What South Africa Needs (Mark 5:1–20)

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Doug Van Meter - 21 October 2018

What South Africa Needs (Mark 5:1–20)

When Jesus encountered the demoniac as recorded in our text, the event proved to be no contest. Mark highlights for us the supreme authority of the Jesus Christ. He is indeed the Son of the Most High God, and sinners therefore have hope of salvation.

Scripture References: Mark 5:1-20

From Series: "Mark Exposition"

An exposition of the Gospel of Mark by Doug Van Meter.

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Many readers will be familiar with the name Adrian Vlok and his infamous apartheid era evils. When our family moved to South Africa in 1990, his name was often in the news. His actions as Minister of Correctional Services, and later as Minister of Law and Order, were often evil. One could characterise them as satanic. The devil is a liar and a murderer; so was Adrian Vlok.

Many people died because of his murderous scheming and his racist, hate-empowered official orders. But something happened to him in the late 1990s. He experienced the power of God through the life-transforming gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now eighty years old, his life’s ambition, in his own words, is to

follow the example of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, to set a better example for others. My daily life is based on this: To abandon myself, to let go of my own sense of honour and pride above other people; to rid myself of my own superiority, egoism and selfishness and be prepared to put myself last and not first anymore, and to get rid of hatred for my fellow human beings.

Allowing for the value of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, nothing will do more to change South Africa than the power of Jesus Christ. This is the power that changed Adrian Vlok, and it is the same power that changed the life and destiny of the man we meet in the text before us: Mark 5:1–20.

My burden in this study is that we will perhaps recapture the passionate conviction concerning the power of Jesus Christ to change a life. He who calms storms (4:35–41) is powerful enough to convert sinners.

Though there may not be a single person reading this who has ever been demonised—”demon possessed” as we might say—nevertheless, we should all be able to relate to the hopeless spiritual condition that characterised us before our conversion to Jesus Christ. As Calvin puts it, “Though we are not tortured by the devil, yet he holds us as his slaves, till the Son of God delivers us from his tyranny. Naked, torn, and disfigured, we wander about, till he restores us to soundness of mind.”This is what South Africa needs.

The point of this account is to reveal the supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is indeed “the Son of the Most high God” (v. 7). Therefore, sinners have hope of salvation. This account points us to this reality. We will study this passage under the four broad headings.

Confrontation

South Africa needs a confrontation with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. We read of such a confrontation in vv. 1–8:

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!”

(Mark 5:1–8)

The Storm after the Calm

Jesus, and his disciples, having experienced a tumultuous storm on Galilee and the subsequent miracle of Jesus calming that storm, arrived on the other side of the lake. They were now in the region of Decapolis—Gentile territory. Chronologically, we can conclude that it was dark. But as we see, it was dark in more ways than one.

As soon as Jesus stepped out of the boat, he and his disciples were confronted with an altogether different kind of storm—a spiritual storm. It was a storm between Satan and the Saviour, the same kind of storm we in South Africa face: kingdoms in conflict. A contest was in the making. But it was no match for the Lord Jesus Christ. James Edwardscaptures the essence of this account when he writes, “When demoniac meets divine, it is a no-contest event.” Thank God.

We are told that “immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit” who. Under old covenant law, one who touched a dead body was deemed to be unclean. Further, the region was known for raising pigs. Pigs were designated as unclean animals under old covenant law (Leviticus 11:7–8). Gentiles were considered “unclean” to Jews. Putting this together, Jesus encountered a man with an unclean spirit, living in an unclean place, among an unclean people, who were raising unclean animals. If this man was a Jew, he was in deep trouble. He was, in fact, cut off. But regardless of whether he was Jewish or Gentile, he was, humanly, hopeless. This is where God wants us to be. It is a great place to be, for it can become a graced place to be. Hopelessness invites God’s helpfulness. This would be the case here.

In fact, this may well be the reason that Jesus left the shores of Galilee in the first place. It would not be the first time that his compassion moved him from one place to another (see Philippians 2:5ff)!

The Long Night of the Living Dead

We don’t know this man’s age, and we don’t know how long he had been in this condition. We do know that he was alive and yet dead. Physically, he was alive; spiritually, he was lifeless. He pictures multitudes today: living while dead.

