Meet the Demon-Possessed Boy

Luke 9:37-43

“On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”

All of this takes place immediately after Jesus’ transfiguration. He has shown Himself to be God, wrapped tightly into manhood–He’s fully and completely the Word made flesh. He is the Creator, and He is holding the universe together. Who really can fathom this?

Full of power, but also completely covered with incredible compassion. He meets this desperate man, a man who is carrying incredible weight, a burden that had taken over his life. Jesus steps into a theological circus, after all, the Scribes had shown up, and the disciples were disputing with them. The terrible need of the demonized boy had been forgotten.

The disciples had tried to free him, they really had.

But between the gathering crowd and the arguing Scribes, they were overwhelmed–completely out of their element. Defeated, they didn’t know what to do. (Isn’t this a description of much of today’s church?)

The father of the demonized boy was incredibly desperate. He watched the bizarre scene unfold yet knew he had no other answers. He despaired but continued to wait. What else could he do, there were no other options. He really tried to wait for Jesus Himself. He needed Him.

Sometimes we as the Church stress theological niceties, and look beyond the awful needs around us. We rather debate than serve. We prefer to argue rather than meet the incredible pain around us. How sad is this? We constantly meet terrible pain, and we choose to reside in some strange theological bubble of our own making.

When Jesus comes down from glory on the mountain, He immediately faces off with a desperate man and a demonized son. This father is terribly overwhelmed–the disciples had made a try (or two) and yet couldn’t free the boy. The demons had ignored their efforts and laughed at attempts to free him. These demons decided to stay inside this boy. The disciples can do nothing about it.

But when Jesus shows up, all hell breaks loose.

There is amazing power here. Jesus, already shown to be God on the mountain top, now declares His authority over the ugliness of the darkness. He’s been unleashed and absolutely demolishes the works of Satan. He dismantles the evil and decisively frees the boy.

The text tells us, “And all were astonished at the majesty of God.” We can link this power to what we’ve seen on the mountain top–His Words are powerful enough to hold the world in place! He is the Almighty One that has chosen to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with us. He pushes against the darkness and sets us free.

“But have we Holy Spirit power – power that restricts the devil’s power, pulls down strongholds and obtains promises? Daring delinquents will be damned if they are not delivered from the devil’s dominion. What has hell to fear other than a God-anointed, prayer-powered church?”

   Leonard Ravenhill

Meet The Thief on the Cross

Luke 23:39-43, CSB

“Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 “But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 “And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The pain was incredible, but I know that deep down I deserved to die. But not like this. Never like this. I was almost out of my mind with fear. What they were about to do to me was terrifying.

You must understand that I was a common thief. I had stolen a loaf of bread when I was eight years old and that’s how it all got started for me. It more or else got bigger and easier. I knew how to steal and I was quite good at it. I was Jacob, the master thief!

When I was finally caught, they had sentenced me to die. I supposed it was inevitable. I fault no one but myself as I knew what I was getting into. As I dragged my beam up to Golgotha, it was really strange but I suddenly remembered a verse from the scripture and it really did unsettle me.

“Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

It’s a terrible thing to die this way. There were three of us, nailed to the wood and lifted up between heaven and earth. Jesus was nailed to the middle cross, not that it really mattered; all three of us were going to die today. Many hope for a simple and easy death, maybe in their sleep–but that’s not going to happen to us.

The third man could only mock, he was afraid, and I suppose he just echoed those Pharisees who didn’t really understand. But I knew better. I knew who this other man was, I had heard all the stories. Deep down I knew that this man on the center cross was the Messiah.

A crowd had gathered to watch us die. The Romans in their wonderful ingenuity had made a sign that they nailed above Jesus’ head, and it declared that to everyone that Jesus was “the king of the Jews.” Even as he was dying, they found a way to malign him and to irritate the crowd.

The other man being crucified continued to mock Jesus, and it infuriated me.

Why I defended him I don’t know for sure.

But I understood. He was being murdered out of envy and jealousy. He didn’t deserve to die like this, but the powers that be hated him, and who can confront these religious men without becoming a victim. Jesus had repeatedly crossed the line, so now they were now putting him to death. It seemed evil was really winning today.

I saw the soldiers throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes. He was now being mocked by them as well, even as he was dying on a brutal cross.

But all of a sudden it all made perfect sense, he really was the Messiah, and these bastards were killing him. Crucifixion was starting to work on me now. I began to choke on my words, and it was getting hard to breathe.

“Jesus… please remember me. When your Kingdom comes, please let me be a part of it.”

And as beaten as he was, he managed to turn and look directly at me. They had whipped and brutalized him, and yet he was still aware. His words were whispered now, but I understood. “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”

I was starting to spasm again, but the horror of death had left me. Some time had passed, and I could hear his breathing stop. But for the first time, I had peace. They used a spear on Jesus, but he was already dead.

