Theme: The Need for Obedience
This week’s lessons show both the positive and negative changes that an encounter with Jesus can produce.
Scripture: Matthew 8:28-34
If we seem to prefer our own comfort to the spiritual condition of others, the Lord may do one of two things to correct us. First of all, sometimes it’s necessary for us to lose the pigs. That is to say, we have to enter on hard times and find that we can get along with a lot fewer things than we think we have to have in order to be happy. One of the problems with things is that they tend to ensnare us and trap our souls. And the more we have the more we’re ensnared like a spider spinning a web. One little strand on the spider’s web hardly ensnares anything, but then many, many strands keep getting added until the spider’s web becomes a very strong thing indeed. And that’s what riches or possessions do. If we find that we begin to love things rather than people, the time will come when we are ensnared utterly in the possessions. Sometimes in a case like that what we need is to have the possessions taken away. That has happened with people. They have suddenly lost much, or even everything, and they have looked back on that experience, difficult as it was, and have confessed that it was for the good of their souls.
There’s something else that can happen. Sometimes we have to sit down with the pigs. The only other story in the Bible that I know of that has to do with pigs is the story of the prodigal son. And you know what happened to him. He was one who preferred things to people. He certainly preferred possessions to his father’s love. He said to his father, “Give me that which is mine,” and when he had it he went off to squander his wealth in a far country. He wasn’t at all thinking rightly. And it wasn’t until he had squandered all that he had, and was forced to work for a pig farmer and feed them, that he came to his right mind. And that’s what the story says. While he was sitting with the pigs he said, “Look, the pigs have something to eat, and here I am, so hungry that their food looks good. Meanwhile back home in my father’s house even the servants are faring better.” God brought this son, you see, to the very bottom of a human experience in order that he might get straightened out and go home.
As long as we have much, too often we are caught up in our things. And if it should happen that many of those things should be taken away, we would not suffer for it spiritually but, rather, the church of Jesus Christ would grow increasingly strong. Perhaps this kind of loss does need to happen so that the propagation of the gospel might advance, and that we in the church might be convicted about what is most important.
I want to conclude by showing one other thing that comes from the story. The story ends with the people preferring the pigs to people. But Jesus, of course, preferred the people to the pigs, even those people who preferred the pigs. And the reason I say that is that if you look at the story as Mark tells it in chapter 5 or as Luke tells it in chapter 8, you’ll find at the very end of the story was a commissioning of this man who had been healed by the Lord Jesus. In Mark you find this man making a good request of Jesus. As Jesus was about to leave the area, the healed man said to him, “Lord, let me go with you.” And Jesus said, “No.”
There were two requests that were being made, one by the people of the town and the other by the healed man. Now put those requests together. There was a bad request on behalf of the people of the town when they said, “Jesus, we don’t want you here. Please go.” A bad request, yet Jesus did it. And on the other hand, here was this man who had been healed and whose request would be considered by us to be good. He said, “Jesus, let me go with you,” and Jesus refused him. Certainly when you find something like that in the Bible it’s meant to quicken your interest, and causes you to stop and ask why that is.
Well, the answer in the case of the man who had been healed is that Jesus had work for him to do. You see, Jesus was concerned for him, but he was also concerned with the other people. And so you find him saying in Mark’s Gospel, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Here was a man who had a message to tell, and there were a people, his own people, who desperately needed to hear it. And that’s what that man did.
I think he was successful. I say this because of what we find in Mark 6, a chapter after this story of the healed demoniac. Jesus is in Gentile territory once again. It’s true that it is not the identical territory as in Mark 5. But it was what we might call an adjoining area. Nevertheless, both areas were part of that Greek area known as the Decapolis. And what I think happened was that this missionary who had been commissioned by Jesus in chapter 5 went to those around him with a message concerning Jesus. “I have met a man who was able to do what nobody else could do. He’s a man who has power over evil spirits and gives victory over sin, and he has healed me.” And that man preached that message with such power to his family, his friends, and to others in and around his town such that a great change took place among those Gentile people.
And the next time we find Jesus getting into this Gentile area, we read that people recognized him. I think they recognized him because the healed demoniac from Mark 5 told them the story about what Jesus had done for him. And when the crowd saw Jesus, notice what they did next: They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And everywhere he went, into villages, towns, or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak. And all who touched him were healed.” You see, Jesus wanted to do a great work in those Gentile regions, but before he did it he sent his servant whom he had first of all delivered from the demons. In Mark 5 the people observed the healed man and begged Jesus to leave. But in chapter 6 they begged him to stay and heal their afflicted.
I don’t know what God is going to do in your life. I hope it’s many great things. But I do know that the way he does it is through people, through his servants. And if you are one whom he has brought from darkness into light, who has been changed, who has found forgiveness, you are the one through whom he wants to speak, and you’re to go and tell others. And you’ll find that as you go Jesus will go with you and he will bring a blessing.
What two things might need to happen to someone to cause them to reorder their lives around what is most important to the Lord?
What request did the healed man make of Jesus? Why did Jesus refuse it?
What reason is given to show that the man did what Jesus told him to do?
Application: What unpleasant experience is the Lord calling you to go through at the present time? How will you respond to it so that the holy and good purposes God intends for you will be achieved?