/ Good Works / Jeffrey A Stivason

To Be Useful

He surely saw him from the boat. The Lord watched the erratic and unstable demoniac who was as unruly as the storm he had recently silenced.  The man’s appearance alone made him an imposing figure against the otherwise peaceful shores of the Garasenes. One can’t help but wonder if the disciples feared this man more than they had feared the wind and waves.  But they paddled on to become spectators of one of the most significant battles of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus climbed out of the boat to find himself in an immediate battle. The demons were contesting the Lord’s authority. In Mark 5 and verse 7 we read that the Legion of demons were seeking to bind Jesus with an oath.  The demons wanted Jesus to give His word that He would not torment them. The likely question is why?  Why this possessed man who cannot be held by chains does not simply run up to Jesus on the shore of the sea and crush the life out of him is a mystery. But the answer is a simple one. The demoniac understood what Jesus taught in the previous chapter of Mark.  The real battle is one of authority. The demons sought to exercise authority over Jesus. They wanted to bind Him with an oath. However, Jesus will not be mastered by them or anyone and so he demanded Legion to come out of the man.

But this battle is not like one that may take place in some homes.  The winner is not decided by who can talk the loudest.  Have you ever been in that situation?  The person you are talking with thinks that he can win the argument if he has enough volume to drown you out.  Volume will not win this battle.  This battle will be won on the basis of authority. Again, whose word is authoritative?  Despite the fact that this man has untold numbers of demons in him and his cries had a legion of demons behind them the one voice of Jesus authoritatively rose above them all.

And notice what happens, the conflict ends with an acknowledgement of Jesus’ authority.  The demons can’t do anything but submit to the word of the Lord. Notice what they do.  Whereas they once attempted to command him now they beg him. “And they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs, let us enter them.”  And Jesus gave them permission.

But there is also something peculiar in this story. The once demon possessed man, who sits at Jesus’ feet in his right mind, makes a simple request of his Lord. He begged Jesus that he might go with him. Now, how could the Lord turn down such a request? And yet, turn him down He did. Jesus instructed the man saying, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  Now, even the casual reader will have noted that in this story everyone received that for which they asked except the Christian! The demons were able to go into the pigs and Jesus departed the region at the begging of the townspeople. But the man healed is refused. Now, what are we to make of that?

An initial answer might be that the Lord has use for us beyond our personal desires. Think again of the now healed man. Verse 20 says that he went home “and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”  If the story ended at just this point, then it would be enough for us to marvel as well.  However, the story picks up again in chapter 7.  There Jesus returns to “the region of Decapolis.”  When he arrived the inhabitants brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment and the people who had once begged him to leave the region now “begged him to lay his hand” on the man (v. 32). That is marvelous in our eyes.

But there is something else. The demon possessed man is not even mentioned. He doesn’t need to be.  It’s not about his name. It's not about his authority. It’s about the name of Jesus. The man simply and rightly recedes into the background. This is a wonderful lesson for anyone but especially for us preachers. We speak by His authority not our own. It should be our prayer that we recede into the background even as we proclaim the Name that is above every name. It is enough that the Lord has use for us.  Indeed, to be useful in His kingdom is all one could ever ask of the King.

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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