The Lord of the Spirits – Mark 5:1-20

by Roger McCay
1 August 2021
Sermon Passage: Mark 5:1-20
Link to Audio Version

A couple of years ago we had the privilege to visit Israel. Walking in those places where Jesus walked and where Biblical heroes of the faith walked, the Apostles, the Mary’s, David, Elijah, and so forth, was surreal in some ways. But it was very grounding in other ways: touching the earth of the land with my hands; feeling a touch of spray from the water of the Sea of Galilee, with the breeze, as we puttered around in a boat; swimming in the Dead Sea; sitting on the steps that Jesus walked up and down, as he went into and exited the temple; standing on the Mount of Olives and looking over at Jerusalem…; gazing upon the place where Jesus was crucified; going into a tomb, which may have been the one in which Jesus was laid and in which he arose, so is now empty. Well, there was so much packed into one short trip it was pretty overwhelming.

One particular place we visited (that I remember well) was on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, which was where the incident, in our passage today, took place. I’ve got some pictures from there. It’s beautiful as you look over the sea towards the west, and with the flora around the area. But it’s marred by the signs and barbed wire—the signs reading in both Hebrew and English, “Danger, Mines.” So, there is the road we travelled on to get there and a little sightseeing area off the road to which we were limited, because of the danger of the landmines all around. I see in that a metaphor for life, as we know it, in this world.

And considering the Fallen Condition Focus of the sermon today, it is no stretch of the imagination to see how (despite the beauty of the world in which we live) people, who are struggling with troubles in their life can, feel as if landmines are all around them. And, perhaps, they have been blown up by one—either literally or figuratively. Maybe it’s struggles in a marriage, or work, or stress over what the future might hold. What to do? Or it could be the struggle with sin of whatever sort. We get hemmed in. We become afraid of the wrong step. We feel damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We want to do well, but we fail. We want to do right, but we sin. We get caught up in our imperfections, and stress. And I’m just scratching the surface. Yet, such things are part of the human condition in a sinful world, which are why anxiety and depression are rampant in our world, even despair.

Counseling has thus become a big thing. It has become the norm for people to have a therapist of some sort. And such counselors do good work, in helping folks. Mary Ellen, for example, does a wonderful service for our community, in the number of folks she helps each week with the Christian counseling she provides. And it’s okay to ask for help. It’s a good step.

Now, as a pastor, for many years (going back to long before I came to MPC) I’ve provided spiritual care, what some call “counseling,” … I’ve provided spiritual care for hundreds of people—individuals, couples, and families who were desperately struggling with various troubles. Often, and you’ve probably heard me mention this before, I’ll ask them early on if they had prayed to the Lord about their troubles. And often they answer, sometimes sheepishly, “No.” Over and over I’ve gotten this reaction, even from professed believers. And I wonder, “Why come to me before going to Jesus?” I am not the Christ. He is.

Yet, this is a very real phenomenon. It can be that when we are plagued with dark troubles (even what some might even call “inner demons”), we try all sorts of things to solve them—self-help programs, counseling, and such. However, we can forget to go to the one person who can surely help us in our trouble—Jesus Christ.

In our passage today, the “inner demons” of the poor fellow here are very real, personal, and evil demons, not just figurative. We are, too, shown why we should run to Jesus, when we have troubles. The answer is grounded in the person of Jesus; his power; his grace; his judgment; and his hope.

The demoniac was a particularly pitiful man. Although he had been granted superhuman strength in his demonization (something, by the way, which is idolized by many); A Faustian deal? Maybe? … despite his superhuman strength, he spiraled into a downward tumble, overcome by evil. The man had been driven from society: was living in the tombs of the dead; was running around naked; and crying out, probably with screams and curses. He was immersed in filth and stench and was self-mutilating, by cutting. This man was a miserable wreck, cast out from society, driven from his home, and utterly alone (at least in regards to human company).