Truth Matters: Among the tombsPublished 7:57am Wednesday, September 8, 2010
By Ken Askew
“And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain…” ESV mark 5:2-3
“He lived among the tombs.” How fitting it is that a demon possessed man would live contentedly in a graveyard among the dead. I say contentedly because we are told that even chains would not hold him anymore. Society had not found a proper or effective way of dealing with him and, left to his own devices, he wound up in a cemetery; a spiritually dead man living with physically dead men.
Even though, perhaps because, he could not be cuffed and no man had the strength to take him, this man wandered the tombs and the mountainside outside of town making a scene and doing himself (and no doubt others) physical harm. But interestingly, the bible tells us that when he encounters Jesus he “fell down before him” and calls him the “Son of the most high God.” So once again the writer of Mark shows us that Jesus is God; this time by giving us a picture of Jesus’ ultimate authority–even over demons.
The story goes on to identify not one, but many demons living within this man. Having begged permission from Jesus to be cast into a herd of pigs rather than meet with some other demise, Jesus grants the demons’ request. Interestingly, the pigs immediately ran down an embankment and drowned themselves. The scriptures don’t tell us why, but I can’t help but imagine that it’s a picture of self destructive, spiritually dead people; a picture of a lost world running into the darkness without God.
The heartwarming side of this story is that the dastardly wicked and nasty man that we met early in the story is now in his right mind, clean, and in fresh clothes. The change in his behavior is so drastic that the townspeople are afraid of him still, but for entirely different reasons than before. Now they are marveling at the change that has apparently taken place in his life. Isn’t it wonderful how knowing Christ as Lord instead of the devil as lord changes lives?
This changed man asks Jesus if he can go with him as he leaves the area but Jesus turns him down. Instead, Jesus, uncharacteristically at this point in his ministry, tells the man to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord as done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” In his commentary on the gospels J.C. Ryle points out that Jesus was effectively assigning, calling if you will, this man to a ministry. Not necessarily the ministry of the man’s own choosing, but to an effective ministry for the kingdom of God, right there in his hometown, telling people about the mercies of God.
I hope that you’ve encountered Jesus, the living God. May your life be a testimony and a ministry to His great mercies.
Ken worships at Tharptown Baptist Church in Russellville where he leads an adult Bible study. Comments are welcome and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.