A Tragic Description

Significantly, he had been isolated to a place of death. “He lived among the tombs.” In ancient days, graveyards were associated with the abode of demons. Therefore, it was appropriate that he had been banished here.

The words “and no one could bind him anymore” reveal that attempts had been made to restrain him, but to no avail. In fact, with a supernatural strength, he “wrenched the chains apart” and “broke the shackles in pieces.” He was in a dire situation. To underscore the point, we read, “No one had the strength to subdue him.” Do we get the picture? These negative repetitions—“no one,” “not even,” and “no one” again—are designed to emphasise that no human means had any positive effect on this man. They had done all they could. They couldn’t do anything else for him. All human attempts proved impotent. Therefore, the only thing they could hope for was his ongoing isolation from society. He was cut off from his family, from former friends, from all society. People might threaten naughty children with, “If you don’t straighten up, you will be sent to the man at the tombs.” He would be the example that people might point to when exhorting obedience and the consequences of disobedience: “You don’t want to turn out like him, do you?”

This is truly a most pathetic scene. You may have known someone so hopeless.

Self-Destructive

This man was self-destructive, “He was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” He was known for self-inflicted wounding. Bizarre behaviour. Frightening behaviour. Beastly behaviour. In fact, as R. T. France comments, “Mark’s description is more fitting of a ferocious animal than of a human being; indeed, the Greek word for ‘subdue,’ damask, is used of taming a wild beast in James 3:7.”Literally, this is a brutal scene (Proverbs 30:1–2). This person, made in the image of God, was behaving like a beast.

The storm of the evil forces that torment the man among the tombs equal and parallel the violent tempest that beset the boat on the lake (4:37). In summary, this man was, humanly, helplessly hopeless. And yet he was not completely hopeless, for Jesus had arrived!

Helplessly Hopeful

When the man “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?’”He recognised who Jesus was. James 2:19 tell us that even the demons believe in God—and they tremble. So here. I don’t think that the man recognised who Jesus was, but the demons did. This is a wow moment. These God-defying demons become the means of introducing this deeply troubled man to the one who would deliver him—from them!

We see in this the sovereignty of God. Even the darkest of times are orchestrated by God. We see this truth clearly illustrated in the story of Job, and all the evils of history—Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.—have the same divine providence behind them.

In fact, there was a time when Stalin, who was concerned about a growing community of North Koreans living in Vladivostok, where his munitions factories were located, exiled the entire group to Uzbekistan. He did not realise that God had started to do a great work of revival in the Koreans, so that when he heartlessly exiled them, he inadvertently sent missionaries into Uzbekistan, and God started saving many Uzbeks. God’s providence was at work.

The Proper Focus

Many commentators focus on the demons in this encounter, while treating this man as a passive victim. But it seems that this is wrong. Notice the repetition of the personal pronoun: “when he saw,” “he ran,” “he said,” “what do you have to do with me?” Jesus was focused on the enslaved sinner, not the enslaving spirits.

Notice that the man used his legs to run to Jesus. Yes, the demons spoke, but it was the man’s vocal chords that are involved. Amidst this very dark scene, this man’s personhood shines through. From the time Jesus stepped off the boat, he was focused on helping this person. He was continually “saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.’”

In fact, Jesus addressed the man when he asks, “What is your name?” His response was strange; nevertheless, Jesus was speaking to the enslaved individual, not to the demons. The demons would interrupt the man, but it was the man who was at the centre of the conversation.

The man responded, “My name is Legion.” The text does not say “our name” but “my name.” The man was responding, though demons were influencing.

The word “legion” was a Roman military term, which indicated a large group of soldiers (4000–6000 men). “For we are many” reveals the degree of torment this man was experiencing. He was being destroyed by an army of evil. And yet even the most desperately hopeless of people still have dignity. And they can experience the grace of God.

Yes, pronouns matter.

Summary

No one knows how this occurred. Doubtless, this man had opened himself to such demonic harassment. How he got into such trouble is not the main issue; how to get out of it was the matter at hand.

A serious, sobering, spiritually significant confrontation was taking place. Jesus initiated it, and he would finish it.

Take heart. You may feel like you are in a hopeless situation—surrounded by a darkness that will not lift. Perhaps no man has proven strong enough to deliver you. But you are reading this today. Jesus is perhaps stepping onto the shore of your life. How will you respond?

