Monthly Archives: June 2014

Today’s Scripture – June 28, 2014

Mark 6:6b-13 (NIV):  Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.  Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.  Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
They went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

When Jesus sent out the 12, it was to multiply His ability to get His message out to the people quickly.  Their main message was to be, “The kingdom of heaven is near,” (Matthew 10:7) the same message preached by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), and Jesus Himself (Matthew 4:17).  As a concrete sign that this message was true, Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits, as well as the ability to heal all kinds of diseases.

When Jesus taught His disciples, He told them that if they would seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, that He would provide everything that they truly needed (Matthew 6:31-33).  So Jesus told them to take only the bare necessities with them, and to trust God for all the rest.  After Jesus left the earth, these disciples, and those who would follow in their footsteps, would have to trust in God many times for their everyday needs.  And these 12, right from the very beginning, would be able to testify to all the rest that God was really able to meet every need that they had when they relied completely on Him.  In fact, on the night that Jesus was betrayed, He asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or (extra) sandals, did you lack anything?”  And their response was immediate:  “Nothing.”  (Luke 22:35)

It is also important to note that the disciples were not traveling about on their own to bring the message of the kingdom to the people.  They were doing it as representatives of Jesus, the Messiah Himself.  The miracles and healings that they did were signs that they were legitimate representatives of God and the Messiah.  Therefore, if they were rejected by people, those people were not merely rejecting them; they were rejecting Jesus and, by extension, God too!  (cf. Luke 10:16)  And so, any time they were rejected, the disciples were instructed to shake the dust of that town off their feet as a testimony that their judgment against God made them liable to God’s judgment against them!

Father, we are still Your representatives, Your agents, Your ministers of reconciliation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).  And our message is even the same as that of those first disciples:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”  Help us, Lord, every day to faithfully bring Your message to those all around us.  Help us every day to rely on You to legitimize our message, even with miracles, healings, and the authority You have given us to stand against and defeat unclean spirits.  And as we do the work of Your kingdom, help us to trust in You to supply every legitimate need.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 26, 2014

Mark 6:1-6a (NIV):  Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.  When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!  Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus had traveled widely, and people from all over the country were clamoring to hear Him and to receive His healing touch.  But when He went back to Nazareth, His hometown, the people there responded differently.

Some spurious gospels have been written that try to convince people that Jesus was a miracle worker, even in His childhood.  But the response of the people of Nazareth to Him on this occasion prove that to be false.  Their basic argument was that they had known Jesus since He was a kid.  They also knew His parents, and His brother and sisters.  He had never done miracles before; He was just a carpenter.  He hadn’t been a great scholar with all kinds of insights into Scripture; He had always been just a normal person, as far as they could tell.  But now here He was teaching in the synagogue with amazing wisdom and insight.  Here He was doing the mighty miracles that they had been hearing about:  healing sicknesses, casting out demons, even raising the dead!

Instead of welcoming Jesus as God’s messenger, all they could see was Jesus as they had always known Him, as he was growing up:  the carpenter, the faithful son, that nice young man who really seemed to care about people.  Their worldview did not allow them to embrace the concept that, while Jesus was living in their midst, He had always been the Messiah, the Son of God.  He had simply been biding His time until God called Him into action and empowered Him for His mission.  He had been a carpenter, and to them a carpenter He would always be.  And their unwillingness to believe in the difference between the Jesus that they had known and the Jesus that was now standing before them actually prevented Jesus from doing the great miracles for them that He longed to do.  He would not “perform” just to persuade them.  So He healed a few people, and then moved on to the surrounding areas, where the people would be willing to receive what He had to offer.

In a very real sense, the difference that they people could see in Jesus demonstrated the “new creation” life that God brings about in each of us when we come to Him for salvation.  God takes normal, everyday people, and remakes them into powerful, wise, faithful workers in His kingdom.  He takes wicked and sinful people, and remakes them into godly, holy, righteous people, who will be powerful witnesses to His grace and power.  But often, just like the people in Jesus’ hometown, those who knew these people before their relationship with God transformed them often have a hard time accepting them for who God has made them, instead of for who they once were.  And sometimes even the people themselves find it difficult to believe what God can make of them, and so they limit God’s ability to completely transform them into the men and women of the kingdom that He wants to make of them.

