Matthew 26:64 - Mark 2:4
(The story in this post comes from tomorrow's reading in Mark 5... there are several great lessons in that chapter, which we will address again tomorrow... I just couldn't pass any of them up.)
Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that ours is a God of second chances?
One of my most favorite scripture stories on this subject is the story of the man from the tombs of Gadarene.
Jesus and His apostles had crossed over the sea into the country of the Gadarenes.
Immediately after the Lord left the ship, a man who was plagued with devils came to Him. The man lived within the tombs, and no man could bind him…neither could any man tame him. Always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying. (Mark 5:3-5) The description of this man speaks of his unhappiness, but more importantly, of his daily struggle against a problem or habit that consumed his entire life.
Knowing these details, perhaps it is surprising that upon seeing the Lord the man ran to Him, fell down before Him, and worshipped Him, saying “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” And Jesus asked him, “What is thy name?” (Mark 5:7 & 9)
This tender moment is one of my favorite parts of this story. In my mind I picture the man wondering if he is someone the Lord has time for, if he is past saving, if, perhaps, he is wasting the Lord’s time.
I love that the Lord looked past the outward appearance, past the very visual condition that seemed beyond repair, and asked, “What is your name?”
The appearance was of lesser importance; the individual was of greatest consequence.
Even then, the man’s true identity was hidden by his struggle, for he answered, “My name is Legion: for we are many.” (Mark 5:9) Alfred Edersheim explains that a legion conveys the idea of 6000 armed and strong warriors of evil. Imagine being tempted daily by a legion. No wonder no man could bind him or tame him. But the Lord saw past the broken man, knowing it wasn’t too late for him to become the person the Lord knew He could be.
The man was fearful of the change that was about to take place, but still the Lord commanded the unclean spirit to leave him. The devils entered into a herd of swine, ran violently down a steep place, and drowned in the Sea of Galilee.
Most often when we hear this scriptural account, this is where the story ends. However, my very favorite part of the story takes place in the next few verses. The men who cared for the pigs went into the city and told the people what had happened, and the people came to see what was done. When they came to the place where Jesus was “they found the man… sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” (Luke 8:35 emphasis added)
There is an important lesson here. The first step in making a change is to recognize the Lord, to understand our worth in His eyes, and to turn our life over to Him. The second step requires sitting at the Lord’s feet, learning from Him, and understanding His words. There is strength to be found at the foot of the Lord, sufficient strength to give courage. But this, in itself, is not enough.
The man begged the Lord that He might stay with Him always, but this was not what the Lord had in mind. Instead He replied, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” (Mark 5:19)
After a life changing experience like that, leaving the foot of the Lord would be hard counsel to follow. Sometimes it is easier to make a decision to change for good when we are sitting at the feet of the Lord ––when we feel the Spirit through a message at Church, when our eyes are opened as we read the scriptures, or when we hear the whisperings of an answer to prayer. But then life goes on. When we are not caught up in the moment sometimes we forget what prompted the change. The Lord has an answer for this. “Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee.” (Luke 8:39) The answer for making the change and then for keeping it is to testify of the Lord’s hand concerning the change all the rest of the days of our life.
This man took the Lord’s counsel to heart. Not only did he share his testimony at home and with his friends, but the scriptures tell us that he published it throughout the whole city. “Such was to become his life work. In this there would be safety and happiness.” (Alfred Edersheim)
Great healing comes when we recognize the hand of the Lord in our life and come to understand our worth. Even greater healing comes as we sit at His feet and learn His word. But the greatest healing comes when we bear testimony of His hand in our life to all we know.
Within every great healing moment there is change.
Sometimes the change is painful. Sometimes it requires great strength and courage. Sometimes it requires compassion. Always it requires recognizing the hand of the Lord, bending our will to His, and then testifying of what we have experienced. Often the greatest healing comes through the bearing of this testimony and the compassion we are able to extend to others who walk the path we trod.
It is interesting that when the multitude saw what had happened they besought the Lord to depart from them, “for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.” (Luke 8:37)
But the man and his story remained.
In a time afterward when Jesus returned to that place “the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.” (Luke 8:40) The healed man had prepared the way for the Lord. His change had enabled many to follow his example, and through him and the testimony of his experience their hearts had been prepared to receive the Lord.
Do you feel a prompting of something you would like to change in your life? Begin by finding a way to understand your worth in the sight of the Lord. Then sit at His feet. Find courage. Gather strength. Once you are ready move forward. Share your testimony with those who need your compassion and encouragement. Go to your friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for you.
Perhaps your story will prepare someone else to know the Lord.