Perhaps you have a loved one, a friend who seems impossibly far from God. Take heart. With a word from Jesus, the calm of conversion can occur.

Christian, is there a sin issue? Christian, is it a hopeless situation? Non-Christian, are you feeling like the walking dead? If so, keep reading.

Transformation

South Africa needs the transformation that only Jesus can supply—transformation hinted in vv. 10–15:

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.

(Mark 5:10–15)

This is a wonderful and yet, for some, a very disturbing passage. In it, we read of the profound power of Jesus Christ.

The spokesman for the demons pleaded with the Lord not to be sent out of the country. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps demons have specific territories where they operate. Regardless, they requested an alternative location: a herd of two thousand pigs. Jesus, by the power of his word, “gave them permission” (indicating his authority). The “unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs.” The result was a swine dive into the ravine that ended at the sea. All the pigs were drowned. They were destroyed. The stronger man defeated a “strong man.” Sadly, for some, this is disturbing.

Bertrand Russell, for example, was highly troubled by this account. While he largely recognised the Jesus of the New Testament as a figure of high moral calibre, he considered this to be “not very kind.” Russell writes, “You must remember that he was omnipotent, and he could have made the devils simply go away; but he chooses to send them into the pigs.” This account, along with the cursing of the fig tree and, more importantly, Jesus’ teaching on hell, led Russell to question his goodness. “I cannot myself feel that either in matter of wisdom or in matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above him in those respects.”

Jesus does not need to be vindicated. He always did what pleased the Father. And as Edwards observes, “In the eyes of Jesus, the rescue and restoration of one person is more important than vast capital assets. Compared to the redemption of a human being, the loss of swineherds, considerable though it is, does not rate mentioning.” Jesus values a person over anything else in his creation.

Ferguson sums this up well, “It is misplaced sentimentality to weep over the destruction of the pigs. It shows that we do not have our priorities aligned to those of Jesus.”This, by the way, is the real reason why Bertrand Russell was not a Christian. It is the same reason for multitudes today.

There are at least a couple of reasons that might be suggested to explain Jesus’ actions. First, he perhaps wanted a record for all of history that would remind us of the destructive nature and intent of the devil. If they couldn’t destroy this man, they would destroy something else. Jesus came to ultimately destroy this destroyer (1 John 3:8). Second, he wanted to reveal his own authority and power. He defeated those who were destroying this man. He did so immediately, simply by his word. He can do the same for you as well.

Of course, the point of the story is not the destruction of the pigs, but rather the deliverance and transformation of a person. This man, whose life had been brutalised as an enslaved sinner to demons, was now truly set free. As with the stormy sea in the preceding scene, so here: from chaos to calm, from darkness to a new creation—all to the glory of God.

Truly Converted

We read that word spread, and as people gathered they were confronted with the scene of this once terrifying, traumatized and even terrible man, now “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind.” He was calm, clothed, clearheaded. Jesus had transformed his life. He had been converted, simply by the power of the Word of Christ (cf. Romans 10:14–17)! This, my friend, is what South Africa needs. It needs the power of the gospel; it needs to be converted. Do you?

Though each Christian’s conversion circumstances are different, nevertheless, when Jesus Christ saves us, we experience a similar transformation. Let’s spend some time looking at the marks of his, and, I trust, our transformation.

Sitting

The man sitting, says Edwards, is “a picture of discipleship and salvation: a restored individual sitting at the feet of Jesus.” The man was no longer running around causing trouble. He was no longer unrestrained or unrestrainable. Rather, he was under control. He was self-controlled.

He was no longer a threat, no longer destructive. Rather he could be constructive. Like Paul, he went from attacking the kingdom of God to building it.

My best friend in high school lived a destructive life. By his own testimony, he raged against the gospel of Christ. But God saved him, and he spent twenty years in a leadership position in a large campus Christian ministry, ministering the gospel to others who lived destructively. The gospel changes people.

No longer was this man in a rage; rather, he could now build relationships. Adrian Vlok today has a house in Pretoria where he takes in homeless black people. The gospel changes people.

The converted person is empowered to exercise self-control because of the Spirit’s control (Ephesians 5:18). Brother, sister, you can be changed! There may still be consequences to your pre-conversion behaviour, but Christ can change your character and your conduct. Christ will be formed in those he converts!

