Tim Challies

I think we all love the story of the Garasene Demonaic, don’t we? It is the story of a poor, pathetic, hopeless, demon-oppressed man and his life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. And there is something in the story I find particularly fascinating.

Though at one time in his life this man had been a normal person with a normal life, at some point demons had begun to oppress him. Maybe he was a young man still living in his parents’ home when something about him began to change. Over time his parents and family saw him start to exhibit erratic and downright scary behavior. Or maybe he was a married man and it was his wife who first began to notice that strange behavior. He began to act in ways that were out of character. He began to cry out in weird ways. Though he used to love his kids and cuddle them and tell them stories and play with them, over time he became distant, then even dangerous. Soon she had to protect the kids from their own father.

Eventually his behavior became so outrageous that the people around him acted in the only way they knew how—they chained him and locked him up. But then he grew so strong that he could break those chains and attack anyone who approached him. So they did the only thing left to do and drove him away. By the time we meet him in Mark 5 (and parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke), he is living in the tombs, roaming the hills naked, cutting and brusing himself, crying out in agony of body, soul and spirit. He can go no lower.

And then Jesus meets him. And then Jesus frees him. Jesus sends that horde of demons into a herd of pigs which immediately rushes into the sea and drowns. And then we come to a part of the story I find absolutely fascinating. The nearby townsfolk come running to see what has happened, to see this oppressed man in his right man, to see thousands of dead pigs floating in the water. And we see two very different reactions to this encounter with Jesus Christ.

When this man has been freed by Jesus, he begs Jesus to be able to go with him. Please let me remain with you, let me learn from you, let me serve you. Where you go I will go. This man saw Jesus and wanted Jesus more than anything.

When this crowd of villagers saw this man freed by Jesus, they had a reaction that was exactly opposite. They begged Jesus to leave. Please go. Get back in your boat and leave and don’t come back. They saw Jesus and wanted Jesus less than anything.

The people wanted Jesus as far as possible, this man wanted Jesus as close as possible. And in those two reactions we see something fascinating: Jesus repulses and Jesus draws. Some people encounter Jesus and find him the most dreadful thing in the world; some people encounter Jesus and find him the most desirable thing in the world. Some beg him to leave and some beg to follow.

When we preach Jesus today, we preach for a response. And there is always a response. Jesus repulses and Jesus draws. But an encounter with Jesus never accomplishes nothing.

PrayerRequestLast night I sat with a group of men from our church and talked about prayer. And, as usually happens, our thoughts turned toward unanswered prayer or prayer that is answered very differently than we had asked or hoped. Why are there times when God seems not to answer? If a good Father would never give his children a stone in place of bread, why does it seem like God sometimes does this very thing?

The best way I know how to answer is to point to the cross. God’s people wanted deliverance from oppression. They wanted a Messiah. They wanted a Savior. Then that Messiah came. That Messiah told them that he was there to deliver them. That Messiah triumphantly entered Jerusalem as the prophecies had foretold. And then that Messiah was brutally murdered.

What happened? What did it all mean? Was this the answer to their prayers?

I think of Jesus’ disciples in the aftermath of the crucifixion, as the sun rose on the Sabbath day and their conquering Messiah lay cold and dead in the grave. They must have been perplexed. They must have wondered. They must have been confused and overwhelmed. Or maybe underwhelmed. Was this the answer to their prayers? What had happened to the promise of victory? When would they receive the deliverance they had been promised.

The Sabbath day came and went. And then they came to the first day of the week and an angelic messenger telling them, “He is not here, but has risen.” The fog began to lift.

What Jesus would accomplish made little sense to them when he described it in advance; what he was accomplishing made little sense while he endured it; what he had accomplished became clear only when they could look back on it. They just needed to wait. It all became clear in time.

And we often find ourselves in the same place. When we pray, and pray earnestly, and praying desiring God’s glory and fame, we know that he will answer and will give what we desire most. But we need to be patient. Like the disciples, we need to look to past, present and future with eyes of faith, trusting that in time everything will become clear.