Summary: From the Gadarine Demoniac we learn how much Jesus cared about broken people by observing his attitude and his actions. We can also learn what our own responsibilities are towards these same downtrodden folk.
FROM BROKE TO OAK
(Ideas from DISCIPLESHIP MAGAZINE: Dan S. Baty “No Hopeless Cases)
Castle Hills Christian Ch. 04-28-2002
Scripture reading: Isaiah 61:1-3
Although I generally take Monday’s off, I arrived at the office one recent Monday, and before I got settled, in walked a stranger asking to speak to me. I immediately began to size him up by the way he looked. Well, this man wasn’t as unkempt as some needy people are. He didn’t smell bad or look drunk or high on something.
He began to tell me his troubles: His wife told him to leave and that she didn’t love him any more. His 11 year old son was crushed by his departure and he missed him terribly. He had been wandering around doing odd jobs for the past 6 weeks trying to get his head together, and now he sensed that God wanted him to return home, but he was broke and almost out of gas, could I help him? Did I have any work he could do? Could I help him figure out what had happened between him and his wife. He was completely baffled.
Through the years I’ve spoken to hundreds of folks with troubles like his. They’ve been through church after church, counselor after counselor, group after group. I can’t help but feel awkward and inadequate when I encounter hurting people. Some people’s problems seem so overwhelming and persistent that we may even wonder whether trying to help them will be a waste of time. What can we do when we encounter what often looks like a hopeless case?
1. JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD BROKEN PEOPLE
The surprising truth is that those kinds of people were the centerpiece of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Let’s look at one prime example. The man described in Mark chapter 5 was a sort of “worst-case scenario.”
• He was homeless (in fact, he lives among the caves of a cemetery).
• He was poorly dressed (in fact, he wore NO clothes!)
• He was heavily tattooed (well, he had the tattoos of that day. Scripture says he cut himself with stones)
• He lacked basic social skills (in fact, Mark records that he cried out day and night)
• He displayed violent tendencies (but he could not be subdued, even with chains)
This man was one scary dude! He didn’t look like a good candidate for inviting to Sunday School class. But look at how Jesus treated him. For one thing, Jesus did not retreat. He didn’t look the other way. He didn’t write this man off as unsalvageable. Instead, Jesus healed the broken man: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
You see, Jesus’ attitude toward the chronically needy and the social misfits was entirely different from our natural inclinations. Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus laid out his priorities. When we read his words in Luke 4:18-19, we see that he is quoting the scripture in Isaiah which is our text today:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19
Jesus focused his attention and energy toward the poor, the prisoners, the disabled, the outcasts. The underdogs of society were the centerpiece of His ministry. If we hope to be like Jesus Christ, we can’t overlook this central focus of his life on earth. Look at His words in Mark 2:17:
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:17
Now don’t get me wrong: Jesus loved the rich and powerful people too. Jesus took the time to explain salvation to Nicodemus, who was a powerful religious leader. He invited the rich young ruler to become his disciple. He healed the daughter of a wealthy Roman Centurian.
Jesus gave time and attention to everyone who came to him. But the people Jesus sought out … the ones he went out of his way to reach … were the poor and needy. He purposefully mingled with the blatantly unrighteous, the desperately sick, and the hopelessly downtrodden. And he offered them more than forgiveness, and more than salvation. He offered them transformation.
2. JESUS’ ACTIONS TOWARD BROKEN PEOPLE
In the passage from Luke, Jesus did not quote the rest of the passage from Isaiah, but reading further, we discover an inspiring picture of exactly what happens when people are touched by God’s love and power.
The Lord will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3