January 13th 2019: Roger Thomas

roger thomas-jan19Mark 5:1-20

The Gadarene man possessed by demons.

This incident happened quite early on in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Prior to this event, Jesus was teaching on the shore of Galilee. He taught thousands through parables. There were so many people there, pressing upon Him, so He had to go on to a boat, facing the shore, to continue teaching the people. In the evening, Jesus and His disciples crossed from the western shore to the eastern shore. They arrived in the country of the Gadarenes. Gadara and nine other cities in the area formed a region known as the Decapolis (In Greek, Deka means ‘ten’ and ‘polis’ means ‘cities’). Most of this region was to the east side of the Jordan River and was a Greco-Roman region.

The Gentiles here kept pigs. To the Jews a pig was an unclean animal; Jews would never keep pigs. To the Gentiles, keeping pigs was no problem.

Jesus and His disciples came to the country of Gadarene. As soon as they arrived a man possessed by demons came out to meet them. He was in a pitiful condition. Reading of this story in Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, we learn he was a man possessed by demons. A demon is a fallen angel. After the angels were created perfect by God some rebelled against God and were thrown out of heaven. Their chief is the devil. Ephesians 2 tells us they dwell in the air. But in this passage we can also see they live in men, animals or a region. This man was possessed by many demons, a legion. A legion was a name for a division of the Roman army made up of 6000 soldiers, therefore this man had many demons living in him. What was the effect of this possession on the man? Luke says he didn’t live in a house but in the tombs, naked. He was ferocious, a dangerous man. Matthew says that people would avoid going near where he lived because he was so dangerous. He was so strong that he was able to break his shackles and chains into pieces. He’d been like that for a long time. Imagine what he must have looked like. Satan is full of malice, full of hatred. He wants to destroy people. That’s what Revelation 11 tells us. The devil had destroyed the life of this man.

The man knew exactly who Jesus was, calling Him ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God’ (Mark 5:7). The demons know who Jesus is, they didn’t have any doubt.

Notice the authority Jesus has over these demons. As we go through the passage, we see that when the demon-possessed man saw Jesus he ran and worshipped Him. This man, who no-one could control, bowed down and worshipped Jesus. He cried out, ‘Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ (Matthew 8:29). He is referring to the end of time, when demons will be cast into hell. The demons were worried Jesus would do this now. They begged Him not to do this now, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them’ (Mark 5:12). They did not want to be sent out of the country. They begged Jesus that they enter the pigs, knowing that they needed His permission for this to happen. They could not do it without Jesus’ authority. They had to leave the possessed man but did not wanted to stay in the area. The devil can only do what God allows him to do. Jesus is Lord of kings, rulers, people, angels, over demons and the devil.

Notice the change in this man. After the demons left the man and went into the pigs – 2,000 pigs, they ran violently. Again, see the character of the devil, the stamp of Satan in the pigs as they ran violently into the sea. The people, told by those looking after the pigs what had happened, ‘saw the demon-possessed man … sitting there, clothed and in his right mind’ (Mark 5:15). What a transformation! Jesus had released him from the grip of the evil one. More than that, Jesus had given him new life, He had put spiritual life into his heart. He was born-again. The Holy Spirit had come to live in his heart. He had come to know God. This is why Jesus Christ had crossed the lake – in order to save this man. He was in a Greco-Roman region. The gospel wasn’t only for Jews, the gospel would be for the whole world. The man sat at the feet of Jesus in his right mind. It shows what Jesus can do with a man, what Jesus can do with our society. Do we believe, like this man, that Jesus is the Son of God? Do we believe the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ? To be right with God, to be forgiven of our sins, we need to believe the message of the gospel. The power of Christ gives hope. Look at the change in this man. If we’re not a Christian, we can become a Christian. If we’re a Christian struggling with life, Jesus gives hope.

Look at the response of the people of Gadara, ‘they were afraid’ (Mark 5:15). When the people saw the man they were afraid. Why? There was an awareness in their hearts that something supernatural had happened. You would have thought the people would have been thankful and asked Jesus to stay. However, ‘They began to beg Jesus to depart from the region’ (Mark 5:17). What a blessing they lost! (Jesus did later return to the region, Mark 7:21).

Contrast this with the response of the healed man, who ‘begged Him that he might be with Him’ (Mark 5:18). He believes in God, he is thankful and wants to be with Jesus and serve Him. But Jesus wasn’t willing. Jesus had other plans for him. God has a plan for our lives. It wasn’t God’s plan for him to be a disciple with Jesus, He wants him to go home to his friends, who he would not have seen for a long time, and tell that what Jesus had done. And this is what he does, sharing what Jesus had done for him. What a wonderful testimony. And the people marvelled.

God expects us to share with people what He has done for us. How are we to be witnesses for Christ? ‘In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15). Put Christ first in your heart. Always be ready to give the reason for the hope that is within you. Do this with meekness and humility. We are only who we are by God’s grace. We need to live the life of a Christian, doing good works, treating people with love (John 13:35), so that others see the light of Christ.

