Jesus had an awesome day of ministry preaching to a crowd so large that he had to get into a boat so everyone could hear him. But when evening came, despite being dog tired, he instructed his disciples to sail to the other side of the sea. After sailing all night through a violent storm, they land, and a man so totally out of his mind, naked, cut, and once chained — but now broken by super-human strength — came running at them.
In a conflict with a legion of demons, Jesus commands them to leave the man they had possessed, and they go into a herd of two thousand pigs, which run down a hill and drown in the sea. The herdsman, scared and shocked, run to town to tell the people what happened. The people return with the herdsman, and instead of worshipping Jesus, grow afraid of him, and ask Jesus to leave.
As Jesus gets into the boat, the man who was formerly possessed by demons is now clothed and in his right mind, begs him to let him go with them. “Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:19-20, NIV).
The bottom line of this story is that Jesus sailed all night after a grueling day for this one man. Everybody else on that side of the sea rejected him, and so he had to sail all the way back across the sea almost immediately after arriving. But to God, it was worth it. This one man, his life stolen from him by demons, rejected and cast away by family and friends — he was worth it.
God is like that. He’s happy when the “good” people come to him, but the last, the lost, the discarded, and the rejected are the ones that are especially on his heart. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, so that each one could experience the glorious freedom of being a dearly loved child of God.
Yet those that realize how last, lost, discarded, and rejected they were before Jesus rescued them are also the ones that love with amazing passion and persistence, and draw others through convincing testimony.
We see in the story this is the case for the man set free. He is faithful to follow Jesus’ instruction to tell all God did for him. The people were amazed at this man’s testimony, and when Jesus returned a year later, their attitude toward him was different than on the first trip: Jesus was received by crowds and was able to do miracles among them (Mark 7:31ff).
The truth is that all of us can love and testify like that — we just need to open our eyes to see how hopeless we are apart from Jesus.
I love the song, “Beautiful Things”, by Gungor. It just wrecks me. The song asks “Could a garden come up from this ground?” Here, the ground is a metaphor for our wrecked lives. In the chorus, we hear, “You make beautiful things out of dust… out of us”. In the next verse, hope grows with the words, “Out of chaos life is being found in you”, and then the bridge sums it up with “You make me new… You are making me new.”
Oh, what a wonderful God we have, who sees our brokenness, and instead of focusing on that, gives his life so that we can be made new!