So Jesus has orchestrated a death-defying trip across a squally sea, teaching his followers something important about faith. Remember? In four little words (“Where is your faith?”), He teaches them that circumstances do not determine faith – relationship with the ever-present Jesus does. Faith is the certainty that Jesus is with us and for us regardless of evidence that seems to indicate the opposite.
It’s idyllic weather for sailing now — flat calm waters and a steady breeze. His followers like that – we do too, don’t we? It’s a relief when the sun is glistening off sparkling waters and the wind is in our sails. We love those times when we can bask in the sun and dry off our trouble-sodden robes.
But it soon becomes obvious that Jesus has His eyes set on the far shore. He has something or someone in mind and He will not be sidetracked by the appearance of this holiday atmosphere. His followers have yet another lesson to learn today about faith and God’s compassion to bring people to wholeness.
The rocky shore draws nearer and one of the disciples hops out of the small wooden vessel in knee-deep water to draw it ashore. Jesus has barely stepped onto dry land when a commotion erupts from the cliff-side crevices above. A wild man, naked and bleeding, hurtles himself hell-bent toward them, shrieking, vestiges of broken chains trailing from his ankles and wrists. The storm of his frenzy sends a chill through the disciples’ backs and they begin to scramble back toward the boat. But Jesus is standing calmly, waiting, even inviting this strange caller.
“Come out!” Jesus commands, as the man careens toward Him. A light of recognition seems to ignite in the lunatic’s eyes and he sends himself prostrate at Jesus’ feet in silent entreaty. Jesus has identified the man’s deepest conflict and hears the silent prayer whispering from this madman’s soul. The man has been beset by a legion of demons holding him captive to their mad commands. Jesus knows all this at a glance; He knew it on the far shore when He purposed to make this day’s sailing trip. Jesus is here to release the man from his captivity because the man is finally at a point where he is willing to be helped. He is ready to be released from his hellish existence. So Jesus commands the demons come out of their now-unwilling host, and they must obey Him.
Can we relate? We may not be demon-possessed like the Gadarene madman, but haven’t we found ourselves ensnared in lifestyles that have held us mercilessly captive? Small temptations have turned into crazy compulsions that leave us lonely, disillusioned, and, if we will admit it, living a hellish existence. The identity we have sought through promises we’ve believed from this world has turned into a lie. What we thought would be gain has been nothing but loss. The chains that hold us captive have been tightening around our souls, constricting the life out of us.
This is our moment; Jesus has come and is here. He’s made the trip specifically because He hears that silent cry deep inside each of us. He’s waiting for us to fling ourselves at His feet acknowledging that He alone can save us from our self-destructive lives. We must choose to accept His methods if we want to be released, though. It will mean obedience to Him, humility where we have been proud, and submission to His will rather than our own. Is it worth it?
The Gadarene man thought so. Released from the prison of his inner demons we’re told he was found, “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.” When it was time for Jesus to leave, the man wanted to go with Him. But Jesus had a better plan. The man was to go home and tell his family and friends what God had done for him. He was to live out his newfound faith where others could see that the transformation was more than skin-deep. He must have been true to that calling, because the next time Jesus visits the area He finds four thousand people clamouring to meet Him. Many of those will become followers too.
Jesus has a one-track mind when it comes to transforming lives. We will not leave the same people we are when we come to Him. He wants to remove the lies, the chaos, the chains, and the wounds. We must be willing for that change to occur. We won’t get our own way anymore, but we will be given a path to follow that will be better than anything we could have devised ourselves. That is what Jesus’ love for us is all about. It’s about transforming us so we can have one-track minds too. All it takes is a silent prayer.