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The Second Time Around

He “begged Him (Jesus) earnestly that he might remain with Him. Jesus did not let him…”

This is something that, if I dare to be honest, never sat well with me.

This quote is taken from Mark 5:18-19. It is the conclusion of an amazing story, one that was a favorite of mine as a child. Weird, I know. What kid has as their favorite story about Jesus the one that began with a demon-possessed man who lived in a graveyard and ended with those demons going into a heard of pigs only for them to commit suicide by running off a cliff and destroying more bacon than a Baptist Breakfast serves up for men’s breakfast. But it was my favorite. Then again my favorite book as a kid was St. John’s Revelation. So, at least I was consistent.

If you can’t call this story to mind, I’ll offer up a quick refresher. At the end of a long day of ministry, Jesus tells His disciples that they need to cross over the Sea of Galilee. Which is odd. Not that they got in a boat, hell, half of His disciples were fishermen. What makes this trip out of place is where they were headed. This group of Jewish men were sailing straight for a Gentile region. A place known as the Decapolis. This was an area that was made up of 10 Greek-speaking cities that were founded only after the Romans smashed the Hasmonean Dynasty that was established by the Maccabees when they won independence from the last fragments of Alexander the Great’s empire.

This would have been like if Britain won the War of 1812, placed the United States into subjugation, and set up a group of cities in the heart of America that were British. The place Jesus told the disciples that they were going was a cultural center that reminded every Jew that they lived in exile on the very land that God promised to Abraham.

Then, to make it all worse. Jesus gets into the boat, and before explaining why they are headed there instead of to another city full of His own people who needed Him…He fell asleep. I think that any preacher would explain this by pointing to how worn out you are after preaching, and that Sunday afternoon nap is a gift from God.

In the midst of this nap, a storm comes in so strong that these warn and weathered men who grew up knowing the water and the wind as playmates and professors lost all hope. This storm was so bad that they knew death was not in question, it was only of question of when death would call their number.

Yet, when they wake Jesus. He yells at the wind and waves. He bellows out, “Be Still.” And the disciples marveled how even the wind and waves obey Him. They must have believed that what they just witnessed was the craziest thing they would witness that year, or at least that day.

But when the boat gets to shore they are met by a man so full of demons that when Jesus asked the devil(s) in this man to be named they answered Him, “My name is Legion, because we are many.” Crazy how in the gospels it’s the demons who use plural pronouns…but I’ll leave that alone.

Jesus has compassion on this man who had been driven wild by these demons. He casts them out, sending them into a herd of pigs. The pigs kill themselves rather than live with one of these many demons who this man had been possessed by.

The people from the surrounding area came out to see what had happened. And instead of rejoicing that this man who had been driven out of town, out of society, and out of his mind had finally been set free, they were angry. Jesus had disrupted their lives. The pigs that died were the way they would fatten their bellies and their pockets. They drove Jesus away…

And that is where we began.

This man who had been rejected by everyone he ever knew asked Jesus to be different. This man who had been told that he was unworthy to come into the city of society is now being told that he is not welcome to come into the ship of his Savior.

“What the f**k, Jesus?”

(If you haven’t thought that then you haven’t actually ever read this story…or you use different words that have the same meaning but make you feel like you’re better than us ‘sinners’.)

Jesus leaves this man on the shore. Telling him only to share his story. 

And he does so.

Growing up I always heard that this was the end of the story. I believed that we never knew the outcome of this mission given to a man who had been driven mad by the devils and demons of this world.

But that’s not true. Yet, I only realized it.

Two chapters later we see a near identical scenario take place. Jesus, worn out after a long day of ministry, tells His disciples to go back to that shore that they sailed to once before. Yet this time He promises to meet them there.

Another storm arises. This one wasn’t as bad as the last. The disciples didn’t fear that this storm would cost their souls, only their strength. So they took down the sail and rowed against the wind. And in this storm, Jesus decides that the rocky soil of Israel is too hard on His feet, and it would feel so much nicer just to walk on the water. 

After Jesus rejoined His disciples the storm ceased immediately. Another storm that just stopped on a dime. And the people on that far shore must have remembered the last time. And they must have remembered the greater storm that Jesus quieted. Not the one that beat the waters of a sea for a day but one that brutalized the soul of a man for a decade.

For, this time when Jesus came to shore it was not a single man with a multitude of demons hoping that it was not Him. This time there were a multitude of men awaiting His arrival hoping that this was He.

Mark 6:54 tells us that the “people immediately recognized Him.” These same people, the last time they gathered there with Jesus on the shore pressed Him to leave. Yet, this time around they prayed that He would stay. Because of this man left on the shore two chapters earlier things were different for Jesus the second time around. 

I can’t help but think of that man who is only known by the identity of his demons.

Yet, he shared his story. Not the story of the demons that ripped him apart, but the story of how Jesus picked him up and put him back together.

He refused to return to the graves that had been his home. He didn’t allow who he had been to dictate what his story was.

How often do I allow myself to believe that my identity to be the name of the demons I wrestle with? The places of past familiarity that call to me may not be the tombs of the dead, yet they are the touch of death.

Maybe the world shall only ever remember us by our demons. But, there is a man remembered only by His. And by all accounts, he set his world on fire.

We shall never know his name on this side of Heaven.

His story was my favorite growing up, and his is the first I hope to learn up in glory. 


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