Father, I know that many who knew me before I was transformed by You have a hard time believing that I really have been remade into the person that is so much better, so much more, than it ever looked like I had the potential to be.  But by Your grace and power, I am what I am, and all the glory goes to You.  Help me to never limit You by trusting in the view of others, or even of myself, of what I can be.  Instead, Lord, keep molding and shaping me, all the way until I reflect the very image of Jesus to the world.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 25, 2014

Mark 5:40b-43 (NIV):  After (Jesus) put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.  He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

All of the people who had gathered to support Jairus’ family by mourning and grieving over the loss of their only daughter had laughed at Jesus when He had told them that the girl wasn’t dead, but only asleep.  They didn’t pick up on Jesus’ real meaning:  that the state of death for this girl was only temporary.  Jesus was both willing and able to “wake her up.”

But Jesus was unwilling to work before a crowd of scoffers.  He never did things merely to amaze people, or to build His reputation.  He simply obeyed everything that His Father told Him to do (cf. John 5:19).  So He first cleared everyone out of the house except the three disciples who were with Him, and the girl’s father and mother.

When they went in to where the girl was, it was clear that she really was dead – not a flicker of life anywhere to be seen.  But Jesus was completely unfazed.  He knew His Father’s will in this situation, and He also knew that whatever the Father willed, the Son could do.  So His methodology was simple.  There were no prayers, no ceremonies, no pleading, no tears to show the sincerity of His request.  He simply took the girl by the hand and told her to get up.  Immediately life returned to the girl, and she stood up and walked around.

The parents and the disciples were awestruck.  They weren’t sure what to think!  But Jesus helped them to regain their focus by giving them two clear commands:  they were to tell no one what had happened there, and they were to feed the girl.  The first command was to avoid undue publicity, and to avoid setting up untoward expectations.  It is not normally God’s will to bring every person who dies back from the dead – resurrections are very rare occurrences, and always for specific reasons – and Jesus didn’t want a parade of people carrying corpses to Him to be resurrected.  The second command was just as practical.  The girl hadn’t eaten in a couple of days and needed to regain her strength.

A key lesson for God’s people in this event is that, when God commands us to speak a word of healing to someone, or even to be part of a resurrection, there is no need for a big ceremony, or rituals, or pleading prayers, begging God to do what he has already commanded.  All that is necessary is complete obedience to make the miracle real.  (For more examples of this in the lives of real believers, see Acts 3:1-8; 9:32-34, 36-41; 28:7-8.  Note in the last two that AFTER Peter and Paul prayed and received God’s command for the situation, they simply spoke the words that resulted in the miracle.)

Father, it is very easy to see and understand that when we completely obey Your commands, miracles happen.  That, of course, means that we have to listen long enough to hear Your voice, and that we must willing submit our agendas to Your will.  I believe that if we will actually do those things when we find ourselves faced with needs, we will find that You want to do many more miracles than we imagine, and of a kind that is much more marvelous than what we could come up with on our own.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 19, 2014

Mark 5:35-40a (NIV):  While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.  When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”  But they laughed at him.

Twice Jesus heard the judgment of men on this girl:  “She is dead.”  And twice He rejected it.  It’s not that the girl was still alive; she was obviously physically dead.  It is that, unlike the way that people saw things, this was not the end of her story.  God still had another chapter to write.

Jairus wasn’t sure what to think when the men from his household came to him with the news that his daughter, his only daughter (Luke 8:42) had died.  He had feared that would happen.  She had been failing so quickly when he heard that Jesus had returned.  A big part of him wanted to just throw himself into the grief of it all.  But Jesus looked him right in the eye and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  It was belief that had sent him to Jesus in the first place – belief that had pushed him through the crowd to Jesus’ feet.  But could his belief keep him moving forward in the face of this worst-possible news?

Rather than have hundreds of people in tow, Jesus narrowed the group to five:  Himself, Jairus, Peter, James, and John.  The rest were commanded not to come along.  Then they sped through the narrow streets to Jairus’ house.  They could hear the wailing of the family members and friends even before they turned the last corner.  Here was clear testimony that the messengers had not been mistaken.  The girl really was dead.

Jesus pushed through the mourners into the house and made the statement that should have changed everything:  “Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead, but asleep.”  The girl really was dead at that moment but, in God’s will, this was not an irrevocable state, just at temporary “sleep” from which she would soon awake.  But Jairus was the only one who was believing Jesus at this point.  Everyone else just laughed at the obvious ridiculousness of the statement.

