July 17, 2023

Jesus Christ Is The Great Liberator, Who Has Come To Set The Captives Free. Who Are The Captives? All Of Us Here Born On This Earth. Jesus Christ Came To Destroy The Works Of The Devil.

I added the pictures above to this message I shared below.

[source: BibleExploring.com]

The nursery school teacher wanted to tell her class something about the country we live in, and its history. “One of the great things we should be happy about,” she told the children, “is that in this country, we are free”. One little boy at the back of the class thought for a moment, and then put up his hand. “Please miss,” he said, “I’m not free – I’m four!!”

Perhaps no word sums up the complete story of the Bible better than the word “FREE”. A defining moment, indeed the defining moment, in the Old Testament story of the people of God is the Exodus, as they are set free from slavery in Egypt, and set on course for the Promised Land. They never forgot. The regular celebration of the Passover saw to that.

Freedom continues to be the message of the New Testament too. Jesus is portrayed in its pages as the world’s great liberator. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he claimed, applying an Old Testament passage from the prophet Isaiah to himself, “because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4: 18-19, quoting Isaiah 61: 1-2).

Later on in his public ministry he adds the promise, “If the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8: 36). It is this issue of freedom which dominates the next meeting with Jesus which Mark describes in his Gospel, in chapter five. How might we describe the man Jesus meets?

1. A MAN ENSLAVED (verses 1 to 5)

Jesus and his disciples cross the lake to the area we know today as the Golan Heights. If you know anything about Israel, you may know that it is disputed territory. For many years it belonged to Syria. Then Israel took it during the 1967 war. Ever since it has been a bargaining counter. Even in Jesus’ day it was disputed territory. Locals referred to the area as the “Decapolis” – which literally means, the ten cities (verse 20). However, even then they couldn’t agree which ten cities they were referring to! Which explains why the scribes who made copies of Mark’s original manuscript couldn’t agree whether Jesus’ meeting with the man took place at Gerasa, or Gergasa, or Gadara. Hence the variety of translations of verse 1.

Anyway, wherever it was, as they get out of the boat, this man comes running up to Jesus. And the most obvious thing about him is that in some way he is enslaved, a pawn of evil powers. Mark refers in verse 2 to him being under the influence of “an evil (or unclean) spirit”. As I said a few weeks ago, when I wrote about the story of a similar man in chapter one, just because some people insist on seeing demons behind every bush, causing every problem in life, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t malevolent forces out there that can get a grip on people.

This poor fellow seems to have been possessed by a troop of phantom invaders. As a result, he was uncontrollable. People had tried to restrain him with chains, but to no avail. With superhuman strength, he has simply snapped them, and carried on his sad life in the graveyard. He seems destined to belong to a closed world of hopelessness, anguish and despair.

Why does Mark spend so much time on this meeting? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that in the events, he could see a vivid illustration of all that Jesus had come to do: he had come to set people free – free from whatever it was that enslaved them, whether it be something physical, mental, spiritual, or a combination of all three.

It is the Bible’s diagnosis that all of us are in some sense enslaved. We are all prisoners. We all need to be set free. 
  • For many in our world, it is still a physical slavery.
  • For others, it may be guilt, or selfishness that holds them back.
  • Still others are trapped by alcohol, or drugs, or pornography.
  • It may be fear and anxiety. There are the common fears that have always plagued mankind: fear of illness, of bereavement, of old age and death – fear of the unknown. Many suffer from irrational fears too. It is extraordinary how many people touch wood, cross their fingers, carry charms, and refuse to have anything to do with the number 13. Nobody who is afraid is free.
Let’s return to the man Jesus met, for he changes from a man enslaved to…

2. A MAN DELIVERED (verses 6 to 13)

When Jesus enters this man’s life, two apparently contradictory things take place. On the one hand, the man runs up to Jesus, and falls on his knees before him; on the other, he cries out at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” (verse 7). He seemed to know that Jesus could set him free, and so he was drawn to him. And yet he shook with dread at the possible consequences of this meeting.

He tells Jesus his name is, “Legion, for we are many” (verse 9). Maybe in some way, he was obsessed with the power of Rome, and the Roman legions that marched through the countryside of Israel. Maybe he felt his life was divided up inside, as if he was more than one person, fighting for control of his life.