The soldiers now came to the two of us, and they were carrying an ax to break our legs. It all had to do with the coming festival, and the Pharisees wanted us dead. When they swung that ax I knew pain that I could never describe. My own death came quickly after that.

I was suddenly standing in paradise, whole and complete.

Someone was standing before me. He was shining I remember, and I knew he was powerful; stronger, and he was more glorious than anyone I had ever met. It was crazy but somehow I knew that he was an angel and he had been sent to meet me. It’s funny, but I realized that somehow I really did belong. Me–a dirty rotten thief.

Jesus had promised me, he had pronounced me righteous, me of all people. I suddenly had a joy that I could never explain. I really was a part of the Kingdom that was beyond anything I had ever known. And all I can really say about this was that I was privileged to die with him. That is all I could claim. I simply believed him and asked if somehow I could be part of his eternal rule.

I simply asked and he gave me everything.

Cover Art: “Christ on the Cross between Two Thieves,” by Peter Paul Rubens

Meet the Widow, and Her Simple Pennies

Mark 12:41-44

41-44 Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”

It wasn’t much but it’s all I had. Some would laugh, most would scorn–but truthfully, I really wasn’t giving my money, I was giving my heart. That’s all, just my little tiny heart.

When my husband died, I was left with very little. What I did have I hid in a hole in the wall, but I was concerned, money was going out and nothing was coming in. Often I sat on my stool and stared at that hole, and often I was pretty frightened. There is nothing to live on. What was I going to do?

Please understand. No one was going to help me.

I got up one morning to pull out the leather sack, all that was there were two pennies. That’s it. Two very small pennies, and that’s all I had to live on! I knew that this day would come, but it seemed to come so soon. I shook with fear at what life was going to bring next.

————————–

Jesus sat watching the crowd in the Temple with the twelve. Occasionally there was a procession: trumpets blowing and bright banners waving. Another rich man announced to everyone that he was coming to contribute to the Temple. There were six stone receptacles placed in strategic spots, where people could tithe as the Law required of every Jew.

Jesus was watching all of this.

Suddenly an old woman came to give, and there were no trumpets, no fanfare. She simply came to give what she had–two very small copper pennies. Just two pennies. Most would laugh I suppose. After all, the rich were dropping in thousands of silver.

It was funny, but Jesus turned to His disciples. They sat and listened carefully to what He had to say:

“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.”

They gasped as they struggled to understand the Teacher. It seemed idiotic, but Jesus often said many outrageous things. You could see their minds working to grip this. It made absolutely zero sense.

“They all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The twelve were dumbfounded.

———————-

When I gave, I gave my heart. I had nothing, but you know, a strange peace came over me. I rejoiced to do this, to give to God and His work. Yes, I now had nothing–nothing but the grace and care of God. Maybe I was a fool. Maybe I was stark raving mad. But I knew what I wanted to do. When I threw in my two pennies, I threw myself into the heart and care of God.

What was going to happen next? I really don’t know, but we will find out, won’t we?

“Don’t be afraid, you tiny flock! Your Father plans to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give the money away. Get yourselves purses that never grow old, inexhaustible treasure in Heaven, where no thief can ever reach it, or moth ruin it. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!”

Luke 12:33, Phillips

Art: Coin Week; verses used are from The Message, a translation of Eugene Peterson

Looking at the Transfiguration

Mark 9:2-8.ESV

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.” 

And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”

I could go a hundred different ways with this. After much thought (disorganized most of the time) I’ve decided to go with the following. I know deep down how foolish it is, and I know you have much to add to it, which is very good. God speaks and shows us that each has a piece that others don’t have. If only we can accept that, our understanding would change.

I believe that the Transfiguration of Jesus ranks right up there with His resurrection. The more I try to process Mark 9 the more I see things that really matter. What happened there was radical, and I realize that I still don’t have a solid grip on it, and if I did I know deep down it’d change my life. But what I do understand I give to you.