9th April 2017: Gaius Douglas

Luke 19: 11-27

A survey carried out by the BBC and reported on this morning’s news has suggested ‘a quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.’ Furthermore, ‘exactly half of all people surveyed did not believe in the resurrection at all.’ This brings to mind Romans 10:9 

Romans 10-9 KJV

‘Occupy till I come.’ On the authority of the Word of God, if Christ is was not raised from the dead then there is no life. Some people can take a bit of the Bible and not accept it. You cannot do any work for the Lord Jesus Christ if you don’t believe in the Bible. You can’t be a Christian if you believe in only parts of the Bible. The Word of God is living. If you know Christ, you are indwelled by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus said to Philip, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seem me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?’ (John 14:9).

In the parable in these verses the nobleman, before travelling to a far country, ‘called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, ‘Occupy till I come.’ (Luke 19:13). The number 10 in the Bible speaks of God’s authority. ‘I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.’ (Isaiah 45:5). This is the God we serve. Not even Satan in all his power can do anything to you without God allowing it.

“Occupy till I come.” (Luke 19:13) Are you occupied? Are you looking forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, to seeing Him, to His coming? In the very last prayer in the Bible we read, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’ (Revelation 22:20). When Paul introduces the remembrance of the Lord we again read, ‘For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.’ (1 Corinthians 11:26). He is coming! Whether we are looking forward to it or not, He will come to receive us to Himself. He has redeemed us, not for this world, but for Him. Wonderful! We shall be like Him forever. Pray the reality of His coming will take us away from our circumstances. The cry of our heart should be, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’ (Revelation 22:20).

‘Occupy’ is not a passive word, it is active. We are doing something for Him. In this parable the nobleman chose ten servants. He gave them a £1 each and said, ‘Go and do something with it.’ Nine of them used their initiative, one of them did not. One of them thought, ‘There’s a risk. Let me weigh up the master’s character – he’s an austere man.’ Are you frightened of your Saviour? If so, you don’t know Him. The servant wrapped up the coin he had been given and put it away, making sure no-one touched it. In the past many kept the Bible under lock and key so the masses could not read it. So often we keep the Word of God under lock and key.

What has Christ done to your soul? He has saved it by grace – not because of anything you and I deserve – it’s for His glory. He saved us because He loves us, He bore our punishment and redeemed us. Now He wants us to do something for Him – to occupy till He comes.

The Lord gave the ten people in this parable something to do. He had redeemed them and brought them into newness of life. He gave them something and wanted them to do something for Him. Occupy. Do we take an interest in the Word of God? If Christ has done something in your heart you should be able to say, ‘I love the Lord Jesus.’ So many of us are like the last servant, we wrap up the Word of God and blend into this world. There was a time when Peter blended into the people, when he denied the Lord. So often we just want to blend into the world, we don’t want to be different. If you say, ‘I can’t testify for the Lord,’ you don’t know the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord is there to give you the words. If you love Him, don’t wrap Him up. The Spirit of God gives you the liberty to tell others about Jesus Christ.

The Lord says to this servant that he was one of his. He wasn’t lost. Which of the servants are you like? If you want to be like the first servant, pray. So many of us are like the last servant – we don’t want to stand out, we’re not occupied. The Lord used the servant’s own words to condemn that man. ‘And he saith unto him, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an autere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”’ (Luke 19: 22-23)  (ursury – interest).

When the Lord sends us into His vineyard, He sends us where He has already sown, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.’ (John 4:35). We are to reap. We just need to open our mouths and say, ‘Jesus loves you.’

Christ has gone out of His way for you. He gave His life for you. What are you going to give Him? What are you doing to tell others that Jesus saves? What are you doing to save them from hell? He says ‘Occupy till I come.’

The servant lost the joy of his salvation. When we miss opportunities we lose something of this joy. Psalm 51 was a psalm written by David after he had committed the sin of sending Uriah into battle, after sleeping with Uriah’s wife. The Lord was angry with David. David cried, ‘Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.’ (Psalm 51:12). This man had lost something of the joy of his salvation. We are told in Philippians 4:4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ If we’re not rejoicing in the Lord we will struggle to tell others about Jesus. We are not living in the blessings that He’s bestowed upon us. Jesus doesn’t want us to lose the joy of salvation. Hopefully, the last servant went away realising what he had done so he might enjoy the blessings and bounty of Christ. The Lord gave equally to all His servants. When we get to glory we will all be equal. Those who are barely saved are brought in. His grace has saved us and He will never take away that salvation. If the Lord gives us a testimony and we don’t use it He will take it away and give it to someone else, He takes away and gives to those who will make use of it, not someone who will hide it. The joy and testimony will diminish   – but Salvation remains.  The challenge is ‘What are we doing with the £1?’ What are we doing with what God has put in our hearts?