[CF Devotionals] 2014-03-21 - Help for the Hurting

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Today I’d like to write from a text about a crazy man, who was hurting for a lot of reasons. Before we get to him, please take ten seconds to write down your top few hurts. Don’t worry; the paper you write on is yours and yours alone.

So now, let's get back to the troubled man I was telling you about. His story is so important that it is recorded in all three synoptic gospels – Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20, and Luke 8:26-39. I hope you will take the time to read all three texts later, so if you do, I'd just like to clarify a few questions you may have as you read them. First, there were two men, but Mark and Luke focus on one. Just as I can say I came to church, and I can be correct - as well as saying my wife and I came to church. Those statements do not contradict each other. Secondly, calling the man a Gesarene and Gaderene is like calling me a Georgian versus calling me an American; again, there is no conflict.

Now for the background to the story, Jesus is on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee - healing, teaching, and so forth. Then he just up and up decides to go to the other side. The disciples are thinking maybe it's time for spring break. Jesus takes a catnap, and a storm hits. The disciples panic, he calms the storm, and they are amazed by Jesus. They get to the other side. Jesus gets out of the boat and runs into this demon-possessed guy. Let’s read the story of this man and his “accidental” encounter with Jesus…

Luke 8:26-39 (NASB)

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. [Adding to this description a bit Mark 5:5 records, "Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones."] 28 Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” 29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. 30 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

32 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission. 33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. 35 The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. 36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. 37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. 38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

Let’s consider the man’s condition before Jesus. Before Jesus he was pretty bad off. He had nothing but gloom despair and agony on me. In his distress he lacked several things:
Dignity Verse 27 tells us he was naked.
Companions The man was not living in a home within the community, but was withdrawn from society, living among the tombs -according to verse 27
Comforts Think about it. He was sleeping on slabs designed for dead people. He lived in a tomb.
Control He was violent against others, according to verse 29, and was doing some self-mutilation according to Mark 5:5. Others had tried to chain him and restrain him, but they couldn't.

There were issues or truths that applied then and now. Because if we just talk about Jesus helping this one guy way back when, then there’s no hope for us who hurt today. Some people question if M&M's® can talk, or if Santa exists, but one classic commercial dispels any doubts and shows that they both exist. Even without the commercial, I already knew that because I keep a cup of them in my drawer, and from time to time they call my name. The M&M's® whisper, "Adam. Adam." Their voices get louder and louder, until I silence them by gobbling them up. On even better authority, the authority of God's inspired word, there are three things in this story, which exist.

First, demons exist. Devilish influences include Satan himself, other demons, and people who are possessed. I won't go into all the details, but there are celebrities who talk of possession while on stage. This stuff is real. The demons in this story know the power of God. The book of James tells us they believe and fear God. They were afraid and begged for mercy. Not only was he possessed, but he was possessed by a lot of demons. He referred to himself as legion, or rather they referred to themselves as legion. Back in the day, a legion could consist of upwards of six thousand men, so he may have been using this name very literally, or just as a name meaning many, “a whole lot”. Herbert Lockyer writing about the thoughts of yet another writer writes, “Trench suggests that the unhappy man, instead of giving his true name, used one describing the utter ruin of his whole moral and spiritual being.”

Second, difficulties or dilemmas exist. Problems isolate us, just as they did this man; he lived by himself among the dead. We can feel alone when troubles come. Hurts cause us to retreat into our shell like a cowardly turtle. People rarely want to talk about their hurts, choosing to bottle it up and "be strong".

But finally, we see that a deliverer also exists. Jesus didn’t wait for him to clean up and then come to him. Jesus came to this man. An all-knowing God set out on a boat trip across a big lake and got out right where he knew this man would be. The deliverer thought the couple of men were worth far more than herd of pigs. GET THIS! God thought people were more valuable so he permitted the pig possession. The people thought pigs were to be prized over the person so they asked Jesus to leave. How dumb can you get? People matter not pets or possessions; I am glad that my deliverer values me.

Jesus, the deliverer changed everything, according to verse 35. After Jesus, in his deliverance, the man gained:

Station He had a place to be. His place was at Jesus’ feet, worshipping the one who saved him.
Standards He was now clothed. I don't know if Jesus made clothes appear, or if one disciple gave him an outer robe, but the man's morals changed, and being naked was not acceptable anymore.
Smarts The man was also now in his right mind. Finding Jesus corrects our way of thinking about things.

It wasn't that disease, divorce or even depression that this man was bothered by, but rather by another "D," demon possession, and he was hurt. He was hurting so badly, that it drove him to hurt himself. He was hurting so badly, that it drove him crazy. He was all alone -with no one to help - and then Jesus came. No matter what the question, Jesus is the answer. Each of us have demons of our own things that are past or things in our present, that haunt us and possess our souls. Society wanted to shun him in his depraved condition, but Jesus went to him. Some of the demons that may haunt you are death, disease, depression, drugs, drinking, dating. Depression rears itself in so many ways, but know this: God accepts you as you are.

That is the difference between Christianity and every other religion. Religion says "obey me, and I will accept you," but Jesus says "I accept you first; now, obey."

Take a few minutes to reflect on how Jesus can help your hurt and troubles. As you reflect on it, take that sheet you wrote your hurts on, and draw a cross or some other picture of Jesus over it to remind you that he conquered them all for you. That doesn't mean your problems will miraculously go away, but his strength and his peace will help heal the wounds of hurts, heartaches, and horrors. He can deliver you too!

Thrown in for free are two little side notes on this story …

First, God answers prayers. He answered the demons' request to be allowed into swine. The desires of the demons were their undoing. They wanted in the pigs not the abyss - the deep pit. But then the pigs jumped off the cliff into the deep lake - the deep pit. If memory serves me well, it seems like I read somewhere that the Sea of Galilee was sometimes thought of as the abyss, maybe the entrance or something. I don't recall, but they feared one depth and found another. Jesus answered the prayer of the people who asked him to leave, and he left. How foolish these men were, to look into the face of Jesus and denounce him, rather than allow him to deliver them from their own troubles. The demon-possessed man asked to accompany Jesus, but Jesus said, "No." No is still an answer, even when it's not the answer we want to hear.

Secondly, before you follow Jesus elsewhere serve him where you are! Jesus told the man to return to his home and tell others there about the great things that had happened. If we can't proclaim Jesus among our own people we are not fit to take the gospel into the whole world.


[email adam] acdum@hotmail.com

All scripture references are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.

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