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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Give Me My Pigs

the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone (Mark 5:17).

If you've read the first 18 verses of Mark chapter 5, then you're already familiar with the story. Jesus and His disciples cross the lake and when they reach the shore, a man who's been demon possessed for years comes screaming to meet them. I imagine it was a terrifying sight, the unkempt man frothing at the mouth, rusty broken chains dangling from his wrists and ankles, clothed in a ratty dingy loincloth, his body bearing fresh scars from hurling himself on pointed stones in the cemetery.

Perhaps the disciples stayed a few yards behind Jesus when they saw him and I can just hear Peter whispering loudly to Jesus, Don't get too close, that man is dangerous! Maybe we should get back in the boat. . .

The Bible says the man ran right up to Jesus and fell down in front of Him. The demons within the man knew they were facing the Lord of the universe and they bowed in obeisance to Him even as they shrieked at Him. The demons begged Jesus not to send them far away, preferring to go into the nearby herd of pigs. Jesus allowed their request, perhaps not so much because they asked but because He knew what would happen next.

The demons went into the pigs. The pigs plunged into the lake and drowned. The pig herders rushed to the city to tell everyone what happened. The story could end here. But it doesn't.

As the inhabitants hurried to see what had happened, their curiosity was overcome by fear when they saw the demon possessed man sitting by Jesus. They had no need to be afraid. He was no longer shouting gibberish. The wild look in his eyes had disappeared, replaced by a calm inner peace. One of the disciples had found an extra robe for him. He looked like a normal human being. The man they once chained was now free.

The crowd begged Jesus to leave.

Jesus honoured their request. Just as He always has, He never forces Himself into our lives. He comes, He waits, and then it is up to us to decide whether or not we want to invite Him to change us.

This story is not about the demon possessed man. I mean, yes, it is, but in reality it is about the inhabitants of that city. It's about you and me.

You see, I think we are both the demon possessed man and the frightened city dwellers. There are times in our lives when we recognize clearly that we are trapped by some evil force that is far stronger than we are and we cry for help. In that instant, Jesus is there, freeing us, cleaning us up, and then giving us a mission--to go and share our story with others just like the demon possessed man did.

The sad part is when we are the frightened city dwellers. These people had Jesus right there, ready to bless them in ways they couldn't even imagine, and they were more concerned about their pigs. Their pigs were their livelihood and they now were worried that if Jesus stayed any longer, they would lose more than they already had. They didn't trust Him to provide for their needs. They didn't trust Him to replace what was lost with something even better.

They just wanted their pigs. Sadly, the pigs were more important to them than a human life. Jesus was ready to give them not only physical healing, as He had done in many villages before them, but also spiritual and emotional healing. Yet they refused to welcome His presence.

As a city dweller, there are times when all I can think of is how I'm going to provide for myself. I am an independent woman. I've had to learn to be as I come from a single-parent home and in my teens was already paying for all essentials other than food. It was not ideal but I learned how to do it well.

There are times, though, when this independence can distract me from my focus. Am I, like the city dwellers, spending my free time worrying about money? Am I asking Jesus to leave, because I'm convinced that He's taken away the good things and left me with very little or nothing at all? Am I blind to His power? Do I push Jesus away and in so doing, miss out on being able to share His miracles in my life with another person? Do I see my needs as more important than a human life?

I've been pondering a thought for some time now. It's one that irritates me with its simplicity; one that my close friends and family insist on putting in front of me over and over again. God will meet your needs in His perfect timing and in His way--which may not be the way you had imagined. It's Biblical, you know. God's ways are higher than ours and He has said that His promises will always be fulfilled (Isaiah 58).

Am I able to step out of my city dweller persona and instead, sit at Jesus' feet like the now-whole man, living in the reality of God's mercy and joyful in the blessing of healing? Can I be brave and vulnerable and share my experience of healing with others so they too will want to know Who this Jesus is?

Or do I want my pigs?

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