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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bryant

Mark 5:1-20: That Which Mercy Alone Can Untangle

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesushad stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 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. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 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.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 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.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessedman, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesusto depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 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.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

As a Street Pastor, I work with wounded, selfish people who reveal me to be a wounded, selfish person.

Those two things: our woundedness and our selfishness are a hopeless tangle. We are wounded by the sins of others, even as we trapped in our own Sin that hurts others.

I don’t think there is a psychiatrist, a social worker, a friend, social worker or philosopher who can hope to untangle the knot we’ve gotten ourselves in simply being born and trying to live.

Here in this story the Lord draws a man to himself, binds up his wounds. He also drives out the powers that have oppressed this man, kept him in bondage. It is an ugly scene, demons going into pigs, pigs going into the river to drown.

The howling man who cut himself and who could not be subdued is now a man in his right mind, at the feet of Christ.

Christ recognized there was wounds that needed to be healed, and dark powers that needed to be driven out.

And for those two things, those two actions the Lord has the same name: Mercy. The man was supposed to look at the pigs drowning and and his own healing and understand them both as the Lord's Mercy. Mercy has bound up the man’s wounds and drive out his demons.

And for us: the Lord’s Mercy is the only hope to untangle the wounded selfish thing we are. Only the Mercy of the Lord can discern and untangle our own pain from the hidden and idolatrous and selfish ways we’ve managed it.

Our shame, fear, and humiliation is so deeply attached to the ways we’ve managed and controlled it that we cannot tell the difference. Our deep woundedness and our selfishness are indistinguishable.

Only the Mercy of the Lord can hope to untangle it. Can hope to divide pain from pride. Only Christ and His Love has the proper application of tenderness and severity that can separate the two. So that wounds may be healed, and the dark power of Sin driven out.

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