Our experiences throughout life are varied and unpredictable, which ebb and flow much like the tides and waves of the ocean. I know that throughout my own life that I’ve experienced a multitude of seasons which have affected who I am and my outlook on life. However, as I was reading earlier today, I was struck by something of a new perspective or a better realization. I was studying the Gospel of Mark on the He Reads Truth application (I highly recommend that you (men) get it for yourself) in a quiet period during my day. Specifically I was reading chapter 5, where Jesus has three encounters with three very different people.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 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, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Once I had finished reading this, and the additional commentary provided through the app, I was struck by something that hadn’t really dawned on me before. This entire passage is about Christ’s authority, His divine authority over creation. In this passage we see Jesus cast out demons who knew of Christ’s authority, which is expressed as “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” This is not the man speaking, but the spirits who posses the man, acknowledging the power and authority Christ has. I cannot be anything but humbled by this passage. While I have the sense of authority over my own life, I do not have authority over the spiritual world, the physical world. I cannot say anything and make mountains move, nor can I speak and bring things into being. Yet, God can and has and does. I fully accept Christ’s authority, and know Him as King. But I was humbled by another thing I noticed throughout this passage.
All in all there are four primary characters, if you will, throughout this passage. We have Jesus, a demon possessed man, a leader of the synagogue, and a sickly woman. Each of these characters come from different walks of life, one was exiled away from his people, one was, presumably, a righteous, well off man, and one was an sickly, desperate woman. Each has an encounter with Christ that is personal and is not met with ridicule or stigma, and each has something miraculous happen within their lives that forever changed them. By their reactions, we, or at least I, can gain some insight on our own lives.
Firstly, the demon possessed man has an instant reaction to his encounter with Christ. He wants to go with Christ! The text does not indicate anything of doubt or hesitation on the part of this man, and, in fact, it is not even the cleansed man who initially tells the people what he’s seen! It was the pig herder who goes and shared of the encounter. The man’s response to Jesus was to go with him! To join Christ as He continues His earthly ministry! Instead, Christ commands the man to go and tell others of what God has done for him. There are times throughout life where our initial reaction to something or some event is an immediate reaction. We do not give a second thought to it, we just go. We just do. Like the apostles, when Jesus says come, we pick up our things and follow. We have this reaction to Christ, to God, whether its at the time of conversion and surrender, or when God calls us into action. We immediately seek and go forth. I know that when we’ve been touched by God’s grace, mercy, and love, there is an innate desire to share with others what has happened to us! To share with others the greatness that is our God!
Secondly, we see the yearning of the sickly woman. So tired of the illness that plagues her, that she so ever desires to just touch the hem of Jesus’ clothing in an attempt to maybe be healed! When she does touch Christ’s clothing, she is healed! We see her reaction, which is incredible. When Jesus realizes what’s happened (though I have no doubt He knew what was happening) He beckons her to come before Him, to which He encourages her by pointing out her faith! I know, too, throughout my life and the lives of others that we go through seasons of suffering. For me, it has been depression, for others it might be physical health, and for others it might be a spiritual drought. In these periods, there is a desperate need and desire for change or relief from what ails us. We reach out for whatever we think may help alleviate the suffering, but we see that only God can truly heal us of our afflictions. For the woman, all she reached out (I have a sense it was with all of her effort and ability) and touched Christ’s clothing. When our faith is so intense that we reach out to God with all of our effort, our being, how can we not stop and rejoice? This further shows our need for God and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Apart from God, nothing can heal us from the thing that has left us broken. Nothing can put back together the shattered devastation that sin has caused us, apart the blood of Jesus. May our faith be so full that we reach out to God for our needs. Fully dependent upon God for all things.
Finally, we come to the religious leader of the synagougue whose daughter was dying. As Jesus and company disembarked from their boat, the leader fell at the feet of Jesus and implored of Him to come lay His hands on his daughter. Between this and the conclusion of this chapter, Christ has His interaction with the sickly woman, but what we see is that something happens during this event. The leader’s daughter has passed. The leader came and made a request of Jesus, but someone else has come to first. The text does not specify what the leader’s demeanor is, but I could imagine that he is not very content for the hold up (I know that I would have difficulty keeping myself in check if I were in this man’s place). Despite being informed that his daughter has passed, Jesus continues onward and addresses the leader’s request. We see that Jesus brushes off that the daughter is dead, and reassures the leader that his daughter is merely sleeping. Jesus is laughed at for this, but takes the leader and his wife along with Peter, James, and John to see his daughter. Jesus speaks and the daughter is awakened. The reaction of the leader and his wife is not documented in detail, apart from “they were immediately overcome with amazement.” Yeah, I’d be amazed by this too! Most likely, I’d be speechless. Jesus commands them not to tell others about what they had seen, because Christ’s time has not yet come. Humorously, Jesus also tells the couple to get their daughter something to eat, probably, and this is my own image of this scene, they are standing in the room with Jesus with their jaws dropped and the words not being able to leave their throat. But what have we learned from this whole encounter? How often have we prayed and cried out to God for something and something else happens before God responds? How do we respond when this happens? When things are going poorly, and we request something of God, and something else interrupts or is piled on top of what already is going wrong, we have a tendency to have a knee-jerk reaction. I know that I can sometimes have an issue in waiting, in being patient. Now I cannot directly relate to the parents of the little girl in this encounter, but I can imagine the pain and grief that they experienced. Perhaps his heart sank when Jesus was paused momentarily to address the woman’s faith, knowing that his daughter was in dire need. Of course, this is me reading beyond what is presented in the text, so do not take it as interoperation of the text. It’s merely extrapolation of the story. Sometimes, God causes us to wait for the things we want or need. Withholding things that we don’t need or holding onto the things we need until the time is right. All in all, we have to have patience. Patience while the Lord works within our hearts, as He puts back together our broken hearts, filling in the places where sin previously separated us.
In reading this passage today, I realized that we all embodied in these characters. Throughout life we may be tied down by sin and isolated while we hold on to the sin. Now I’m not saying that the man in the passage chose to be possessed, but relating it to my own life. Or we may feel lost and alone in this world which can often times put us in isolation, cut off from the rest of the community that we so desperately need. Perhaps when we are ill, or hurt, or stuck at bottom of a pit with no sense of hope of getting out. We may be so desperate for healing that we reach out to God like the woman in the passage, and God reaches down and pull us out of our struggle. Perhaps we are like the religious leader, and we come before God with a need, a want, or a request and are interrupted, or told to wait, and have to choose to be patient. As life continues, we may experience all three of these kinds of situations. When I read this passage today, I inadvertently made the connection to the traditional vows that appear in pop culture.
I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…
As cliched as this might be, the truth remains that our God is for us. We may come to Him in all things, when times are good or bad, when we are healthy or sick, when things are better than usual or worse than usual, when we have wealth or poverty. No matter the situation, we can fall at the feet of Jesus and praise Him, make a request of Him, spend time with Him. No matter our need, no matter our cause, we can approach God. He calls us to Himself. He calls us His children. He sustains us. While the process may not be painless or easy, we must have the faith to pursue God in all situations. Thus as we continue throughout the lives we’ve been called to live, may we put our dependance, reliance, and faith in the Lord, our God.