Summary: True discipleship is not physically following Jesus; it is carrying the Cross according to His bidding....
THE 13th DISCIPLE
Text: Mark 5:1-20
The backdrop and context for our study needs to start with the Sea of Galilee. Shaped like a teardrop, dangling like a pearly pendant on Israel’s forehead, it is a teardrop of joy, not sorrow; for it is fresh water, not salty. To the West is Capernaum, a bustling hub of fishing and trade; rich, prosperous and densely populated. Buttressed by the Galilean Hills and safeguarded by a Roman garrison, Capernaum was a safe and secure place. A Base for Our Lord’s Ministry. To the East of the Sea of Galilee lies the Land of Gadarenes; composed of Gadara and nine other towns to make up Decapolis, a Gentile federation. Although governed independently, these 10 towns formed an alliance to ensure socio-economic and political stability. With a sprinkling of Jews, the population was largely Gentile with Greeks, Romans and immigrants. A veritable melting pot of cultures, creeds, beliefs and rituals.
Mark, compared to the other Gospels is unique in its style, portrayal, pace and progression. Mark presents the Messiah as the Servant with a Mission to be accomplished within a compressed time zone. We therefore find more action than words; more miracles than messages. Mark’s Gospel, chapter after chapter, reverberates with high octane energy, excitement and emotion. In Chapter 3, Jesus chooses His 12 disciples who will henceforth accompany Him for the entire duration of His Ministry on Earth. Hardly a few weeks ‘old’ the disciples are learning the ropes and coming to grips with the unique roles conferred on them. To be a true disciple, the person has to be a follower; a learner and above all an imitator. To think, behave, act, do and be like the Master in all aspects. Undoubtedly a daunting task indeed!
The disciples believe that Capernaum is going to be the base and the nodal point for all their activities. To their consternation, in Chapter 4, Our Lord bids: Let us cross over to the other side! To leave Galilee and speed to Gadara! To move from the familiar to the unfamiliar; the known to the unknown. The disciples are going to go through an experiential learning program in a live situation. When Our Lord bids: Let us cross over to the other side ……..there are 3 implications:
1. It is an invitation to be part of The Mission
2. It is an opportunity to get a revelation of The Master.
3. It is a demonstration of how to convey The Message of eternal value.
A thinker rightly pointed out, a ship is not built for the harbor. Its sails are to strain against the fierce winds, its bows need to break the surging waves and ride the storms to show its sea-worthiness. To carry the analogy, ‘Discipleship’ also needs to be tested in the waters; not confined to the land. And thus the disciples embark on a journey to the other side; little realizing what is in store for them.
Right enough, when they are in the middle of the sea; there is a violent outbreak in the weather. A furious storm pounds the vessel and waves as high as 20 feet threaten to capsize the vessel. The disciples panic and chagrined to find The Master asleep. In abject fear and flurry they awaken The Master. Jesus rebukes the waves and restores calm. He chides the disciples for their lack of faith. How is it that they do not yet realize that when they are bidden to cross to the other side; it is not merely a journey on water, but a journey of faith?? The storm in the sea is stilled; the equally raging fears and doubts in the minds of the disciples are now calmed. The journey continues.
The vessel docks in Gadara. This is a new land, a new experience for the disciples. Would there be a reception committee awaiting them? Would not have Jesus’ fame already reached the shores of Gadara? To their dismay and horror; they are in for a rude shock. Rushing towards them from the nearby tombs is a wild, unkempt reprehensible specimen of a man, demonized, screaming and flailing arms with legs with pieces of broken chains dangling from them blood streaming all over from cuts and gashes made by sharp stones and stark naked. Even when this man was at a distance, Jesus had espied him and knowing that he was possessed by demons, had commanded the demons to depart. Now this man screeches to a halt, drops to his knees at The Master’s feet and screams: Why are you tormenting me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Go away from here!!
The tombs represent the land of the dead; the chains, bondage and slavery; the stone cuts and gashes, self inflicted judgment on sin and nakedness, abject humiliation and shame. The demoniac symbolizes and epitomizes all that Gadarenes stands for. A tragic commentary of the prevalent spiritual condition. The demoniac is the scapegoat of Gadarene Society. He is the bearer of the accumulated sin and suffers for the same. His name is Legion. We are many. Not one sin or two; a whole host. Like the Roman Legion: 6000 infantry and 300 cavalry. Overwhelmingly powerful, indestructible, dangerous and diabolical.