Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Angels Part Four - The Other Side

This is the fourth of eight posts based on the Bible Study Guide "Angels" by Douglas Connelly, A LifeGuide Bible Study. Today's passage is Mark 5:1-20, in which Jesus meets the Man of the Gerasenes who is under the influence of demons. The Bible is very clear about the existence of demons. They are described in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Jesus confronts them on more than one occasion. It's a fairly straightforward faith system leap if you believe that angels are servants and messengers of God to also accept that God's adversary, Satan, would also have servants and messengers, demons.

The other day my daughter asked me why Satan is always the bad guy. I think she was still processing a Sunday School lesson from several weeks back on Jesus' temptation. As part of the lesson we had the children play Follow the Leader, but let two children be leaders at the same time. The children had to choose who they would follow. We explained that Jesus always chose to be obedient to God...a hard concept for a child who wants to obey but sometimes just doesn't have the physical and emotional resources to do so. In response to her question I explained in the simplest language I could use that Satan used to be an angel who worshipped God, but then one day he decided he wanted to _be_ god, and the real true God had to punish him and send him away (Isaiah 14:12-15). In Revelation 12:3-9, John describes the war in Heaven when Satan rebelled and a third of angels were cast down with him. The other angels, led by Michael, fought against him, and the battle rages on.

I have often wondered if some people with special needs, particularly psychological disorders, were mis-labeled as demon-possessed in the Biblical time period. There are many characteristics that might be similar - e.g. odd, aggressive, or anti-social behavior. In today's story the possessed man has unusual physical strength and injures himself in reaction to his spiritual agony. In accounts of Jesus encountering people under demonic influence we can be sure that is the true story. In almost every case the demons reveal themselves by vocally recognizing who Jesus is. In today's story in Mark 5:7 (NIV) the demons shout out, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me." The demons who influence the physical realm but exist in the spiritual realm immediately recognize Jesus for who He is. They are asserting their territory rights, but also recognizing that Jesus has the power to dismiss them. Jesus rebukes the demons and sends them into a herd of pigs. The pigs promptly run off a cliff and drown in a lake, and the swineherds who have witnessed all of these events run off in fright to find reinforcements. The villagers return to find Jesus with the newly recovered man "dressed and in his right mind" (Mark 5:15) and their immediate response is to ask Jesus to leave. Their fear response is palpable. I suppose they are wondering if this former "maniac" is going to remain sane or if he will return to his old ways. They've lived in fear for so long that this episode is just the latest bizarre twist in a horrible saga and they want no part of it.

Understandably the now calm man wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to stay, go to his family and tell them what God had done for him that day. I have often wondered about this man and what his life was like after Jesus sent his tormentors into the pigs. How amazing and probably overwhelming at times to suddenly be in control again, and to be given the assignment of telling people, "how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." (Mark 5:19)

It is no more than all who have reached out to Christ in faith are asked to do. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." (Psalm 107:2) Though we may not have been bound in chains or isolated among the tombstones, we have all experienced the bondage and decay of sin. One encounter with Jesus and we are given new clothes (Galatians 3:27) and a right mind (Romans 12:2). Now He asks us to tell others, though we may just want to leave the old life behind and go with Him, there are people that we need to tell of His mercy.


Chris said...

The converse of your statement... I have often wondered if some people with special needs, particularly psychological disorders, were mis-labeled as demon-possessed in the Biblical time period. ...can also be a good question. How many people, dismissed today as having a psychological disorder, are actually demon-possessed?

KDL said...

This is a much harder question to ask, however, maybe because we're asking about our own time, and people that live just down the street rather than people that we're reading about in a book (albeit a sacred one). If one accepts the premise that there are even today demons active in the physical realm, and if certain characteristics are similar to psychological disorders, and particularly in our culture that denies the existence of the spiritual realm...


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