Shameless

I can’t help but think about Adam and Eve. God clothed them from their shame. So here. This man had lived shamelessly shamefully—until Jesus spoke the word and delivered him. Now he was a new person—a new creation—and his new set of clothes revealed that a profound change had taken place.

The New Testament speaks about a similar change in those Christ saves. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul says that the gospel gives the power “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24). Later, Paul instructs the Ephesians, and us, to “put on the whole armour of God” so that we can face the spiritual warfare that rages around us with power and hope (Ephesians 6:11–14).

Peter tells us to “clothe” ourselves “with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5). Again, Paul urges us to “cast cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” which will have visible effects: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:11–14). Those who have been “baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

In the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1–14), it was the man who was improperly clothed who was cast out. Happily, those who are Christ’s are “arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (Revelation 19:14), and therefore need never fear being cast out. These texts makes it clear that those truly converted are matrimonially clothed. They are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). And because we are so clothed, we can be in a right mind.

You might wonder where this man’s clothes came from. I would assume that Jesus and the disciples provided him with clothes. We are responsible to help “clothe” one another—to help reduce the sense of shame. We call this restoration. We call this discipleship.

Sensible

For the first time in a long time, this man could think straight. He had sound thinking. He could see life as God meant it to be.

David McKenna was the president of a seminary in the United States. At one point, there was a young man whose behavior was so problematic that it seemed he would need to be expelled. McKenna called the young man to his office and told him that he was facing expulsion. The man began screaming and swearing. McKenna sat patiently, and when the young man was finished, asked, “What’s the real problem?” He then shared the gospel with the student, and an hour later he walked out of the office a converted man. He later showed McKenna an entry in his diary: “When I left the dean’s office, every tree looked different for miles around.”

When Jesus confronts and converts us, we begin to see things very differently because we begin to think very differently. Our worldview is wonderfully transformed.

Paul speaks of our life before we were Christians as being “alienated in our minds” when it came to our relationship with God (Colossians 1:21). Our minds were “at enmity” with God (Romans 8:7). We were unable to grasp spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14–16). Our understanding was “darkened” (Ephesians 4:18) and our thoughts were “evil” (Matthew 7:21). The result was that we did not know “the way of peace” (Romans 3:17). We could not face life with the discernment and clear-headedness that God intended at creation for us to have. In other words, we were really were out of our minds.

The result of this spiritual insanity is that we made ungodly decision after ungodly decision. This was perhaps not overtly so, but we certainly lived without regard to the glory of God. We lived, in this sense, as brutes.

Further, and usually without even realising it, we behaved in self-destructive ways. Whether by body-damaging sexual sin, character-deforming dishonesty, compassion-killing racism, soul-destroying greed, mind-altering substance abuse, heart-hardening bitterness, cruel unforgiveness, morals-destroying self-gratification, relationship-crushing selfishness, we were merely walking dead men. Essentially, we were no different to this pathetic creature in Gadara.

But God! When God changed us by delivering us through the person and work of Jesus Christ, we were put into a right frame of mind. And in most cases, people noticed. People observed that our lives had been converted. There had been a turning. There had been a great turnaround from what we were to something remarkably different. The transformation was discernible; it was visible.

When God saves us, he changes us. Our appetites change, our actions change, our attitudes change, even our aptitude and some of our activities may change. Change is what occurs when Jesus delivers us from the domain of darkness. Our chains are off, we are set free. And the life lived from that point on, though far from perfect, is nevertheless a long way from what it was when we were out of our mind.

In his excellent book, Conversion, Michael Lawrence makes the important point that being a Christian—experiencing conversion—is about being new, not nice. It is about being saved, not sincere. It is about being disciples, not merely making a decision. It is about being holy, not healed. These are very helpful, very needful distinctions that the evangelical landscape today needs to take seriously.

Jesus Christ changes those whom he calls, those whom he confronts, those whom he convicts, those whom he saves! There is hardly a clearer example of this than the man whom we see this morning, “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind.” And God can convert those today who are also assaulted by an army of evil. He can convert you. He can convert your loved one. He can convert your neighbours.

