Jesus was radical, a spiritual Van Helsing, if you will. But instead of vanquishing only evil and preserving good, Jesus vanquished evil and restored the broken. When arriving on the shores of the Gerasenes, Jesus was immediately welcomed by a zombie-like, demon-possessed, Houdini kind of being who lived among the graves. His name was Legion because he was filled with many demons (perhaps 2000). The kind of creature that anyone in their right mind would want to lock up. But he couldn’t be contained. Having the strength of two thousand men, Legion shattered shackles and snapped chains. He was an otherworldly creature who cried aloud in torment from the graves, day and night, cutting himself with stones in an attempt to release demon from human.
Can you imagine encountering such a creature? At the sight of Legion most of us would run the other way or, perhaps some, in a rush of adrenaline, would find the closest weapon and vanquish this evil with our gamer passion and skill. But remember, nothing could hold this thing; the strength of two thousand men. Enter Jesus, the demon-slayer. Well, not exactly.
Here are a few lessons I learned from this story in Mark 5:
- The Masculinity of Jesus: Jesus was radical but not because he was Van Helsing–vanquishing only evil and preserving good. Jesus conquered evil through counter-cultural redemption. In an age of emasculated, Fight Club, Ultimate Fighting voyerism, men do well to learn from the actions of Jesus. His masculinity was shaped, not by violent outbursts or the destruction of weird and wicked foes, but by mercy and redemption. He encountered the evil and suffering of this world with otherworldly wisdom and bold compassion. Is your Jesus this kind of manly?
- The Cultural Wisdom of Jesus: Jesus did not immediately banish the demons from the countryside. Why? Was he just a softy, caving into the pleading of demons? Not at all. Instead of just glorifying his power over the demonic, Jesus also glorified his wisdom. He sent them to the pigs. Unclean spirits to to unclean animals. In doing this Jesus passed cultural judgment on evil, while preserving the good creature he had made. Contrary to Jewish practice, Jesus did not exile the man but only the demon. As pastors and disciples we do well to learn from Jesus’ cultural savvy, exegeting evil in our culture and banishing it in cultural stereo, but discerning that which can and should be redeemed and restoring that which is broken. Is your Jesus that wise?
- The Sensitivity of Jesus: Not only did Jesus restore and renew his mind and heart, but he also clothed the man. Jesus also addressed his social needs. Instead of bringing the former demoniac with him on the preaching tour, Jesus sent him home, to his friends, where he could celebrate and enjoy social restoration and the love and acceptance of his family. Jesus was preaching and living the whole gospel in the whole culture. Is your Jesus that holistic, that compassionate?
- The Mission of Jesus: Instead of passing judgment on the poor nameless demon-possessed, Jesus showed him mercy. The demon-possessed man wasn’t simply an innocent host for misery-hungry demons. He was a sinner, unclean on account of breaking Jewish law, but more importantly, under judgment for his personal sin. Jesus did not write him off, culturally or personally, but had mercy on him. How? He restored his mind, gave him some clothes, renewing him spiritually and materially. Not only that, Jesus gave him a new purpose. Instead of crying out in pain day and night, the former demoniac began to preach in cities concerning the mercy and person of Jesus, to extol the Lordship of Christ. Jesus made a demon-possessed man a missional disciple. Is your Jesus that powerful, that missional?