One Comment to “Entombed”

  1. Donald McMahon
    May 20, 2019

    (Mark 5:1–20)(5.19.19) keep this page marked.
    Title: “Entombed”
    Ephesians 2:1–2 (NIV84)
    2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
    Not only you, but me too. Not only us, but all of humanity. We were all dead in our sins and the wages of sin are death. No one is exempt. We were not serving God. In fact, we were serving the Enemy of God.
    Knowing this is the first hurdle. Maybe you deny it for yourself. You minimize and rationalize. Your conscious has quieted. But surely you can see it all around you. Open your eyes. Watch the news. Listen to the woes of the world. But you have no part in this you think. If the Devil can keep you in denial, you will forever be detained, imprisoned by your sin.
    Galatians 3:22 (NIV84)
    22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
    There we have it. The fact of sin. AND, the promise of salvation through faith in Jesus.
    Galatians 3:23 (NIV84)
    23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.
    Now, we are at the second hurdle. We recognize the reality of sin; so how to respond. Let us make laws. Lots of laws. We cannot make enough laws because human ingenuity is astounding. Of course, we will need prisons, lots of prisons.
    Well, that’s just for the worst of humankind. It is for the criminal…not regular folk. For regular folk we have religion. If I go to a building called a church, or a synagogue, or a mosque; or a temple; if I follow the rituals; if I make the requisite sacrifices; then, I will be ok. No, you will need to do more. I will have to be charitable, really charitable. I must give of my time and my treasure. Then, I will be ok. No, you will need to do more.
    You see my friends, that is a works religion. You can never do enough. You can never keep all the law all the time. You can never do enough to make amends for your transgressions, sins, and shortcomings. Prisons don’t correct and religion can’t keep you from hell. The chains cannot restrain. All our efforts are broken chains on the reality of the human condition.
    Until we come to Jesus, we are all entombed. We live in death and darkness. Many live in luxury and believe they have escaped, but it is delusion. Many live in a faux reality. They are too busy or too numb; or they are entrapped in entertainment escapism. Some are stuck on a treadmill and don’t realize they never advance one step. They are trapped. They are imprisoned.
    Why is this so? How can it be? Jesus tells us that He came to conquer sin and death, which are the ways of this world. And he came to conquer the Devil, who is the ruler of the kingdom of the air; the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient:
    Jesus said in, John 12:31 (NIV84)
    “31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. “
    John 14:30 (NIV84)
    “30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me,” {because there was no sin in Jesus by which Satan could clasp onto Him. Sin-filled lives provide many ways for Satan to control people, imprison people.}
    Jesus said in, John 16:7–11 (NIV84)
    “7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
    As always, the prince of this world tries to thwart the work of God, the purposes of Jesus. Just prior to today’s central scripture, Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Lake of Galilee. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was awoken by the panicked disciples. Their Lord and master got up from his sleep and quieted the storm with a word. They were terrified and asked, “What manner of man is this? Even the wind and the rain obey him.”
    Not only must nature obey, all must obey. The Lord of lords and King of kings rules over all the earth and the heavens. Jesus rules in the spiritual world too as we see in this scripture for which you have now been prepared to hear. Listen with a longing for spiritual sight.
    Mark 5:1–20 (NIV84)
    5 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
    6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
    9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
    “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
    11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
    14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
    18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    This is a very graphic and memorable story. Although Legion is an extreme example, we have here an encapsulation of the human race. Before Jesus shows up in the dark and dead places of this world, the powers and principalities of the air rule the human condition. To one degree or another, most all have lived in the trauma and tombs of despair or delusion.
    These demons are called evil or unclean depending on the translation. No human constraints could contain Legion and his companions. We can no more calm the storms or quiet the sea than we can control the brokenness of our godless spirit. Can you picture this poor man calling out in anguish and pain as he suffers self-destruction? One cut after another; blood oozing from the sharp stones and the shattered shackles.
    Legion was totally isolated and alone except for his tormenting spirits. Put yourself in his place. But wait, I think I see Jesus coming ashore. I can’t get to him quickly enough. Rushing to him as fast I can, I fall prostrate before him in an attitude of worship. I hear a voice; but is it mine?
    Even the demons know Jesus and their impending doom. Legion knows Jesus is the Son of the Most High God. He begs for mercy. Do not torture, do not banish us; even existence in the swine would be better. In the Gospel of Luke, Legion begs not to be thrown into the Abyss. The Devil and his demons know their ultimate demise; but, they beg for a temporary reprieve.
    As a matter of fact, there is a whole lot of begging happening in these verses. The demons begged again and again not to be expelled from the region. Then they begged to be sent into the pigs. The people of the region pleaded with Jesus to leave. The cured demoniac begged to go with Jesus. Before Jesus, we are all poor beggars.