  • James, John, and Peter. Why these three? Some have suggested that these particular disciples were the ones who desperately needed to see what was going to happen. That’s very possible. Perhaps they were the weakest, and maybe they needed to see what was about to happen. My personal view is that these three wrote books, epistles. Maybe Jesus understood this, and gave them this earth-shaking experience?
  • The impact on Peter was profound. “”For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him, I am well pleased.”  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18). Toward the end of Peter’s life he couldn’t shake the Transfiguration and what he witnessed there. He recalled the “glory” but it seems it was the voice that was the most profound. It was that voice that completely altered his life and ministry. (Notice that he mentions it twice in verse 18.)
  • The original Greek word for “transfigured” is metamorphosis. (Like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.) Jesus wasn’t put in some spiritual “spotlight,” rather the glory that was seen was coming from inside Him. He was God and Jesus revealed Himself clearly as God. The three disciples who were witnesses seem to struggle with exactly what took place. They use human analogies and images to try to explain to us what took place.
  • The word for “terrified” is the word “phobia.” Could it be that our encounter with God could go to that extreme? Could we be that we could be terrified in His presence? Does that fit into our theology?
  • And what about Moses and Elijah? Most feel that each represented the Law and the Prophets who were part of the whole scene. They conversed with Jesus. What they talked about I have no idea. (I wish I did.) But notice, even though Jesus emanated glory, these two did not. Also, the arrival of these two reinforces the real world of life after death. Both Moses and Elijah were very much alive.
  • The “human” part of Jesus was temporarily set aside. We know that Jesus was fully man, but here we see Him as He really is–fully and completely God. What a revelation! The three disciples were profoundly touched. Seeing the power and glory of the Creator of the universe on the top of the mountain altered their lives and changed their ministry.
  • John would write his Gospel and three letters. James wrote the first book in the NT. Peter is credited with the Gospel of Mark and his two books. They “knew” exactly who Jesus was! They had become fully convinced and needed no theological explanation. They finally understood!

So much more should be considered.

What I’ve written today is so incomplete–I feel a little foolish putting this down in this post. But yet I’m actively praying for you that this might add to your understanding. The Transfiguration is profound. It certainly needs to be internally processed by every real believer. And for those who don’t know Jesus yet, I hope you can understand exactly who He is to us who believe.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:1-4, NIV

Meet the Centurion and Discover Real Faith

Matthew 8:5-13

 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Obedience had been ingrained in me. I understood authority and submission to my superior officers. It’s called “the chain of command” and it’s the reason why armies function the way they do. I ultimately acceded my will to my superior, who’s under authority himself. I also have soldiers who I command. I led over 100 men as the occupying force in Palestine.

We were hated and despised.

My servant was sick, and I knew that he was suffering greatly, but I had run out of options. My servant was the only family I was allowed to have. Since I served as a centurion I was not allowed to have a wife for the duration of my service. Over the years I’ve kept good and trustworthy servants with me–these men were very dear to me. They became my family.

I certainly was aware that both my men and I lived in constant danger from radical Jews.

I had exhausted all my efforts to bring some relief and healing to him–and it seemed to be getting worse, not better. My “contacts” told me of an itinerant teacher who had a reputation as a healer. It seems Jesus had a large following and I realized that He could be my last option.

So I went to Him for help and Jesus responded. But He wanted to go with me to my home. His willingness to come encouraged me, but I simply couldn’t allow that. Jesus’ visit would’ve made Him ceremonially unclean–I was a Gentile, a “dog.”

My home was off-limits.

But I did understand something. I was under authority as an officer in the Roman army, and my men also took orders. Obedience meant survival in a hostile environment like Judea. Our entire unit was drilled constantly and we all understood the need for a “chain of command.” Each of us obeyed our superiors. We had to.

With all this in mind, I asked Jesus to heal my servant with just a word.

He marveled at this. He said that my adherence to protocol was evidence of real faith. Those who were with Jesus were told something earth-shaking. My trust meant something, He made me an equal with the Israel patriarchs. My faith was to be emulated by the Jews.

He then told His followers that my confident trust was respected and acknowledged as evidence of God’s favor.

Simply, Jesus spoke a word and when I returned home my servant would be healed. I returned home to find him healthy.

“Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

Please visit my new site, alaskabibleteacher.com. If you liked this teaching, I really think you like this one too.

Meet Martha, a Friend of Jesus

Luke 10:38-41, NCV

“While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house. 39 Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach. 40 But Martha was busy with all the work to be done. She went in and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me.”

41 “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. 

42 Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

My name is Martha and I’m a friend of Jesus. My home was one of His favorite places to stay–a refuge for Him whose life was so busy. I joyfully opened my house for Him and His disciples. When Jesus came I went all out, I wanted the best for them and that meant there were always things to do. Is that really a bad thing?

The kitchen was verging on bedlam–lamb, cucumbers, figs, and so on. Roasting and slicing, I had bread in the oven. All of this was requiring constant attention, and I remember not being able to keep up.

I wanted things to be perfect for Jesus.

I took occasional peeks at He who was teaching in my living room. I just brought in some bowls of figs and raisins as an appetizer and found my sister Mary sitting with the men listening to Jesus and asking questions. It was that which started to get a little ticked off.

I was getting irritated.

