Christ’s Heart for the Hurting
The man was a terror. Day and night, his voice rang out, torturing the townspeople while mutilating himself. So far from being a prospect for grace, he appeared to be beyond hope and destined for destruction. But then he met Jesus, who has a heart for those who are hurting and the power to do something about it.
We have two pairs of spectacles to look through when reading the Gospel accounts. With one, we perceive what is natural to us and to anyone else who would look in. With the other, we see through the eyes of Christ. This view is as staggering as it is surprising. We neither expect nor can fully fathom what we see. But look in we must, for in these events we peer into the heart of Christ.
He Seemed Hopeless
One such example is found in the fifth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Readers are greeted by this man almost as quickly as Jesus was. Mark writes in verse 3, “And when Jesus had stepped off the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.” But he’s not just a run-of-the-mill demon-possessed man that we might grow accustomed to when reading the Gospels. This guy is a serious problem for the town.
Mark tells us that he lives in the cemetery. But this isn’t as bad as it gets. We also learn that the people can’t subdue him; he’s uncontrollable. They tried, of course, but they were unsuccessful, as noted in verse 5: “he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.” Imagine this guy living down the street from you or in the town center. His presence would create a perpetual detour for foot traffic. His cries brought anxiety to all within earshot. He was a real problem for the people in the region.
Christ Drew Near
As Jesus drew near, the man hastened toward him. Again, Mark emphasizes the urgency, telling us in verse 6 that “when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.” Anyone looking with natural spectacles–seeing the demoniac kneeling before Jesus–might be tempted to conclude that Jesus had a working relationship with the demonic. But as the story shows, and the greater context of the New Testament reinforces, Jesus is not there to partner with demons but to destroy them. He comes to topple his enemy and rescue his people. This is why he casts out the demons from the man.
Jesus’s incarnation is about him coming into the world to free his people and overthrow his enemy. The demoniac may have seemed far from God and an unlikely candidate for grace, but he’s just the type of person Jesus delights to deliver. Think in your mind right now about the person you think would be least likely to convert to Christianity. They aren’t more hopeless than this demoniac, are they? None are so far from God that his sovereign hand cannot reach them nor his saving love rescue them. Praise the Lord; this Jesus has the heart and power to recover people like you and me who are helpless and hurting.
From Demoniac to Delegate
Some of Jesus’s sheep come from tough backgrounds. Many have memories of who they were and what they’ve done flash into their minds without warning. This can bring a bevy of emotions: guilt, sadness, anxiety, or embarrassment. It’s natural to think that since they are ashamed of their past that Jesus may also be. This is because they’re looking through the wrong pair of spectacles. Put on the second pair, and look through the lens of the gospel. See a Savior who is not ashamed to call people like you and me his brothers (Heb. 2:11).
Jesus’s incarnation is about him coming into the world to free his people and overthrow his enemy.
We see the heart of Christ echoing this sentiment in this passage. The demoniac is a new man after meeting Jesus. As Jesus was leaving, he begged his new Master to let him go with him in the boat. But Jesus has other plans. He tells him in verse 19 to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Jesus deputizes this demoniac as his personal gospel delegate. He sends him out as his representative. And this is exactly what the man did in verse 20 when “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.”
Why did they marvel? Because twenty minutes ago, he was the crazy guy who lived in the cemetery, ran around naked, and terrorized the town's people. And now? He’s boasting about all that Jesus Christ has done for him. So, far from being ashamed of this guy, Jesus makes him the avatar of grace. He’s a billboard for the infinite power and compassion of Christ.
Look again at this scene through the natural lenses and be amazed at the power of Christ to transform such a man. But also, put on the second pair of glasses and marvel at the love of Christ that claims rebels like this as his own. Jesus is not ashamed of people like you and me. He welcomes us into his family of grace so that we’d boast in him and join the multitudes in marveling at him.
Erik Raymond is the author of He Is Not Ashamed: The Staggering Love of Christ for His People.
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