wanted the gospel to spread throughout the world, why would he tell people he'd healed to stay quiet? Maintaining what has been called the messianic secret seems to have been Jesus practice in Jewish regions, particularly earlier in his ministry. But in the Gentile region, Jews had the Old Testament, and especially the prophets, to point to Jesus, the secrecy could have been a temporary measure to allow Jesus' ministry to grow in its own time. Some people believe it was because Jesus wanted his ministry to be about his preaching rather than a healing and miracles ministry. It could also be that telling of all Jesus' miracles would have increased his popularity but also increased his opposition to stop his ministry. But because Gentiles did not have the Scriptures to refer to or learn from, eyewitness accounts of the Jewish teacher and healer would prepare the soil for faith to come. Though not exactly the same because the Samaritans did follow Mosaic law, the story of the Samaritan woman's witness illustrates the potential power of firsthand accounts.
We too have been delivered by Jesus. And like the former demoniac, we have stepped out of a life that was more like death. We too are called to share the story of a life that was more like death. We too are called to share the story that Jesus has done for us, to prepare our own communities to meet Christ and come to new life. No matter the legions aligned against us. Jesus is in control! All we have to do is place our faith in him, with joy and obedience.
Heavenly Father, May we remember your Son's mighty power and be quick to ask for deliverance. May we as your servants show our gratitude by proclaiming to others the good things you have done for us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen
I asked Lisa about her thoughts on the lesson and about demonic possession. Her thoughts were that when Jesus was walking the earth that it was a special time of angelic activity. We had never heard of a choir of angels singing like what the shepherds experienced at Jesus's birth or the angels who took care of Jesus after his temptation in the desert. It would only stand to reason that there would be increased demonic activities. What does Mark want us to know from this scripture? That Jesus has the power over the whole spirit world. He uses his power to further his kingdom.
Today's benediction is from the King James Version.
Next week's lesson is on Luke 24:1-12.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.