But there is a bigger puzzle to us than just the man’s name. It’s about these poor pigs.

A “large herd,” says Mark, “two thousand in number”, are drowned that day (verses 11 to 13). Why this dreadful destruction? Mark doesn’t tell us, but there may be a number of possible reasons. Someone has suggested, rather flippantly, that if the owners were good Jews, what were they doing keeping all that pork?

More seriously, the events expose the destructive power of evil. Whatever it was that was enslaving the man was destroying him. Evil always destroys. And if it was transferred to the pigs, then it destroyed them too.

And maybe there is another reason. Here was a man who had been held captive in pain and shame for many years. How could he be persuaded that he really was set free? That in a couple of days after Jesus had gone back across the lake, he wouldn’t go back to his old ways of life among the tombs? How could he be sure? There was only one way, and Jesus chose it. What a visual demonstration for the man! Whatever it was that was enslaving you, proclaims Jesus, it’s gone – gone and drowned in the lake – gone forever! You are free!

It was a vivid demonstration to the disciples that were there with Jesus too. They would never forget it. This was why Jesus had come. This was what it was all about – setting people free. Whether it was (as I said earlier) physical things, or mental things, or spiritual things, Jesus had the power to break their chains, and set people free.

  • Free from guilt. The novelist and atheist Margarita Lanski has said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have nobody to forgive me”. But as Christians we can shout from the rooftops: There is forgiveness with God!
  • Free from physical pain, enabling people to be more than conquerors over their hardships. Not that he always removes all our pain, but he does enable us to see it and live with it in a different way.
  • Free from fear and anxiety, for Jesus is “the Light of the World”, which the darkness cannot overcome.
  • Jesus is the great liberator, who has come to set the captives free. How does he achieve that? Perhaps Mark even wants us to see a hint of the answer to that question in this very story. For at the climax of the Gospel he is writing, Jesus himself will end up like the man – naked, isolated, outside the town among the tombs, as his flesh is torn to ribbons by the small stones in the Roman lash. That is how the healing takes place. Jesus has come to share the plight of people, to let evil do its worst to him, to take the full force of its destructive power on himself, and to let others go free.
    A man enslaved becomes a man delivered, and then…

    3. A MAN AS A DISCIPLE (verses 14 to 20)

    As soon as the pigs have gone over the edge, the herdsmen, who are supposed to be looking after them, race back to town to try and explain to the owners what has happened. And the local townspeople come out, and see, to their astonishment, the man sitting beside Jesus, “dressed and in his right mind” (verse 15). “And,” Mark says, “they were afraid”. So afraid that they ask Jesus to go away, and leave them alone (verse 17).

    But the man’s response is very different. With all his heart he wants to follow Jesus and go with him (verse 18). But Jesus has other plans, and refuses his request. He isn’t to become, in that sense, dependent on Jesus. He is to stand on his own feet, depending on Jesus in a different way. He is to find a new life, back in his own community, as a disciple of Jesus. “Go home to your family,” Jesus tells him, “and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (verses 19 & 20).

    For freedom is not only freedom FROM something, but also freedom FOR something. True freedom is the exact opposite of what many people seem to think. It is not freedom from all responsibility – to God and to others – to do whatever I like. That is in fact slavery to my own self-centredness. Rather, true freedom is freedom from my self, in order to live responsibly, for God and for others.

    That was what the man discovered that day. He was set free by Jesus to live for God, to be his disciple. That was real freedom. That was what he was made for.

    This account of Jesus’ meeting with the man who said his name was Legion was so important to the Gospel writers like Mark, because it painted in vivid colours what the Christian message was all about. It illustrated so clearly what they believed about Jesus, and what he could do for people: Jesus is the great liberator, who has come to set the captives free.
    • To set people free from their physical slavery,
    • To set people free from their mental slavery,
    • To set people free from their spiritual slavery.
    We cannot break the powers which have bound us by ourselves. But Jesus can break the chains, and set us free. Jesus can do for YOU what he did for Legion – he still sets the captives free. And those he has freed, he then calls to be his disciples, agents of that freedom. And that means that wherever there is any form of slavery, his disciples cannot rest easy until the power of Jesus has set people free.

    And “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”…

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