The Daily Choice
This Spiritual Reflections column is scheduled for publishing in the Cook County News Herald on Saturday March 14, 2020.
The gospel of Mark, filled as it is with eyewitness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, offers one very specific purpose: to provide essential supportive evidence—proof, if you will–that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Mark, inspired by God, records the events of a life and builds his historical narrative in order to affirm in the minds and hearts of his readers that Jesus is, in fact, all that He claimed to be—Messiah, God come in human flesh–and is therefore worthy of their faith, affection, and devotion.
Mark is no fool. He knows that despite the validity of what he records, not everyone will be persuaded, not everyone will believe, and not everyone will respond with the faith and devotion Jesus deserves. He includes an account in his gospel that makes his insight clear.
In the fifth chapter Mark recounts the occasion when Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee (now known in Israel as the Lake Kinnereth) from Capernaum to the country of the Gerasenes. No sooner had they landed and come ashore, apparently near a cemetery, a man came from among the tombs and met them. Mark describes the man as having an unclean spirit. He was demon-possessed.
The man was supernaturally strong. He could not be bound; he tore away chains and shackles. Mark says of him that no one had the strength to subdue him. Sounds like a pretty intimidating person, eh?
This man rushes up to Jesus and falls on his knees. The spirits within him identify Jesus by name and by mission (I know who you are, Jesus, Son of the Most High God!), and beg Jesus not to torture them or send them away. Noting a herd of pigs nearby they implore Jesus, rather than sending them away to allow them to leave the man and enter the pigs.
Jesus gave them permission. The demons left the man, entered the pigs, a herd of about 2000 animals that immediately rushed headlong over a cliff and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen, suddenly bereft of pigs and jobs, ran into town to tell what had happened.
You can imagine with what haste folks came out to the cemetery to check out the situation. Surely, you’ve noticed how disaster draws a crowd. Same then as today. The people came and they found the demon-possessed man, the man they had tried to control with chains and shackles, the man they had given up on and left to survive for himself among the dead in their tombs, the one they dismissed as good as dead anyway, they found him sitting there, dressed, and in his right mind.
And they saw the pigs. They saw their sustenance and their profit floating wasted in the waters of the lake, not just good as dead but really dead. They saw their loss. And they were afraid.
They saw what Jesus could do to set a man free and they saw what it might cost them to have among them a man who could set men free from what enslaves them, and they begged him to leave. Presented with the tangible evidence that Jesus Christ can do for a man what no other human effort could do, they chose the weakness of greed over the strength of God.
The demons had begged Jesus to let them stay. The people begged Jesus to leave.
And so the story continues today. Philosophies and therapies, policies and procedures, human efforts to create sublime effects, failing, failing, failing. And still, despite the documentable stories of lives changed by divine grace and holy mercy, we choose to send Jesus away rather than risk the seeming loss of inviting Him in.
A dead pig worth more than a life made whole; it didn’t make sense then. It doesn’t make sense now. Yet many today who hear the good news of Jesus and encounter the efforts to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claims to be will simply turn away and insist He leave. But there are some, maybe you dear reader, who will be intrigued, whose curiosity will be stirred, whose interest will be piqued, whose hope will be nudged, and you will say of Jesus, come and tell me more.
Get a Bible. Find the Gospel of Mark. Read. Consider the evidence. You want more? I have good news. There is more. Plenty more.