How excited am I that I am blogging from another country? As many of you know, I am on a once in a lifetime trip to Israel with the pastoral staff and other members of our church. There are no words to describe what it is like to be in cities like Kursi, travel in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and stand on the Mount of the Beatitudes! It is historically exciting and spiritually overwhelming....and the crazy thing is, we are just on day one.
This morning I had the honor of giving the devotional in the ruins of Kursi. If you don't know about the events that happened take a moment and read Matthew 8:28-32. I was excited to find out that I was going to bring the word in this location...then I read the passages of scripture and started to panic. I mean how do you explain the spiritual ramifications of possessed pigs running off a cliff and plunging into the sea. I thought the pastor was playing a joke on me....or that this was some kind of hazing ritual since I am the new guy! But the task was before me and I knew we could talk about more then just deviled ham.
So printed below are some of my thoughts about this story.
I begin with this quote,
"Who is like our God and to whom shall we compare him? He is all knowing. He knows our hearts. He is the creator and redeemer of mankind. He has bought our lives with the blood of Jesus Christ." We are not our own. Our lives belong to Him.
When I stand here in Kursi and read this story, I am thankful for the authority of God in my life. I am thankful that He has authority over the dark things that can threaten my life....but it is much more then spirit demons. It's little things like attitudes, communication with others and so on. Take a moment and think back to the person you were before you met Christ. Now take a moment and rejoice and give thanks for the authority that He has over you life.
Now, when we look at this story we have to understand that the disciples have just witnessed the power and authority of Jesus through healings and the calming of the storm. They have crossed the sea to a place that they did not necessarily need to go, and were greeted by some interesting people. I don't think they were the welcoming committee, selected by town leadership. These men were dark, consumed with evil and death. And when Jesus approaches them something unique happens:(from verse 29)
"Why are you bothering us, Son of God? You have no right to torture us before God's appointed time."
These demons identify who Jesus really is as Son of God. So many people,both common and religious, were blinded to Jesus' personhood. And because the demons knew Him, they feared him as well. They knew that there was a judgement in store for them....a judgement they didn't want. And so, they asked for mercy in verse 31: (cue the pigs)
"If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs."
Now, many have wondered and argued that the region and area of Kursi was populated by Gentiles....because of the pigs. But I think the important thing to remember is that Jesus still came to minister. In his eyes, no one is so far out of reach that God doesn't extend His arms of love and grace and mercy.
But the story continues....the herdsmen have seen this take place and they run to tell the townspeople. At this point you would think there would be a big celebration. There should be parties in the street...afterall Jesus just released this heavy darkness from their town! This is a reason to rejoice right? WRONG!!!! (Cue the pitch forks and torches) the townspeople were hot to trot! Apparently this was a village comprised of passive agressive people. One would think they would want the evil gone, they get their wish, but now they are mad about. Clearly, there is another lesson about priorities and the kingdom but we will save that for another time.
So the people tell Jesus to leave....and leave quickly they did. But I have to wonder what the disciples were thinking. They had just seen the storm, they have now seen this miracle with the demons, and yet the people make them leave. They have to wonder if the people of Kursi missed the point all together. And just as they head back into the sea, there is a glimmer of hope that comes in Mark 5:18-20.
One of the men that was healed begged Jesus to take him with them. But Jesus commanded him to stay and "tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been." And so the man did as he was told with the complete understanding that the authority of Jesus had done an amazing work in his life.
That man's response to authority should also be our response to the authority of Jesus in our own lives. So as we stand here in these places that Jesus healed and , preached and taught, let us be reminded of the calling that we have to submit to the Authority of the Lord and fulfill our responsibility to share and extend his love and grace to others.