There was so much to do and I realized I had to have her help. And the more I thought of Mary the more frustrated I got. I suspect she didn’t understand the work that need to be done. I suppose her priorities were messed up–she simply didn’t understand her role as a hostess, and to sit with the men like she was doing was wrong.

Mary didn’t understand her place.

I admit I was having issues with my sister. I had brought out another bowl of figs and that’s when I gently interrupted the Lord’s teaching. I wanted Him to tell Mary that her place was with me in the kitchen. He could correct her and I knew she would listen. “Tell her to help me.”

Instead, it was Jesus who corrected me. I still remember Jesus’ words. I wasn’t expecting this.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.”

Was I really that transparent? He understood, but rather than encouraging me I had become another lesson to everyone present. I realize now that the real issue was with my attitude, and not the work. Yes, I was bothered and upset and I know that it’s those things that were the problem.

Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

I suddenly knew that He was right. Jesus was in my home, and all I did was get angry. I thought my work would please Him and after all, wasn’t that important? Didn’t He “deserve” my best efforts?

My younger sister Mary was being praised. She was my example and now I was being gently rebuked. I realized that all I was doing, all my work, was not what Jesus wanted from me. The problem was my own heart—-it wasn’t Mary, it was me!

I had taken my eyes off of Jesus and was immersed in my service to Him.

I had become critical and resentful of Mary, and I had forgotten that my place was at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning. That’s what Jesus wanted from me, and somehow I had forgotten that. The work could wait, my real place was with Jesus.

Martha’s frustration is typical of those who diligently serve with good intent, but forget to also sit at Jesus’ feet. “The Martha spirit says, if the work is done, is not that all? The Mary spirit asks whether Jesus is well pleased or not? All must be done in his name and by his Spirit, or nothing is done.”

C.H. Spurgeon

Meet the Man of the Tombs

Mark 5:1-15, CSB

They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain— because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!” For he had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

“What is your name?” he asked him.

“My name is Legion,” he answered him, “because we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region.

11 A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.

14 The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

My name was Legion. I was called that by all who knew me. But it wasn’t a pleasant name, it was a name of darkness and horror. I was possessed by demons; there were so many of them that I was given this awful name. “Legion, 6000.” So much darkness. Wonderful, isn’t it?

My days were filled with awful confusion and stark raving terror.

I ran naked among the tombs, cutting myself on the rocks. When they chained me I found a demonic, super-human strength to break their bonds and shatter the shackles. I would free myself to run wild among the caves once again. No man could tame me. I was the central force of evil in this area of the Gerasenes. I was feared by all.

I was completely insane.

I can recall little through my darkness, and I suppose that was for the best. My madness permeated everything. My life had become completely saturated with evil. What little I know I will tell you. Try to imagine the condensed insanity of a mental hospital crammed into one’s little mind.

It seems on that day I was on the Gerasenes’ “welcoming committee.” I ran to greet Jesus before he even got out of the boat. I remember falling at his feet. I knew instinctively who He was. He was Lord over my darkness. I suppose that deep down I knew that only He could free me.

The authority of Jesus enabled him to speak directly to my demons. I remember how they tried to negotiate their way out, and He calmly sent them into a herd of swine nearby. There were about 2000 pigs and my evil spirits left me and entered them. The pigs went berserk and then they destroyed themselves. They couldn’t handle all the evil that I had ‘bottled up’ inside me.

With Jesus’ firm and decisive command, the darkness immediately left me alone.

Suddenly I could no longer hear their vile words. I knew that I would no longer have to carry out the disgusting will of my demons. There were no voices in my head. I stood up as a free man for the first time in years. Jesus Christ had decisively intervened. I knew now that He was my Messiah and my deliverer! My liberator who was sent from God. Just for me.

Someone gave me a robe to cover up my nakedness. I sat at Jesus’ feet in wonder at what had just happened. It didn’t take long for the townspeople to arrive. They came and found me clothed and completely sane. I suppose it was out of fear that they asked Jesus to leave the region immediately.

I only wish they understood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat I wanted to join Him. I simply had to be close. But Jesus told me no. He told me that I needed to go home to my family, and I must tell them everything. “Tell them all of the power and mercy I have had on you.” As I watched them sail away I knew that I wanted to do what He wanted.

I would now be Jesus’ ambassador to the Ten Towns.

I explained everything that had happened to me and all that Jesus could do for them. I was now His very visible witness. I shared about the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ over my incredible darkness. I was now a source of His light to my people. I had to witness.

My darkness was completely gone, and I couldn’t control my joy!

Lord Jesus, You completely rule the spiritual forces of darkness. Help me to remember this and assist me with my own dark issues. I want to be free from all that opposes You. I must tell others of what you’ve done for me. Amen.