But the unvarying rule is that in every circumstance God has the last word.  Even when the situation seems completely hopeless, He can change it all with a single word, with a touch.  Even death itself cannot stand firm before God, the very source of life; how much less any smaller tragedy or circumstance!

Father, thank You that, even when we think some circumstance is completely insurmountable, some enemy is completely unbeatable, some tragedy completely unsurvivable, there is You.  You can overcome every circumstance, vanquish every enemy, and walk with us through every tragedy.  Even though it is not Your will to reverse every death (many died in Jesus day and were not resurrected), Your promise is that even death itself will be ultimately destroyed.  And we can count on that.  In the meantime, Lord, help us to hear Your voice in every negative circumstance saying to our hearts, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 17, 2014

Mark 5:30-34 (NIV):  At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?'”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

When the woman with the issue of blood touched the edge of Jesus cloak and was healed, she figured that she could just get in and out without being noticed – a kind of “stealth healing.”  But when she touched Jesus’ cloak in faith, it released power through Him, a release that He could sense (cf. Luke 8:46).

As the disciples pointed out, Jesus was moving through a jostling crowd, with numerous people bumping against Him constantly.  But the woman’s touch was different; there was nothing causal or accidental about it.  It was a touch of faith that released healing power through Jesus.  And it wasn’t that Jesus felt weaker when she touched Him.  He was never a cistern of power that had to be refilled from time to time.  The Holy Spirit and God’s power flowed through Him continually (cf. John 7:38).  He just sensed that someone had benefitted from God’s healing power by touching Him, and He wanted them to come forward.

Jesus kept looking for the person who had touched Him and released His healing power, not to chew her out, but so that she would be able to give glory to God and to Jesus by testifying about her healing.  Of course, she thought that she was in trouble for two reasons: for sneaking up on Jesus and appropriating a healing, and for possibly making Jesus unclean when she touched Him when she herself was unclean from the issue of blood.  When she finally stepped forward and threw herself at Jesus’ feet, she expected anger and recriminations.  Instead, He affirmed her faith and her healing, and sent her on her way in peace.

Father, it may sound egotistical to some that You require that those who have received a miracle from You testify about it publicly.  But we have to remember that You have a much larger agenda than just healing people or providing miracles.  You want the whole world to come into a redemptive relationship with You, and that is much more likely to happen when we tell others about all that You have done for us.  Lord, open our lips to speak boldly about what You have done in our lives, so that everybody can see clearly Your hand at work, and come to know You.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 12, 2014

Mark 5:24b-29 (NIV):  A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

As Jesus left to go with Jairus, the crowd followed.  Here was an opportunity to see a great miracle, and nobody wanted to miss it.

But in that crowd was a woman whose agenda was different:  she had come to see Jesus in hopes of being healed.  But as she stood there in the crowd, saw Him heal others, and listened to Him teach, she felt ashamed.  The issue of blood which had plagued her for 12 long years had made her ceremonially unclean for that whole time.  And not only that, it made everything and everyone she touched unclean, too.  (Leviticus 15:25-27)  How could she step forward and ask for healing, when her confession of what was wrong would instantly tell everyone who had even casually bumped her in the crowd that they were now unclean?  That would be too shameful to even consider!

But as Jesus and Jairus moved through the milling crowd and passed near the woman, she had a bold idea:  all she had to do was to touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak!  She knew that God’s power flowed through Jesus.  She believed that this power could heal her if only she could make that momentary contact.  So she pushed through the mass of people as they moved forward, gaining on Jesus inch by inch.  Finally she was close enough.  She reached out a tentative hand, and just brushed the edge of His cloak.

It was something like touching another person after shuffling your feet on carpet.  There was a noticeable jolt as power jumped from Jesus into the woman’s body.  She stopped right there in the middle of that jostling crowd as she felt the power course through her whole body.  And, in that moment, she knew without a doubt that it had worked; she had been healed!

This woman clearly demonstrated what real faith looks like.  Faith is not the ability to work up a strong belief in someone or something.  Genuine faith is simply believing that God can do for us all that He has promised, all that He has done for others, and then ACTING on that belief.  If the woman had simply believed, even believed strongly, that Jesus could heal her, and then walked away when Jesus left with Jairus, she would have remained broken and unclean.  But her faith in Jesus’ ability to heal her, just like He had healed the others in the crowd, moved her to action.  She pushed through the crowd, her focus squarely on Jesus, the object of her faith.  And then she reached out and dared to touch Him, even if it was only the edge of His cloak.  It was that pursuit, that effort, that touch, that transformed simple belief into life-changing faith.