Consternation

South Africa needs to stop with its unhealthy consternation, as we see illustrated before us: “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” (Mark 5:15–17).

The response of the witnesses to the conversion—the supernatural transformation—of this man is deeply troubling. They showed him the door. They begged him to leave rather than inviting him to stay. When you consider your response in the past to Jesus, and when you consider the response of people today to Jesus, sadly, it is not surprising at all. “When God manifests himself in Jesus,” observes Edwards, “most people ask him to leave (John 1:11).”

Verse 15 tells us that they were “afraid.” But whereas the fear of the disciples was one of reverence (4:41), here, the fear was one of rejection. This fear drove them away. This was a fear of unbelief. Rather than submitting to the one who had transformed the life of this miserable individual, they felt threatened by Jesus’ powerful presence. France notes, “They feel better off without such a disturbing presence.”Why? They probably had the same fear many today have when confronted with the claims of Jesus: the fear he will disrupt their lifestyle. And he will!

Their response shows that it was not only the demoniac who was out of his mind; so were the supposedly saner townspeople. They chose swine over the Sovereign; they chose animals over the Creator; they chose money over the Master; they chose worldly concerns over the one who made and who sustains the world. They are so like us!

Walter Wessel helpfully observes,

They recognized that a mighty force was at work in Jesus that they could neither understand nor control. If it destroyed an entire herd of pigs, might not this power strike again with even more serious consequences? Fear, ignorance, and selfishness because of the material loss through the destruction of the pigs dominated their considerations rather than compassion for the former demoniac.

Their response reveals that, without Jesus Christ, our worldview is warped. It reveals that, without Jesus Christ, our estimation of what is important is weak. It shows that, without Jesus Christ, our life is essentially no different than those we believe to be wicked.

My wife and I were recently driving with a social worker in Pretoria. We drove past a particular shopping complex, and the social worker pointed to one restaurant and said, “That’s the Dros.” We immediately knew what she was talking about. Anyone following the news in South Africa knows what she meant. Recently, a man committed a terrible crime against a young girl in the toilets in a Dros restaurant. When I read that story, I immediately lamented the absence of the death penalty in our country. I wanted the man to pay for his life. If I am honest, I considered the criminal less than human because of his despicable actions. Reflecting on this text has helped me to remember that that man, created in the image of God, needs God’s grace as surely as I did before I was saved.

And you? Sure, the demoniac was a pathetic individual, infamous for his dark and depraved lifestyle. Yes, he needed to change. Everyone knew that. But when it hit home that they too needed to change, that was a very different story!

This may be the case with you right now. Perhaps Jesus is getting close to you, close enough for you to see his power, and you respond by putting distance between you and him. Perhaps you do so because of what you fear it will cost you materially—but also because of what you fear what he will do to you.

For example, perhaps the Lord has saved your wife. You cannot deny the transformation in her life. In fact, in your more honest moments, you are grateful that she is more pleasant. But now Jesus begins to work in your life. And the pain of transformation is too much for you.

You see, Jesus touches us where we need to be touched. His work in our life is not theoretical; it is actual. Therefore, it feels threatening. We don’t want to give up what the Lord requires, and neither do we want to give in to what the Lord demands. But when we hesitate, we are behaving like this man in our story: We are not thinking clearly. We are defying the one who alone can give to us the most important thing that we need: forgiveness, and all that we need from that point on.

As Ferguson laments, “How tragic that men, both then and now, cling to the sins which will ultimately destroy them, and beg Jesus to leave them rather than change them.”

Proclamation

Finally, South Africa needs to be committed to gospel proclamation, as we see in the closing verses of this pericope:

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 marvelled.

(Mark 5:18–20)

This is a remarkable, gracious, tender, amazing, and significantly hopeful scene. This transformed individual wanted to be with Jesus. This is discipleship language (3:14). This man desired to follow Jesus—and to follow him very closely. You can almost imagine him on the heels of Jesus as he began to climb back into the boat: “Jesus, you are all the world to me—let me be with you.”

If you belong to Jesus, then you want to be with him too. You will want to have his company, to hear his voice, to be connected to him, to commune with him, to serve him, to learn from him—to be like him. You will want to be in the company of Jesus, which means you will also be in company with his disciples. To be with Jesus means rubbing shoulders with, living life with, his other disciples. We call this church life!

