The women's Bible Study group I am so privileged to be a part of is currently working its way through the gospel of Mark - reading the story of Jesus through the hurried words of a man who got His telling of Jesus straight from the mouth of our brash and beloved disciple, Peter.
This morning, I was in chapter five, where we see Jesus addressing a demon-possessed man living among the tombs of Gerasene - naked, screaming, with the strength to break all chains and shackles. He can't be restrained, but he can't be free.
Jesus comes to him, speaking not to the man himself, merely the host for the legion of demons within, but to those who possess him, casting them out to nearby pigs, so they may have their destructive desire fulfilled on at least some portion of God's creation - just not the portion so precious and prized as a human soul. Because a human soul is worth so much greater than two thousand pigs.
And as people come running to see what the commotion is about, they see this unrestrained man really, finally, free, sitting, clothed and in his right mind. Clothed, because after Jesus restored his spirit, He restored his dignity. And "in his right mind" because, as the ESV footnote states, he was "properly functioning again as an image-bearer of God."
And isn't that what we are all called to? To be cleansed, dignity restored, properly functioning as image-bearers of God? Because though we may not all have the physical demons within, we all have inner demons with which we wrestle - particularly before coming to Christ - that destroy our ability to properly bear His image, as we seek the temporary fix - greed, vanity, lust. And as we are restored to our original function - to serve as image-bearers, we are to take on the characteristics that define Him - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. We are to be in our right mind.
And once we're there, we can suddenly recognize there is only one place we want to be, just as the redeemed former-demoniac of Gerasene recognized, and that's with our Redeemer, our Rescuer. We long to be with Him.
As I was emerging from the fog of depression only about a year or so ago, this was the one thing I wanted. Because if this world was so ugly, why couldn't I just depart and be with Him? Wrapped in His beauty, singing His praises for all of eternity?
Yet, that's not where He wants us. Not yet.
For those of us who remain, He has one command, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you" (Mark 5:19).
It is interesting to note, this is the first time in Mark's account that we see Jesus actively encouraging someone to tell others about Him. Previously He had been very adamant about not spreading the news. He had silenced demons against speaking His name and had told a healed leper, "See that you say nothing to anyone."
Yet this man receives the command to go forth and spread the word. Why?
Of course I can't tell you with 100% certainty what Jesus was thinking, but I wonder if it was because this man redeemed of his demons had a true heart for Jesus - recognizing that with his new healed state, he could live a free life and all he wanted to do with that new life was follow after Jesus.
And this is the kind of testimony Jesus wants told.
He wants hearts that are completely for Him to draw others to Him, not for a spectacle of displayed power, but for the true healing and mercy found only in Him.
This redeemed life isn't about me - it's about making His name known.