Sometimes we manage to hold things together and convince ourselves we are safe. But then something happens and the cracks become all too obvious. We are out of control and we feel the panic beginning to rise.
Terrorist attacks leave us all feeling nervous and vulnerable. It could have been London. It could have been us. Suddenly the world feels fragile and our powerlesness is exposed.
In Mark’s gospel there are two stories placed alongside each other that provide us with a stunning clarity in a scary world.
Two stories that start with a hostile, terrifying, noisy battle.
Jesus and His disciples are in a boat. This is familiar ground for the fishermen and they appear confident as they take Jesus along, “just as He was”. They are under control. Until out of nowhere a furious squall appears.
I don’t think this is purely a natural phenomenon. It is a picture of the hostile world. The waves are seeking to seize Jesus (same word as Mark uses when the soldier seize Jesus in Mark 14). There is a battle raging.
You see it again when they land and we meet the man with an impure spirit. Here is a tragic picture of the hostility of our world. The world is not a neutral place, it is ruled by a vicious enemy. He is called the Destroyer, or the prince of this world, or Satan. He is not the ultimate King, but he has been given authority to rule for a time because this world is under God’s right judgment.
You see his handiwork in the man described in Mark Chapter 5. Satan has an army of demons who carry out his destructive work. This man lives among the dead. All relationships have been destroyed and the man is in constant agony.
Here are two vivid pictures that help us understand the reality of our world. A hostile storm and a vicious enemy.
It should not surprise us when life feels like a battle. The world is not neutral. It is enemy territory.
The disciples could not control the storm. No one could control the demon possessed man. And often we feel like we are losing the battle too. We are overwhelmed by life, by temptations that keep attacking, by a sense that there is danger all around.
But Mark shows us that we do not need to panic. Because there is a Warrior King
Jesus is sleeping. You have got to love that. He is not freaked. When He wakes up He stands at the front of the boat and looks the hostile storm right in the eye. “Quiet! Be still!” And with that it is all over.
As the demon possessed man approaches it is not Jesus panicking. It is the demons trying to get away. He is up against a legion of them. Thousands of demons but they don’t want a fight, they just want to slip away and annoy some pigs. Here is the truth about evil, ultimately it is cowardly. It makes big boasts, but when it comes to a fight with Jesus it looks for any way out. Jesus gives permission and the demons run. Into the pigs and straight down the mountain into the lake.
It might sound harsh to our animal loving culture but imagine for a second you were the man. Jesus demonstrates as clearly as possible His absolute victory. As the man watches the pigs running headlong to their death the man sees what he has been saved from.
Jesus is a magnificent Warrior. He is not terrified of any enemy. In fact the truth Mark shows us is that every enemy will be terrified of Him.
Jesus does not flinch, even as He goes to a cross. At the cross Jesus fights the decisive battle. At the cross Jesus pays for our rebellion that has led to the hostility in the world. At the cross Jesus smashes the enemies teeth. And at the resurrection Jesus demonstrates His absolute victory.
As you watch the terrorist reports; as you feel the waves overwhelm you; as you hear the diagnosis of cancer; as you battle depression; you must know this, Jesus is the Victorious one. Every enemy will tremble and fall before Him.
And the result is the beauty of calm
As Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves they immediately dies down. As Jesus sends out the demons the man is left sitting, dressed and in his right mind. The noise of battle has been replaced by the sheer beauty of calm.
This is not keep calm and carry on. This is genuine, lasting calm.
But it doesn’t feel like that does it? The battle still feels intense. The Hostility still roars around us. The enemy still seems to be winning. But we do not need to panic.
One day Jesus will stand above all the noise of battle and for one final time will say those glorious word, “Quiet, Be Still”. And on that day the whole earth will fall silent before Him.
Every enemy will be destroyed and all His people will live in perfect peace. Of course, that is why the Bible says there will be no more sea (Revelation 21). There will be no more battle, no more hostility, no more enemy.
It doesn’t make the waves less painful and it doesn’t make the enemy less scary. But it does make it possible to keep going. Keep battling that temptation. Keep fighting under the darkness of depression. Keep trusting as terrorism eats away at he fabric of our society. The day of calm is coming.
But each of these two stories has an odd ending. The people don’t get it. The disciples are confused about Jesus. The pig-less villagers are downright annoyed. They send Jesus away.
They had their security tied up in their pigs. They don’t want Jesus. And many will act that way today. Even when terrorists strike, they just bury their heads in the sand and sing “imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try”. There is no comfort there but the human heart is so hostile to God that people wtill prefer to find their comfort in pigs rather than Jesus. Or bank balances, bigger armies, nuclear weapons and the lists goes on.
We need to let people know the glorious news of a Mighty Warrior. But we also need to be ready that many will simply prefer pigs.
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