Father, the action part is so essential.  I can believe that You can save the souls of my family members, I can even pray for them. But if I am unwilling to pursue them, to speak very clearly and specifically to them about You, my belief will always stop one step short of true faith.  I can believe that You are able to heal someone, but when You direct me to deliver Your healing touch to them personally, or to speak the words, “Jesus Christ heals you” (Acts 9:33-34), if my doubt or timidity holds me back from bold and complete obedience, my belief will not work into true faith.  Thank You for the example of this woman.  Thank You for this challenge to obey, to boldly move from mere belief into the dynamic obedience of miracle-enabling faith.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 10, 2014

Mark 5:21-24a (NIV):  When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.  Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him

Jairus was a good man.  He was conscientious, devout, observant, and God-fearing.  As the ruler of the synagogue at Capernaum, he was trusted with guarding and overseeing the use of the holy things.  And he took that job very seriously.

Like many of the seriously devout people in Capernaum, Jairus wasn’t exactly sure what to do with Jesus.  How in the world did you categorize someone like Him?  He was a God-gifted teacher, that was obvious.  But He also healed the sick and diseased, and cast out demons.  Some even said that He could raise the dead!  He was an amazing man.  But was He a marvel-working prophet like Elijah?  Was He THE prophet, the precursor of the Messiah?  Or could He even be the Messiah Himself?  Those questions had kept Jairus’ mind humming during many sleepless nights.  Jairus had seen Jesus heal all kinds of diseases and cast out demons with a simple word or a touch.  It had happened several times right in the synagogue!  It was amazing, awe-inspiring!

On this day, Jairus still hadn’t decided how to categorize Jesus, but that really didn’t matter.  For days his daughter’s health had been failing.  She had continued to grow weaker with every hour that the fever had gripped her, and nothing had helped.  This morning she was barely breathing, completely unresponsive.  Jairus had quit praying for wisdom for the doctors.  He had given up praying that THIS medicine would do the trick.  The only thing he could pray for now was a miracle.

Then he heard that Jesus had just arrived back in town.  Jesus!  He could help!  This was the answer to his prayers for a miracle!

He ran as fast as his legs could carry him down to the waterfront.  The huge crowd showed him in an instant where Jesus was.  As he got closer, he could hear that Jesus was in the middle of teaching, but he had to interrupt.  His daughter was dying, had maybe died since he left the house.  He shoved and elbowed his way through the crowd until he finally reached Jesus.

He fell at Jesus feet, not in worship, but to plead with Him on his daughter’s behalf.  Gasping from the run, he cried out, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

Jesus looked deeply into his pleading eyes for a single beat, and then, with a nod of His head, He helped Jairus to his feet and started moving through the crowd with him.  At that moment it no longer mattered to Jairus how Jesus should be categorized or classified.  It no longer mattered how Jesus’ miracles fit into his theology.  All that mattered was that He really was able to heal broken and sick bodies.  He really was able, and willing, to heal His daughter  It wasn’t in a title that Jairus was now placing his faith, but in what he knew that Jesus could do.

Father, sometimes many things become crystal clear, usually in times of great crisis.  All of our arguing about Jesus, exactly what His nature was, exactly what mechanism He used to work salvation, the exact timing and nature of His return, really accomplish nothing to save and heal the lost and broken in our world.  It is when we become absolutely consumed with the cold fact that someone we love is lost, doomed, without hope, that all of our “theologizing” falls by the wayside, and we are left with the most important thing:  Jesus is the only one who can help.  Jesus is the only one who can save.  I have seen Jesus on many occasions turn a completely lost soul into a saint; turn a destroyed life around so that it becomes productive, rich, joyful.  Father, when push comes to shove, when it is the very souls of our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers that are at stake, help us to not get caught up in our analysis of theological principles.  Help us instead, like Jairus, to throw all of that aside, and merely fall at the feet of Jesus, plead with Him to act, to go with us as we go to them, to put His hand on the dying ones that we love, so that they might be saved.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 6, 2014

Mark 5:18-20 (NIV):  As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.  Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family 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 demoniac is a good illustration of how a mustard-seed beginning (Mark 4:30-32) can produce abundant fruit.  No one would have many expectations of this man who had fallen so far, who had lost so many years through being enslaved by the legion of demons.  It would have been very understandable if, after being delivered, the people’s only expectation for him would be that he would live a quiet and NORMAL life among them.

