Beyond Broken – Mark 5:1-21

Last evening my youngest daughter wanted to surprise our family by attempting to do the dishes. But in her attempt to serve us and love us through her service, a dish slipped out of her hand and shattered on the kitchen floor. The moment we heard the crash, we also heard her cry. We rushed into the kitchen to see what was wrong, and what was wrong in her mind wasn’t the broken glass that was spread across the kitchen floor but it was the fact that she knew that there was no fixing what she had broken. She realized when you break glass it would always be broken.

That’s one of the harsh realities of life; what is broken is very difficult to fix and in some cases impossible. In Mark chapter 5, we see a situation that involves brokenness and to the natural eye, this was a situation that is beyond broken. It’s Jesus standing face to face with a man who was possessed with a evil spirit. Up unto this point this was looked at as an absolute irreparable situation. A man who was demon possessed was an outcast, he was pushed on the brink of society and there was nothing that could be done for him.

The Human Predicament

In Mark chapter 5, as he’s traveling and teaching people about the gospel of the kingdom, Jesus runs into this man who had been living in the graveyard. A man who had been so utterly broken and tormented by the reality of what was in him. A man whom people had tried to bind with chains and out of sheer agony and anguish he would break them over and over again and cut himself with those broken pieces. Day and night this man was in the graveyard crying out, cutting himself. Crying because of the level of torment and brokenness he felt within himself. Jesus comes face to face with this man. What I first of all want us to understand is this man possessed with demons is not that different from you and I. No matter how sophisticated our American culture maybe we still have a deep problem than none of us can control. Sin! This is the reality of the human predicament. This is the reality of sin’s effect on the world we live in. Sin is what imprisons us from birth. Sin is what makes us innately broken within. It is the reason why man drifts into the illicit, ungodly things they do. It’s the reason why we have carnal desires that take us away from God’s perfect will.

As it says in Romans 5:12, “As by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.” So as we look at the demoniac man in Mark 5 its obvious people have done everything they could to tame and control him but to no avail. They chained him up, they pushed him out, but none of it helped. You cannot manage and control demons.They must be put under the authority of a greater power. That power in Mark 5 is Jesus Christ and I am excited to know that power is still at work in the world today. People who are bound by the clutch of sin can be completely set free by the marvelous grace of Jesus.

Brokenness Restored

When this demon possessed man finally encounters Jesus, everything changes. He notices Jesus afar off. This man, in his broken shackles and his deep scars looks up and in the distance he sees Jesus. I doubt if he’s ever seen or heard of Jesus before because crazy people in graveyards typically don’t care about popular culture, but there is something about Jesus that was different and appealing to the point that this man recognized the Savior and he runs to Him and bows down worships him. This is the most appropriate response to the work of God in ones life: Worship. The only answer to the human predicament of sin is Jesus. The demoniac man cried out with a loud voice and he said, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou son of the most High God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not.” He recognizes that Jesus is the King of all kings. He recognizes that his brokenness is not permanent because of Jesus. He knows that all of man’s attempts to help his problem was useless, but with a simple word Jesus restores all that was broken by sin and satan. “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit” and the demons have to leave at the command of Christ.

When the Gospel Goes Deep the Whole World Knows

The brokenness has been restored through Christ. OUR brokenness has been restored through Christ. In this story, Jesus cast the evil spirit into a herd of pigs and the pigs end up running over a mountain cliff and I’m sure farmers had an issue with loosing their herd, and they wanted to see this man who had been living in the graveyards was the one causing all this commotion. However what they find is not a man filled with rage, but they came and they saw this man who was well collected and in his right mind. All because of the power of Christ. They saw brokenness restored. They saw the effect of the gospel, they saw the effect of the word of Christ in taking what was utterly shattered and bringing it together and making it whole again. That is the power of Christ and that is the same way it works in your life and my life. Those looking at this new man can see that what was irreversible, made whole. Those who look at your life and my life can see the impact of the Gospel in our heart. This man’s life was so radically changed, he wanted to become a disciple but Jesus told him, “Go home to your friends. Tell them how deep the change is within your heart. Tell them how Christ had compassion on you” and he took no time and he departed and published all abroad how great the glory and power of Jesus Christ was for him, and then all men marveled at the work of God in his life. A witness, a gospel witness was established. Every time God changes a life, there is a gospel witness that has been established here on earth. When God restores your brokenness, you now become an ambassador for his work. You become an agent of His love and someone who is called to reflect and shine out gospel light, that then shines deep within other dark hearts that need this Jesus.

