“When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain.” (Mark 5:2-3)
Of all the people who lived near the Gadarene shoreline, you might think a demon-possessed tomb-dweller would be the last to greet Christ. He was an unwanted person. His kinfolk could not restrain him; he was bound by darker forces, and so consigned to dwell among the dead. Yet he came immediately to Christ, and Mark tells us that this wretched soul bowed down before the Son of God (v. 6).
He was a tortured man. He suffered day and night alone, haunted and tormented by demons that allowed him no rest, and wandered “screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones” (v. 5). The evil creatures forced him to live at odds with himself. Unbound, yet lingering by the grave. Crying out for help, yet cutting his own flesh. Alive, but drifting alongside the dead.
Even his request carried a contradiction. He rushed to Christ, but he could not ask for salvation. It was the demons who voiced their request through his throat: “I implore you by God, do not torment me!” (v. 7).
Were we able to look closely at his face, we might see ourselves.
This demoniac was dirty and ragged, forsaken by his own people, controlled by evil likely stronger than any that has ever swayed you or me. And yet I suspect, were we able to look closely at his face, we might see ourselves.
I think on the freedom afforded me by Christ and how often I dwell in my own graveyard. I forget that my Savior’s forgiveness is greater than any of my sins and linger with temptations that I should have forsaken long ago. I read about this unchained man slowly carving himself to shreds in the graveyard and think on the times I have nearly destroyed myself with sin. That’s when I realize I am not so different. Like him, I am at odds with myself.
The Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn meditated on this truth about mankind, how we are crafted in the image and likeness of God yet are prone to linger in the graveyard. “The line dividing good and evil,” he wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “cuts through the heart of every human being.”
We have been given this great gift of life and salvation. But it’s not only the demon-possessed who linger amidst death, is it? How often are we like that man, roaming in a wasteland and rebelling against God, yet hoping He will yank us out of ourselves and back into life?
We are all of us lured toward darkness, sometimes even to self-destruction. Yet God comes to us. He strode fearlessly through the tombs where the possessed man dwelled, and not long after, He entered one Himself that we might be liberated.
Lay claim to the salvation won for you. God sought the lost, even those in the grip of demons, and He seeks you.