    The demons are permitted to enter this large herd of pigs and surprisingly they rush to their own destruction. We are not told why. We do know that death, at whatever level, follows evil and unclean spirits.
    It certainly got the local people stirred up though. First, they see healed Legion dressed and behaving normally. The fact that this sight caused them to be afraid shows how bad off he had been. On top of that, they could not fathom what forces were at work that led to the death and disappearance of 2,000 pigs. This would have been a huge economic impact.
    What was going on? Were the people more concerned with material things than the Son of the Most High God? Were they afraid of change? When Jesus shows up, life changes; but, Jesus does not stay where he isn’t wanted. He will not force himself on people.
    The healed demoniac was different. He was a new man and he knew it was because of Jesus. Lord let me come with you. Lord let me follow you. Getting into the boat with Jesus was denied. Instead, Jesus commissions him. You can follow me by proclaiming my name to your family, your friends, your people (depending on the translation).
    What is the healed demoniac’s response? Obedience. The Decapolis is a region of ten cities. He told of his miraculous cure; of Jesus’ victory over the Legion of demons; of the mercy of God. What is your response to Jesus’ saving you? To the mercy shown to you by God?
    We started today with talking about being prisoners of sin. Then about being prisoners of the law. None of us wants to be in those prisons. The healed demoniac became a prisoner of Jesus. Do you think that is a strange way to describe it? In several places, Paul describes himself in a similar fashion. For instance, in Ephesians 3:1 (NIV84) For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
    It is the desire of Paul’s heart to make everyone a prisoner of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 9:19–23 (NIV84)
    19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
    To bookend this concept, I give you Philemon 23 (NIV84)
    Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.
    You may not know anyone that has wrestled with demons. It is more likely that you know someone who has wrestled with addiction: drugs, alcohol, gambling, or pornography. It could be compulsive shopping or hoarding. The list is endless and yes it is a prison.
    Maybe you got religion. You have your works salvation. You have your self-righteousness and your pride. You whip yourself into submission to the laws of God, but inevitably fail and fall short. So you try harder. Yes, it is a prison.
    On our own, we sometimes gain a victory; but it is only temporary. After all, we are only human. In fact, that’s the problem. Once we realize that, then we know we need a Savior. We learn that we need Jesus.
    Johnny Rambler (not his real name) got out of prison the beginning of April. He had served a five year sentence. On the Atlantic City Boardwalk, he got into a fight over a girlfriend. The other man fell and hit his head against a metal railing and was injured. Johnny was convicted.
    When he came to see me here at Emmaus, his story about ending up in Smithville was somewhat doubtful. Johnny lays out his situation. He has HIV and needs medication. He has no money, no home, no prospects. Apparently, none of the various county agencies can help him.
    I believe it was someone from Volunteers of America who found a place for Johnny at the Salvation Army in Wilmington, DE. They had a program for him; could help him with his medication; and, aid him in his transition to a new life.
    The problem was “no one could provide transportation to Wilmington.” While this seemed unlikely to me, I know there have been a lot of budget cutbacks and funding is low. Johnny’s story was compelling and he had lots of documents to show me. I gave him the money for the buses and train, with a little extra for food. And, I gave him a bag of bagels.
    Almost a month goes by and then Johnny Rambler is back. It didn’t work out at the Salvation Army. There is a long explanation and manipulative attempts to gain sympathy. The ring of truth was absent; so, I asked him a question, “You left here because you could not get the help you needed. By what reasoning process did you decide to come back?” He replied, “Pastor, I guess I messed up. People make mistakes.”
    Johnny knows a little scripture and likes to use it to substantiate his case. When it began to become apparent that I was not going to give him what he wanted, more money, he began to get despondent. When I sent him off with only bus fare to Atlantic City, he was angry. Johnny Rambler called me a hypocrite.
    My friends, Johnny is still in prison.
    There is a natural progression and every person must confront it. We are all prisoners. It is just a matter of what prison we select. Which prison are you in? Some of us try to serve our time in more than one prison, as if we will always have free access from one to another. But, if we are truly prisoners of the Lord Jesus, how can we possibly be satisfied any place else?
    Jesus is willing to go into the dark dungeon of the tombs. The stink of death and decay, iniquity and sin, can be overcome by the sweet aroma of our Savior. In his prison, we are eternally free.
    1 What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    Since Jesus came into my heart,
    since Jesus came into my heart,
    floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,
    since Jesus came into my heart.
    2 I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure,
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure,
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    3 There’s a light in the valley of death now for me,
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    And the gates of the city beyond I can see,
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    4 I shall go there to dwell in that city, I know
    since Jesus came into my heart!
    And I’m happy, so happy, as onward I go,
    since Jesus came into my heart!

    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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