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The Risk of Real Love and the Problem with Superficial Religion – Mark 3:1-8

 
I’ve always been amazed by the ministry of Jesus. While Jesus lived and walked on the earth He made some of the greatest claims a man could ever make. He claimed to be the Son of God, and that He was able to forgive sins. Those where massive claims and all the religious leaders looked at that as outright blasphemy. In Mark chapter 3 He makes a claim so outrageous that the leaders have no clue how to respond to it. Jesus declares that He did not come to reform religion, but He came to end religion and replace it with Himself. This story begins with Jesus entering the synagogue, and from a distance He sees a man who has a withered hand. A”withered hand” was probably our modern “infantile paralysis,” which may leave one or more limbs shrunken and powerless without detriment to the general health of the rest of the body.

The religious leaders around him watched just to see if He would actually heal this man on the Sabbath day. Their whole purpose in this was to trap Him or accuse Him of some wrong. So in front of everyone He calls the man with the withered hand to stand up, and Jesus asked one of the most important questions. He says, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day or to do evil? To save life or to kill?” Everybody looked around at each other, and they held their peace. His question was a penetrating question, because their understanding of the law was that the Sabbath was designed for good not evil. The Sabbath was about restoring the diminished, it was about replenishing the tired, it was about repairing the broken. To heal the man’s shriveled hand was exactly what the Sabbath was all about, but if the crowd agreed with that, then they would be agreeing with Jesus whom they viewed as a blasphemer and a rebel. When Jesus looked around and saw that everybody was silent, He was angry and grieved because their silence spoke of the hardness of their hearts. He could see that the Pharisees were content with religion and their strict adherence to the law, but they wanted nothing to do with a life giving Savior! They were so concerned about the Sabbath regulations, that they missed the opportunity to love. The Pharisees hearts were as shriveled as this man’s hand.

Real Love isn’t Afraid to Cross the Line

Jesus knew the law. He knew the response and reaction of those who were looking to condemn Him. But it was His love and outright passion for the souls of men that lead Him to heal on the sabbath day. Jesus tells this man to stretch out his hand and his hand was restored as whole. From that point the Pharisees took council with the Herodians against Him, how they could attempt to destroy Him. Jesus’ act of healing on the Sabbath deeply testified to me of the risk of real love and the problem of superficial religion. The Sabbath was a very holy day and the word Sabbath means, “A deep rest, a deep peace.” It’s a near synonym for Shalom, a state of wholeness and flourishing in every state of life. When Jesus says “I am the Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus means that He is the Sabbath, He is the source of the deep rest we need. He has come to completely change the way we view rest and the way we experience rest. The one day a week of rest that we take is just a taste of the deep divine rest we need, and Jesus is its source. This claim was absolutely overwhelming for the religious fanatics around Him. When Jesus said, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath,” this threw them back. The law of God directed that you had to rest from your work one day in the week. The religious leaders of that day were fenced in this law with a stack of specific regulations, such as 39 types of activities that you could not do on the Sabbath, including reaping grain. This healing is one of the seven miracles that Jesus Christ performed on the Sabbath. So the idea of Jesus healing on the Sabbath was a complete abomination to them. Yet, just to solidify His Lordship and His claim over creature and creation, Jesus in His great love steps out on the Sabbath day to heal this man.

