Unshackled (Mark 5:1-20)
There once was a man infected with an evil spirit that caused him to live in the graveyard, screaming, crying, and howling (at the moon?) night and day. The spirit that took him over was a powerful spirit – in fact a spirit of the love of power, no less. And it caused him to gash himself and transformed him with self mutilation into a terrifying creature that people attempted to restrain with chains. But he could not be stopped. His menace just grew stronger and stronger and no one could subdue him.
Alone in the graveyard, a danger to himself and others, his friends must have been only the corpses he encountered there, for the living surely feared him and stayed away. Apparently he was well known. People knew to keep their distance, after all, they had tried to restrain him to no avail. Thus the fear of him spread.
When asked his name, the answer was “Legion, because we are many!” A whole army of evil spirits had invaded this man. A powerful army, so powerful that it’s lust for power consumed the host this parasitic spirit had invaded to the point of madness – so powerful, in fact dreadful, that it takes the name of Rome’s Army!
This is the spirit of Rome that has invaded most of the known world and taken over with force. This is the spirit that has invaded the tombs among the Decapolis (the “Little Italy” of Ancient Israel) on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. This is the spirit that no one (just ask the Carthaginians) can bind with a chain or restrain. It is the enslaving spirit of imperial force that promises to make the world your servant, but delivers only dread, loneliness, and self-destruction amid self-delusion.
Un-salt (Mark 9:14-29)
On another occasion, a man of God brought his son (a son of a son of God) to the Son of God who had an unclean spirit. A son of God with an unclean spirit – think about that! And when he brought his son to be healed, an argument broke out among the people of God – among the sons of God. And the fighting drew a crowd; it was quite a spectacle.
So, we have here a son of God with an unclean spirit that the sons of God are unable to help on the one hand and which causes a lot of bickering on the other. Surely this is damaging to the promises of God. The promises of God which are promised to the world and meant to be fulfilled through the son of God are hijacked by an unclean spirit that has taken hold of the son of God.
This son of God, who brings his son to the Son of God, complains that the sons of God seem unable to rid his son of the unclean spirit that makes him mute, and unable to speak (one would think that a bearer of salt and light and of God’s promises for the world should be able to speak), and instead he foams at the mouth. This spirit also throws him into the water and into the fire to destroy him (which could stand for a nutshell version of the history of the Jews who were driven into the waters of the Red Sea (a death sentence except the Lord provided a way) or into execution fires (one immediately recalls Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who also faced death by fire except the Lord provided a way). And honestly there were many more dangerous waters (Josh. 3; Ps. 88:16-17; Jonah 2:3) and other deadly fires (II Kings 16:3) that God’s Exodus-4:22-son faced over the course of Israel’s history, not to mention that this same son of God who was intended to be a nation of kingly priests to all the others (Exodus 19:6) should have something to say to God’s world around him.
But, instead of fulfilling the son-of-God mandate with all the rights and privileges that surely go with it, THIS spirit was the kind to hijack all that.
What kind of spirit makes the people of God voiceless and fearful of waters and fires? Is it not a spirit frustrated that its own sense of entitlement goes unfulfilled? Is it not a spirit of self-righteousness with a sense of something to lose or disappointment with God for not granting a spirit of unshackled Legion that surely should be unbound by other spirits? How can the spirit inhabiting the son of God be subject to Legion? How can the spirit inhabiting the son of God be so easily muted and threatened? How can the spirit that inhabits the son of God be so given to infighting, arguing, of dividing, and impotence?
Once you find the son of God suffering such an unclean spirit, what do you do?
Well, if you are honest, you admit that you go to the Son of God, look him in the eye, and confront him with the statement: IF YOU CAN… then please do something!
But the Son of God, of course, retorts: IF I CAN? … IF I CAN???
Suddenly, the son of God coming face to face with the Son of God finds proper humility and says: I believe… I believe, Oh God help my unbelief! And the Son of God informs you THIS KIND only comes out by prayer.
But here’s the kicker:
This is the spirit that infects God’s people. Turning to prayer is turning to God in humility which is the exorcism of the spirit of frustrated entitlement.
Full Frontal Humility and Self Sacrifice
There is another spirit seeking a few good men (and women). The Holy Spirit. And we see this Spirit manifest in a man who (to be frank) like the others brings about a decimating destruction of the self, alright, but not in any self-preservationist way (or even desire). But it is no self destruction for self destruction’s sake either! No. It is self denying LOVE that has authority to rule in heaven and on earth over all of God’s creation. It is a Spirit, not of the love of power, but of the power of LOVE. And it leads the Son of God to give up His life in one of the most shameful, naked displays of weakness and humiliation.
After looking at the three spirits, which one looks attractive? The Love of Power spirit? The spirit of scorn and frustration? Or the spirit of self-emptying vulnerability?
Isaiah 53 anyone???
Of course it is easy for those reading here to assume too easily that the Way of Jesus is really attractive since God raises Him from the dead. The Holy Spirit will not stay dead, but vindicates self-denial and LOVE with life after death. But while the first promises life without death, and fails to deliver, and the second consoles a bitterness with a sense of entitlement and righteousness, but at the cost of vain self righteousness that short circuits the Word of God for His world with mute speech, the third costs you everything including pride, security, and even dignity and holds its promises for those who TRUST themselves unto death.
There is no sales pitch that sells the third, but plenty for the first two. And in our market-saturated culture that says that you “deserve” all the good things it has to sell, I suggest a second, more sober-minded examination of the spirit you actually want.
Today in America you have a choice: You can choose to “Make America Great Again”. You can choose to be sore about the way things are. Or you can follow a man whose Spirit empties you of yourself in priestly service to the world around you.
I hope my church chooses wisely.
See you on the streets…