As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 5:1-20
Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people 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.
Evil can get a grip on you. It can be subtle and persistent. You hardly notice its presence, but it is there. It might manifest in gossip, judgmentalism, jealousy, anger, malice, or grudge-holding. You don’t think too much of these evils. These impulses only lead to “small sins,” common human flaws that everyone expresses from time to time.
That’s what we tell ourselves.
Lord, save us from small sins.
But sometimes evil doesn’t stay small. Sometimes it consumes us, takes power over us, and leads us to do and say things we regret. We harm others, harm ourselves, or do immense damage to the world around us. If you’ve spoken with someone who has suffered from an addiction, you know the experience of addiction is like bondage. Through a series of choices, large or small, alcohol, pornography, sex, drugs, or some other destructive behavior is given power to rule and reign. We can become addicted to sin, both large and small. Liberation is needed. Chains need breaking.
In Mark 5, Jesus encounters a man who has been overpowered by evil. The action takes place in the region of the Gerasenes. The Gerasene region is found amidst a grouping of towns known as the Decapolis (a word which means “ten cities”). Jesus is no longer in Israel but among foreigners. That’s a surprise. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each tell this story. They’re letting us know that the Jesus movement will go global. Though Jesus begins in Israel, his message is for the world. This is a foretaste.
When the disciples row ashore on the southeast corner of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus steps off the boat and finds a man with an evil spirit who “came from the tombs.” He is a death-dweller. Mark tells us the tombs were his home, and though others had attempted to bind him in chains, hand and foot, to keep him from harming himself and others, no one could overcome him by strength. Day and night the man would cut himself and cry out. He wounded himself and wailed.
When the man spotted Jesus “from a distance,” he ran. He did not run away, but toward. Jesus stood firm. Perhaps he came for this man. We do not know. We only know that the man approached Jesus and fell to his knees, and shouted in a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” How strange.
Jesus gets down to business. He had already commanded the evil spirit to leave this man. But then Jesus asks, “What's your name?” Knowing a name, speaking a name, grants power. Anyone who has heard their full name shouted by a parent knows this is true. The evil spirit identifies as “Legion, for we are many.” This man’s afflictions were many, and Mark subtly shifts the narration to include this knowledge Jesus has uncovered. “Legion” ask Jesus to send “us” into pigs on a hillside, and the “evil spirits” come out of the man and are sent into the herd. The pigs then cast themselves into the lake and are drowned.
The locals are troubled. Their economy has been disrupted. So they come to see what happened and find Jesus with the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting, dressed, and of sound mind. They were terrified. No one had been able to bind this man, and now, he was seated before Jesus as a student. Who was this man?
The people of the region beg Jesus to leave. But the man Jesus healed begs to go with him. Jesus does not permit it. He tells the man to return to his family, to tell them “how much the Lord has done,” how in Jesus he found mercy. That’s profound. So the man began making the circuit around the ten cities, telling everyone about Jesus, “And all the people were amazed.” Those of another land hear there is a Messiah in Israel. A savior. A deliverer. Jesus takes a madman and makes him a missionary.
When Jesus delivers us he always sends us. He does not save us so that we may continue to sit. We’re on the move, on the go, sharing the message, doing the work of the kingdom. Evil may have you in its grip. Run to Jesus. Ask him to have mercy. Sit at his feet. Trust him. Let him heal you, restore you. Then, go where he tells you. Tell how much the Lord has done for you.
Jesus, Son of the Most High God, deliver me from evil, rescue me from sins both large and small, protect me from the evil one, come into my company, and carry me to you. Change me by your grace, and send me as your messenger. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.