February 8, 2015 alanyoon

Power of Pain… and Healing

Scripture: Mark 5:1-15 

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 

This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

Sermon

Question for community:

Why do you think they are afraid?

The people gathered around Jesus, who witnessed the healing, who saw the man healed normal. WHY…were they afraid?

(thoughts from the congregation) 

  • 2,000 pigs floating and dead down the river would be scary. To see the number and force of the demons materialized in that way would cause fear.
  • The herd owners were probably scared since their livelihood was ruined.
  • The people gathered around were scared because they had gotten used to the demoniac. His being healed meant something unknown. They could be scared of what Jesus would do to them for how they mistreated the demoniac or how Jesus would do something to them. They could be aware of their own impure thoughts or spirits.
  • They were scared of Jesus because his power was so strong. They were scared of what he would do next. 
We know from ancient texts that the Gerasene people were pagan. They did not believe in God. They probably heard of Jesus, the miracle worker, but they would not have a Jewish religious background from which to interpret these events. 

And they are AFRAID of Jesus. They are afraid of his healing power because it’s unknown to them. It’s more powerful than anything they’ve ever experienced before.

Immediately following this story, they beg Jesus to leave. They are so scared of this power he has they don’t understand that they want him to leave them. 

* * *

Fear is an important emotion because it points us to what has power. In this story, what has power OVER us.

It would make sense to us that the Gerasenes would be afraid of the demoniac man. 

This man was trapped by a legion of demons. A legion means “many,” probably 6,000 soldiers – strong, fighting spirits that keep him trapped inside his pain. 

We learn in the text that these demons are so strong that not even chains and irons could hold him. The man suffering these demons was outcasted to live among the tombs… to live among death. Because he was unsafe to the community. He wandered the tombs howling and bruising himself with stones.

The Gerasenes were scared of him and of what he could do with that power.

* * *

It would make sense for us to fear this kind of pain. These demons that control us and cause harm. 

But instead, the fear in this passage is of Jesus. 

Those gathered are scared of Jesus because his power is greater than that of the legion of demons. 

God’s healing power is greater than human pain…

* * *

There’s a physician assistant, we’ll call her “Stephanie”, in Winston Salem, NC who occasionally would need to send patients to the Baptist hospital. 

Now the Baptist hospital is huge. Four times the size of her small practice at least. And so the patients would drive to the hospital and be so overwhelmed by the size of the hospital – the grandeur – that they would turn their cars around and go home. 

They were scared…
of the size of the hospital,
of the things inside, 
of not knowing what would happen to them or how they would get the help they need. 

And so they would choose to live in their pain.  Instead of going inside where healing would take place, they chose to hold onto the control that they had. Succumbing to their fear of the unknown healing, they went home. They remained in pain. 

When Stephanie learned her patients were not going to their appointments, she talked to them. She learned that she had to normalize this new, huge hospital to her patients before she sent them. 

She would begin describing the parking lot, the shape, where they would park. She would tell them where the drinking water fountains are and the bathrooms. The colors of the walls and the names of the doctors. 

The details and preparation helped ease the fear of the hospital so that they could get to the deeper fears of the treatment and the unknown. 

* * *

We’re a lot like Stephanie’s patients, like the Gerasenes, too… we are more comfortable with pain and suffering than we we are with Jesus’ healing. We sometimes choose to stay in the pain because it’s what we know.

Healing is scary because it requires us to be open to a power that we don’t understand. God’s power – that we can’t see, or touch…but that is there for us if we’re willing to seek it out. 

* * *

In our story today, Jesus heals the man by giving permission for the evil to leave. 

Jesus power is greater than that of the legion of demons. The Legion of demons quickly recognize that fact and so the healing is a simple transaction. It’s Jesus giving permission for the evil to leave and to where they will go next.

Perhaps we also need permission to be free. Permission to let go of the evil spirits that we hold on to in fear. Permission to be free from our fear and free to trust God more fully…

Perhaps this is the healing Christ’s power offers to us.

* * *

A mentor of mine, Steve Hayner, just died. I knew Steve as the president of my seminary, a visionary, my teacher, a mentor in faith. He was one person I can honestly say I KNEW believed in the power of Jesus Christ and lived each day of his life in faith. Trusting in God alone.

Just after Easter last year, Steve’s doctors discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. He suffered pain from the cancer and from the treatments for just under one year before the cancer took his life.

As various people and organizations bid tribute to Steve, I’m amazed by how his joy for Christ breathed life into people and systems. Without fail, everyone experienced Steve as someone who deeply believed in Jesus’ power and sought to live each day in joy no matter what the sorrow, or pain or demon he was to fight.

In one of Steve’s final blog posts he talks about the pain he’s suffering and his low levels of energy. But instead of succumbing to the power of the pain and lack of energy as a “Woe is me” he asked himself this one question –

“How can I glorify God today?” 
In my pain, with little to no energy, what is worth doing that will glorify God today?

Wow! 

Steve, for me, represents a faithful story of trusting in God’s power over everything else. He stood in fear and in awe of God’s power alone. 

In his leadership challenges, in facing the world’s challenges of violence and poverty and despair… Each day, he chose trusting in God’s power OVER trusting in the evil powers of the world. 

And in doing so, he glorified God. He didn’t let fear of anything – not even his medical scares and pain, not even death – take control of him trusting in the power of Jesus. 

* * *

Steve’s faith reminds me that our faith is a lived exercise. 

It is something we must intentionally choose every day.  It takes work and effort to trust in God’s power – not just in our heads, but in our hearts and our actions as well. 

There will be many things that hold power over us:
medical scares, 
financial scares, 
relationship scares, 
work scares. 

And in all of these circumstances, we can choose faith. We can name our fears – acknowledge their power over us – and we can ask God to set us free from those fears.

It’s a difficult thing to do, but there is healing revealed within us when we let go of the things that hold us down. There is freedom available for us when we allow for God’s healing.

My prayer for us is that as we encounter things in the world that hold power over us, things we are afraid of, we would ask for God to free us from those things. 

And as we become free from those powers, we more fully live into the faith. The ultimate healing that comes through faith.


Amen.