"This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain…Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones." (Mark 5:3,5)
In the next few devotionals I want to spend some time looking at what happens when someone in a very bad state has a genuine encounter with Jesus. We will start by looking at the state this man was in, and how that he has more in common with us than we might first imagine. Then I want to look at how Jesus and this man engage with each other. Finally I want to look at how this mans life and attitude was changed by this encounter.
Before he met Jesus there is little doubt this man was in a bad state. Clearly he was a danger to himself and those around him. I would suggest that it was because of his state of mind that people had tried to put him in chains. But these chains didn’t do any good. Whatever it was he was suffering from could not be contained.
There is also little doubt that he had been rejected by the local towns. He was walking amount the graves which are always located outside the city walls, and would not be a place where any sane man would choose to live. I think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to speculate that the villagers were scared of him and had thrown him out of town.
Outwardly he was a free man. No chains could hold him. But inwardly he was a tortured soul. Living on the fringes of society I imagine the only people he could relate to and count as his friends were the dead he lived with.
He was a tortured soul, and there was no respite for his torture. Both day and night he cried out. His pain inside was so great he resorted to self harm. I can imagine he envied the dead. At least they were at peace. Although he was still alive he was well and truly dead inside.
So what caused this state? No doubt modern physiologists would place their own diagnosis on it. But even modern medicine can’t do anything to ‘cure’ such a person. The best that can be hoped for is to keep it under control with treatment (both medical and personal).
The bible describes his problem as an unclean spirit, and although I don’t want to get into the controversy about demons verses mental illness, I will say that I personally believe that they are one and the same thing. The ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ is I believe merely a physical manifestation of the deeper spiritual condition rising from demonic possession. It is a symptom not a cause.
Whatever you believe, this story is still amazing. There is no doubt the man was in such a condition that he was not able to help himself, and no one else was able to help him. Here we find someone with no direction, not understanding who he is and his purpose, and certainly no life.
The good news is that these are the very people Jesus came to help. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19).
The other piece of good news is that if he can do what he did for this man, then surely he is able to work with you. It only takes one encounter with Jesus to turn your life around. He has come near to you, looking among the graves for those whose life is out of control, and who feel dead inside. Turn to him and he will show you the way, help you to see the truth, and bring you life.