The man himself had no great aspirations at this point, either.  All he knew was that Jesus had freed him, so he wanted to go with Jesus wherever He was going; to serve Him and learn from Him; to devote the rest of his life to Him.  But Jesus did have plans and aspirations for this man:  “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  Jesus had harvested the crop of this man’s life, bringing him into the kingdom of God, and now He was giving those seeds back to the man to be planted, reinvested, so that more people, even among the gentiles, would be able to turn to Jesus.

But the man did even more than Jesus commanded.  He told his family; but he was so passionate about what Jesus had done for him that he went all over the whole Decapolis (the “Ten Cities” region east of Galilee), telling his story of captivity and freedom to anyone who would listen.  As he shared his own story, he was planting the next crop of seeds, some of which found a place in good-soil hearts, and started growing toward eternal life.

Three things are significant.  First, it was the man’s gratitude for freeing him that motivated the man’s devotion to Jesus, and that drove him to share his story, not just with his family, but with those throughout the whole area.  Second, Jesus told the man to tell people how much “the Lord” had done for him.  The man’s testimony was “how much JESUS had done for him.”  Even at this stage of his spiritual life, even as a gentile, this man had already placed himself under the lordship of Jesus, obeying Him to the fullest extent.  And finally, this man needed no seminary classes, or even evangelism classes to be effective in sharing his faith with many others.  The core of his “gospel presentation” was simply “how much Jesus had done for him.”  It wasn’t theologically deep, perhaps, but it was passionately personal every time he told it.

In a nutshell, that is the core of evangelism for every single Christian:  obeying Jesus’ command to go and tell our story, a passionate, personal, first-hand experience of how Jesus set us free.  Powerful theology may sway a few, but a personal experience of life transformation is always compelling, as this man’s story illustrates:  “And all the people were amazed.”

Father, we really do make it more complicated that it needs to be.  How many of us have taken evangelism classes and workshops galore, but are still hesitant to tell others about Jesus because we “don’t know enough”!  But it has always been the story of how much the Lord has done for me that is the core of my testimony.  And I know all that I need to know about that!  Like the man born blind, the powerful, passionate testimony of “One thing I do know: I was blind but now I see,” is all that I need to make a powerful impact on the lives of those around me who are spiritually blind, but who long to see, too.  Thank You for Your work in my life.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 5, 2014

Mark 5:11-17 (NIV):  A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.  The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”  He gave them permission, and the evil 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.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.  When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.  Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man–and told about the pigs as well.  Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

Even though when this story is told, the herd of pigs usually seems to get the most attention, there are two key points that are being made by including this event in the gospels that should not get lost in the spectacle of 2000 crazed pigs rushing headlong off a cliff.

The first point is that the multitude of demons was absolutely powerless in the presence of Jesus.  Human beings believe that demons are super powerful, a perception fueled by Hollywood.  And they do have power that they can use against people who don’t belong to God.  (God protects His people from demons, as a quick overview of the gospels and Acts will show.)  But any power that they have is insignificant when compared to the power of God, the power that flowed through Jesus.

When Jesus commanded the legion of demons to come out of the man, they had no choice but to obey.  There was no epic struggle, no long battle.  Jesus simply commanded, and the spirits, all the thousands of them, had to obey and leave.  The one concession afforded to them by Jesus was that they be allowed to enter the pigs.  Jesus already saw what the end of that would be, but the demons were short sighted, and had no idea of the tragedy that their decision would bring.  Their only thought was self-preservation, not being banished to the Abyss forever.  But Jesus commanded, and into the pigs they went.  Their presence in the pigs caused a panic that led to the rapid destruction of their hosts.  So much for the demons!

But the second point that needs to be noted is the reaction of the townspeople.  These were gentiles who lived on the southeast edge of the Sea of Galilee.  When the panicked pig-herders told them about the arrival of strangers, the interaction between them and the demon possessed man, and the bizarre suicide of the whole herd of pigs, they came out to investigate.  They found the demoniac, well-known to them, and feared too, now clothed, in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening as He taught.  And it completely freaked them out.  The man had been scary.  They had seen him break the chains that they had tried to shackle him with (Mark 5:4).  They had heard him screaming and moaning day and night among the tombs.  But as long as he stayed away from their houses, they could deal with that; it was a known quantity.

