The story of the demoniac man in Gerasenes particularly caught my attention in chapter 5. Here was a man that had been cast outside the city, was crazy to say the least, and not only crazy, but demon-possessed such that he could no longer be bound, even by chains. The Word says that he screamed night and day, gashing himself; he was a terror to himself and people were horrified of him. But listen to this, “Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before Him” (v. 6). Jesus was hardly in sight and this naked demon-possessed man ran to Jesus and graveled at His feet. Why on earth would he do this? This man, or perhaps I should say these demons, knew immediately who Jesus was – “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (v. 7). As the encounter with the demoniac unfolds, the demons beg that Jesus send them into a nearby herd of pigs. Granting them permission, they leave the man and enter the pigs, drowning themselves in the Sea of Galilee. The herdsman that watched all of this unfold were troubled, fleeing to the city to report what they had just witnessed. Coming to Jesus, and seeing a now sane, clothed man, the people of the city, frightened beyond belief, begged Jesus to leave their region.
These past few days I have been reflecting upon Man’s response to Jesus. In these first five chapters of the Gospel of Mark there are three distinct ways Man responds to Jesus: 1) acknowledgement, submission, and worship of Him; 2) acknowledgement and rejection of Him; and 3) cluelessness as to Jesus, the gospel, and what life is all about.
In the first response, Jesus encounters individuals, such as Peter and Andrew as they are fishing in the sea, and He simply says to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (1:17). The Word says that immediately they leave behind their nets, livelihood, and way of life and family to follow Jesus. The same is true for James, John, as well as Matthew, the tax collector. Seeing Jesus, they are instantly drawn to Him, unquestionably being uncertain as to how life-changing their ‘following” Him would be. These men, in particular, become known as His apostles and are commissioned to carrying forth the work He began of making disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In the second response, individuals encounter Jesus in such a way that His personhood (and deity) are undeniable, yet, they are unwilling to bow down in submission to Him. I find this incredibly interesting… the demons ‘knew’ who Jesus was, that He was of God, and yet they were unwilling to worship Him as Lord. Not only is this true of the demons that fled the demon-possessed man, but so also is it true of the men of the city who saw and heard what Jesus did, yet they pleaded for Him to leave their region. Their hearts were hard and calloused, unwilling to bend in reverence before the Lord of lords.
And finally, the last response, cluelessness. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus says, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven” (v. 4:11-12). Though they have eyes to see, they don’t truly see Jesus for who He is; and though they have ears to hear, they don’t understand the message of hope that is offered through the gospel. How many people did Jesus minister to, both in word as well as in deed, that at the end of the day were clueless as to who He was, their need for a Savior, and the invitation He was offering them? My experience of being in ministry is that this is the typical response.
Practically speaking, the implications of these three responses of Man are massive. First and foremost, I am all the more convinced that our ‘belief’ in Jesus is a work of the Spirit – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Second, if it is ultimately a work of the Spirit, then our responsibility as followers of Christ is to simply proclaim the gospel message in our word as well as deed; one is not complete without the other. Romans 10:17 is very clear, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”, as is James 1:22, “But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” We must be faithful in sharing the gospel message – new life and forgiveness found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to do as Jesus instructed, “repent and believe.” Lastly, as far as our work here in the South Side, our role is simply that – to be faithful to make known the gospel and make disciples we seek the shalom of the community. As we do so, I am convinced that the Lord will do His work, that to some He will grant eyes to see and ears to see, and they will experience the wholeness, redemption, and abundant life found in the path of believing and following Jesus. Please pray with us toward this end, that more will see and hear for the glory of the King and the wellness of our community.