Gerasene’s demoniac (March 26, 2023)

A uniform lesson for March 26, 2023.

Uniform Lesson for March 26, 2023
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Mark 5

There is so much to discuss about Mark 5 from demonic possession to details about swimming pigs. While these questions are no doubt intriguing, our focus today is on the thread of calling found in this text. In our “Jesus Calls Us” series, we see once again how Jesus transforms one of the least of these into a missional agent of change for the kingdom of God.

A man possessed

As our story opens, Jesus and his disciples have just finished crossing the sea of Galilee, when they land at “the country of the Gerasenes” (v.1). As soon as Jesus steps off the boat, he is immediately confronted by a man with “an unclean spirit” (v.2). This man is an outcast — raving mad, tormented by demons, and physically powerful beyond measure. There is no place for him in society, so he makes his home among the dead (v.3-5).

Jesus is undaunted by this situation, casting out the demons and restoring the man to his right mind. Instead of being thanked by the community, they ask Jesus to leave (v.17). The man, however, is overwhelmingly grateful, and it is towards this man that we turn our attention.

This man was living literally so far away from the community that he wasn’t considered among the living. His “deadness” sets up a type of resurrection narrative where we learn more about Jesus’ purpose. In this story Jesus restores this man, “clothed and in his right mind” (v.15), and then reintroduces him into relationship with his community (v.19). Jesus draws this man out of the dead and restores him to new life.

And with this new life comes a new purpose. Jesus sends this man out, armed with nothing but his story, to be the agent of change for his people (v.19). God saw this man, was merciful towards him and transformed his life. It is a tale of attention and mercy.

A story of resurrection

Can you imagine, being a member of the Gerasene community and witnessing this supernatural event? How would you respond if the man — a once disreputable outcast — came to your door begging to tell you about the mercy of a man named Jesus?

In undergrad, I had an acquaintance who engaged in the wild side of college living. When we met freshman year, I allowed my pride to get the better of me. I looked down on him, distanced myself from him, and eventually, we lost touch. Two years later, I was in the dining hall, and I saw him again. He seemed completely different. There was a presence about him, a calm certainty, that hadn’t been there before. I asked him to share what had happened. He told me how Jesus had changed his life.

I was shocked and, initially, quite skeptical. I’d never seen this kind of wholesale life conversion before and wanted to know if it was legit. Turns out it was. That year, he passionately led the Christian movement on campus, using his skills and networking abilities to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. I was humbled by how much I’d misjudged him. But not only him; I had misjudged God. Jesus had given my friend a new purpose, and his story of salvation and mercy went on to impact the lives of many. This story often reminds me that we never know who God will use to change the world. And it encourages me to keep an open towards everyone I meet.

A note on mental illness

Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus heal people with various maladies. Some suffer from physical ailments, others from demonic possessions, but what they all suffer isolation due to stigmatization. Mark 5 highlights that those who differ from the norm can find themselves alone, shunned into the tombs.

For those suffering from mental illness, one of the greatest gifts that can be offered is the gift of community. Time and time again, the life-giving power of relationship and connection is shown to transform an individual’s well-being. That does not dismiss the fact that we also need access to quality mental health services, but it demonstrates that one component of holistic healing is a stable community. Together, we find belonging, purpose and new life.

Mark 5 reminds us that we need to look at the resources available in our community and assess: Do we have supports in place for social and mental well-being? Are there inclusive spaces and services? Have we partnered with therapists, creating easy access for people suffering with depression, anxiety or other forms of mental illness? Are we considering the caregivers?

These are questions we need to ask ourselves as we reflect on the actions of Jesus. May we all learn how to recognize the image of God in everyone we meet? God often speaks to us through the unexpected. Let us have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts open to receive the agents of Christ in our midst.

Question for discussion:

Have you ever felt like you’ve been lost in the tombs of the dead? Share or journal about your experience.

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