In addition to his affection for Jesus, consider: To whom else could he go? Perhaps this man had been an isolated outcast for many, many years. He perhaps assumed, and perhaps rightly, that his family would not want him back. He had been the object of scorn and rejection, something like Boo Radley in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. And so, even when things changed, there was still a good deal of scepticism and fear remaining.

It is perfectly understandable that this man, our brother in Christ, wanted to leave town and follow Jesus. But Jesus “did not permit him.” The people want Jesus to leave and so he left. This man wanted to stay with Jesus and Jesus “did not permit him.” Why?

No doubt, because Jesus wanted to leave a witness behind. Since he was being asked to leave town, he wanted this man to carry on his witness. This is remarkable. This is grace! You see, this was Gentile territory. But Jesus was concerned about all nations—not just Israel. As Edwards says, “In the Gospel of Mark, the healed demoniac becomes the first missionary-preacher sent out by Jesus. Remarkably, he is a Gentile sent to Gentiles.”

This man did what every one of us is to do: proclaim the King and his kingdom. This man had a testimony. He had experienced the stronger man binding the strong man and his minions. He was to tell others about it. This is what evangelism is. This is what every Christian is called to do.

Closer to Home

There is another matter that is front and centre. In some cases, it is easier to make a new beginning in a totally new context—like a witness protection program. It is often far more difficult to live out your faith where everyone knows you, where you have a past. Perhaps this was the case here. Rather than accepting this man’s appeal that he might go along with him across the lake, Jesus told him to “go home to your friends.” “Brother, be a witness where people know you the best. After all, there really is no one better suited for the task than you are.” And, of course, this was literally true seeing that this man is apparently the only follower of Jesus in the region! Yet, as 7:31ff indicates, this would not be the case forever.

The first place where we are to demonstrate the power of Jesus is before the lives of those who know us best. Parents, try this at home! Children, try this at home! Husband, wife, try this at home! Employee, be a faithful witness in the workplace. Fallen church member, do this here and with us!

Again, when Jesus returned, many in this Gentile region knew about him. This man was faithful where Jesus had left him. He had bloomed where he was planted. But why was he so faithful? After all, consider that he was in the minority. This would not have been an easy mission.

It seems to me that a key to his faithfulness, and subsequent fruitfulness perhaps, was his understanding of who Jesus was. This made him passionate to proclaim. Jesus had told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” But v. 20 says “he went away and began to proclaim … how much Jesus had done for him.” This man was not confused about the identity of Jesus. On the contrary, this man who had been transformed by Jesus knew that he was the Lord; he was persuaded that Jesus was more than a man, that Jesus was more than a miracle worker. Yes, he was persuaded that Jesus is God. He had no doubt that Jesus was the Son of the Most High God.

When we live with this conviction, we will have a difficult time keeping our mouths shut about the great things he has done for us. In other words, revelation (illumination) is fundamental to proclamation.

Too often we are not moved by the message we are commanded to proclaim. And those we speak to know it. We proclaim Jesus without enthusiasm and then wonder why those to whom we are speaking are not enthused! Søren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth century Danish philosopher, lamented the state of the church in Denmark. Concerning this, Albert Mohler writes,

Looking at the churches in Denmark in his day, Kierkegaard decided that their pastors must not believe what they were teaching. After all, they were preaching the most revolutionary and transformative message human ears had ever heard—the gospel. But the church looked lifeless; and its pastors seemed to be going through the motions. The churches had fine stained glass and beautiful music, but Kierkegaard declared that they lacked the one thing most necessary—passion.

I am not talking about a worked-up, “frothy” excitement. I am rather speaking of a deep appreciation for the person and work of Jesus that is compelling, if not contagious, because it is passionately believed. We could all do with a greater passion for this life-transforming, eternity-changing gospel.

This brother, whom one day we Christians will meet, had no doubt about what Jesus could do for others because he knew what Jesus had done for him. Every believer should have such a passionate conviction.

Conclusion

Christian, we’ve experienced the power of the gospel. Let’s be passionate about it and with it. This is what South Africa, and the world, needs.

Friend, have you experienced this transforming power of Jesus Christ in your life? If not, then today is the day. Run to him, repent and turn to him. Receive him today. If South Africa, and the world needs this, then so do you.