But here was a man who was apparently stronger than the demons that had so overpowered the (formerly) demon-possessed man.  Someone who could order them around, and whom they obeyed.  It wasn’t the destruction of the pigs that had them so scared – it was being in the presence of someone who was so much more powerful than the demons who had terrorized them for so long.  They had no idea what to do in the presence of such power.  But rather than sit at Jesus’ feet to learn from Him, as the former demoniac was doing, they chose to beg Jesus to just go away.  He was too powerful, too scary for their taste.

Father, it is easy for us to fear what we do not understand.  And there is a lot that we don’t understand, especially in the invisible spiritual dimension.  Some find comfort for their uncertainty in just denying the reality of what they can’t physically touch or see, much like the townspeople wanted to do with Jesus.  If they sent Jesus away, banished Him from their lives, they could hide themselves from the reality of the spiritual power that was so obvious in Him.  Others focus on their fear, or even their worship of the spiritual powers that they sense around them, even worshiping demons in the guise of “powers” or “nature gods”.  But they don’t realize that, in doing so, they are worshiping something that is only marginally more powerful than themselves, and powerful in a very negative and destructive way.  Their myopic focus on the power of evil blinds them to Your infinitely greater power.  Help me, Lord, to only fear You, to only worship You, the all-powerful, all-mighty God, whose power and might knows no limits.  Then I will never have to fear anything that goes bump in the night.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 4, 2014

Mark 5:1-10 (NIV):  They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.  When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.  This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain.  For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.  He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”  For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”  And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

The disciples had seen several people who were possessed by demons as they had traveled with Jesus.  Often, until something triggered an “attack,” they looked and acted like normal people.  Some looked ill, but they usually looked and acted like a normal ill person.  But this man was something entirely different.  He looked more like an animal than a human being.  He had been living among the tombs for quite a while, miserable and driven from all human companionship.  He had cuts all over his body in various stages of healing and infection.  And he was filthy.

This man, filled with many demons (a legion was a Roman army unit composed of 3,000 to 6,000 men), was practically torn in two when Jesus walked ashore.  The mass of demons wanted nothing more than to flee as fast as they could from His presence, but the human part of the man was drawn so powerfully to Jesus that he ran as fast as he could right up to Him, and fell at His feet.

The disciples weren’t sure what to do.  Some of them wanted to run back to the boat when they saw this wild thing racing toward them shrieking.  But Jesus just stood and waited while the man approached.  They were positively stunned when this creature cried out at the top of his lungs, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”  How did this man know who Jesus was?  And “Son of the Most High God”?  They hadn’t heard Jesus called that before!

But Jesus was firmly focused on the business at hand.  He ordered the demons within the man to come out of him.  That was when the man shouted, “Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”  And when Jesus asked the demon his name, he screamed out, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

In those days, like today, a single demon was enough to freak out anybody.  And here was a man apparently inhabited by thousands of them!  But Jesus wasn’t in the least intimidated.  The demons had hit the nail on the head:  Jesus was no ordinary man who was going to run away from them; He really was the Son of the Most High God.  And the demons weren’t even willing to put up a fight.  Even though the numerical odds seemed strongly in their favor, the real power was all on Jesus’ side.  They knew Who He was, and they knew that He could easily send them all reeling into the Abyss (Luke 8:31) to be imprisoned forever.  Instead of one man running from thousands of demons, thousands of demons were reduced to pitiful groveling at the feet of this one man, begging for their very existence.

No one who belongs to God, no one in whom His Holy Spirit dwells, should ever be afraid of a demon – even thousands of them.  When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the same presence that was in Jesus comes to reside in us.  The Bible tells us over and over again that the apostles exercised the same power over the demons that they encountered every time they met one (e.g., Acts 16:16-18).  There was no fear, no struggle, no ceremonies.  A simple command, and the demon instantly fled from them.  That is what God’s presence in each of us can do!

Father, it is amazing to realize that when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, it is more than just believing in a creed, or subscribing to a religion.  When we turn to You in faith for salvation, Your Holy Spirit actually takes up residence in our hearts, purifying us, empowering us, and transforming us into Your people.  It was not Peter’s size or Paul’s personality that sent the demons scurrying, but Your presence in their lives; the same power that You bring to us when we turn to You.  Thank You, Lord.

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