The Problem with Superficial Religion

Real love cares for the sinners. The religious leaders were so lost in their law-keeping that they forgot that there was a human life involved. They were so concerned with Sabbath regulations they didn’t really want Jesus to heal this man. They’re self-absorbed instead of caring for the real needs of others. So Jesus calls this man out. He tells him to stand up and stretch out your hand; and the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of all creation heals him. Superficial religion knows nothing about the life changing power of Jesus! The Pharisees were hardened in their hearts, and they model for us the problem of Superficial Religion. First of all, we can see it in their inability to see the good will in Jesus’ desire to heal. Secondly, in the fact that they couldn’t love and care for the man with the withered hand. Superficial Religion is hard and calloused. We need to have Jesus restore our withered hearts and help us to Love and live and see life as He sees it.

When Dreams Appear to Die

Recently I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in Genesis. I’ve honestly read this story hundreds of times, each time with a different emphasis. This time through I noticed that I wasn’t really enamored by all of the suffering that Joseph went through. I wasn’t enamored by the fact that he was sold into slavery, hated by his brothers, eventually became a slave, a prisoner or falsely accused. All of those things to me just seemed like life. Life has a real tendency of turning upside down or maybe going in a direction that we never planned or envisioned it to go. Life is not fair. We don’t know who will be the next victim of cancer or a terrible hate crime, but we do know that it’s a part of this thing we call life.

I’m sure that Joseph never dreamed of being sold by his brothers that were supposed to love him. Joseph never dreamed of being a slave, he never dreamed of being falsely accused and thrown into jail and neither do we. Joseph’s dream was being exalted above all those around him. Like Joseph, many of us have dreams; for some, they are merely selfish desires of being exalted above our peers. And for others, they’re humble honest hardworking aspirations. The harsh truth is that sometimes, life just gets a little lopsided. And after all the shaking I’ve personally had in my life recently I wasn’t alarmed when I read about the struggles Joseph was facing because we see them all around us in the world we live in.

But what did get my attention was how he managed to keep his eyes on God through all of it. He was able to look beyond the circumstances and what I know was real genuine hurt and place his eyes on God. That’s the miracle of the Joseph story! He, by the grace of God managed to keep his hope and confidence in what God was doing and not in what he was seeing and feeling.

Focus on the Sovereign One

The proof of this was not in Joseph’s success, or in his rise to become the right-hand man of Pharaoh; but we see it when Joseph is finally face to face with his brothers in those tense moments in Gen 43-50. His brothers come back in the middle of the famine and they see Joseph for the first time, but they can’t recognize him. Joseph however, knows exactly who they are and he knows, “These are the men who wrecked my life. These are the men who broke me. These are the men that caused me to go through everything I’ve been through for the past several years.” But yet, he had the grace to see through the eyes of the Sovereign God of all creation. He understood that it wasn’t his brothers who ultimately put him there. It was the grace of God. Grace that lovingly cared for him and met all of his needs while in Egypt. He could look at his brothers through the eyes of faith and say, “Yes Lord.” To me, the most powerful thing that took place in the Joseph narrative is forgiveness. We can see in that one act, that all God had been doing in Joseph’s life had reached its fruition because God worked himself out into everyday life by the act forgiveness. A.W. Tozer once said – “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority”. So to us,  Joseph’s life looked like a tragedy in the making but he placed his faith in the One who has all authority.

What About Today?

Dreams sometimes do die. My perfectly ordered life came tumbling down. My dreams of perfection and wholeness became a wreck of my own making and I never saw any of it coming. So what now? Here’s what I choose to do – I choose to look to the Sovereign One. And when I fix my eyes on Him, I understand my place in this vast universe and I bring my wrecked life to Him. There is no problem beyond His ability, and when I trust Him to sovereignly rule and reign despite my hurt, when I trust that He will work out the sorrow in my life, and in all of life somehow, some way, for His ultimate good and pleasure, (Romans 8:28) only then do I lose my desire to seek retribution for any hurt or harm that I’ve experienced because I am overwhelmed by a God who does way more than forgive my sin, but He lovingly ministers to me through all of life. This is what Joseph was experiencing! This perspective was what allowed him to say these powerful words in Genesis 50:20 (ESV) “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” The challenge I find in my life today is to make sure that I am willing to embrace all of the Gospel, to embrace the Sovereign God, and say: “Amen.”