2018-1-07 What Has the Lord Done for You?

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          January 7, 2018

“What Has the Lord Done for You?”
Mark 5:1-20

Throughout my junior year of high school, Janet Jackson posed this question to her suitor in song: “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”[1]  This is a question often asked in relationships, and the question, when asked, often is asked selfishly—not, “How may I serve you?” but, “What have you done for me lately?”  Yet it is good for us to remember—yea, to ponder—what the Lord has done for us.  This, moreover, is not selfish; it leads to worship of Him.  Let us ponder what the Lord has done for us as we read Mark’s Spirit-led account of Jesus’ encounter with the man of the tombs.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Throughout my increasingly long acquaintance with this text, I have been struck by the profound afflictions of this man of the tombs—called either the Gerasene or Gadarene demoniac.  Let’s look for a bit at his troubles.  First, he is driven.  He is not driven in the way many a type-A personality is driven, but he is driven nonetheless.  He is driven to the tombs—indeed a dark place among the dead.  He is driven away from society and away from healthy relationships.  Second, though it does not appear to be trouble, he possesses proverbial madman’s strength.  None could bind him—although many would in order to protect the populace and to separate him from themselves.  He broke the chains and shackles, likely of iron, intended to restrain him.  Hence, the people in that area recoiled from him in fear and revulsion.  Third, he cried out, perhaps to frighten others or otherwise to drive them away, or—more likely in my view—from great internal and external pain.  Fourth, he inflicted physical injury upon himself by cutting himself with stones.  What a pitiable creature we find here in Mark’s Gospel.  Let us look at the proximate of his difficulties.

The afflictions come because of demonic possession.  When Jesus questions the man, and the spokesman for the demons answers, he says, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”  Indeed, this is true.  The word legion as used here, was a technical term in Roman military parlance for 6,000 soldiers.  Hence, this man is not possessed by one demon, or even a few—but up to 6,000 demons reside within him.  Yet, unspeakable though this affliction be, there is a cure—or, more properly, the Cure.

The cure for the afflicted one—or for any afflicted soul—is the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  Consider first His Person.  Standing before the man of the tombs, infested by the demonic horde, is God incarnate.  The divine, second Person of the Holy Trinity stands squarely central in the scene.  He is Jesus, God to the rescue, and He can do something in this situation—and presently He does it.

The work of Jesus Christ in this case is exorcism.  Notice the demons, be they ever so bold in former times, now sniveling and caviling in trembling fear before Almighty God Incarnate.  Now the demons obey the Master of all things.  In this case, they flee the man of the tombs, for Jesus has banished them.  They flee, upon request and upon Jesus’ permission, into a herd of 2,000 swine.  These demons then drive the swine to their deaths in the Sea of Galilee.  See the omnipotent power of God over the demons—and their lord to boot.  They tremble before Him, they ask His permission, and they do His bidding without fail—even if they be angrily miserable in the doing.

Now note the new life for the formerly afflicted man of the tombs.  The townspeople, upon report of those watching the swine, come to investigate—and they find the man of the tombs changed.  They see him sitting, clothed, and in his right mind.  They also see the large herd of swine gone.  Then the townspeople do a tragic thing; they plead with Jesus to leave their region—whether from fear, or from consternation of loss of livestock, or from some other reason.  Note that Jesus goes—not because they told Him to leave, but because generally He tarries not where He is unwelcome.

The man of the tombs would leave Gerasa also.  He pleads to go with Jesus.  Now, in his right mind, he intends wisely.  Jesus forbids this, but sends him to his family and townspeople on an errand.  The man, now delivered from the demons, shall declare what the Lord has done for him and how the Lord showed him mercy.  This the man did with holy abandon, and all who heard were amazed.

 

Jesus gave the man a happy task—to declare the Lord’s works and mercy in his life.  That is our task today.  Let’s being by pondering this question, applied to each of our souls: What has the Lord done for you?  Sometimes we have ready answers to this question, and at other times we struggle to recall.  Consider these hints.  If the Lord has saved you, then think of all He has done: He has elected and predestined you to eternal life, He has called you savingly, He has forgiven your sin and declared you not guilty before His infinitely holy bar, He has declared you His son or daughter, He is making you more like His Son, and He is preparing a place for you where He is.  This, and these, He has done for you if you be in Christ.[2]

Think also of other gracious works of God in your life.  Has He blessed you, man, with a wonderful wife—or has He blessed you, lady, with a wonderful husband?  This, among other precious family relationships, is cause for praise and testimony.  Has the Lord provided for your material needs—either apparently ordinarily or obviously miraculously?  Revel in His goodness and testify to it.  Has He led you down a path of blessing, or has He spared you from a path of woe?  This we can enjoy and declare too.  Now let’s return to the Janet Jackson song title, with a twist: What has the Lord done for you lately?  Too often we rest upon our laurels concerning His work in our lives during bygone years and decades.  Let us consider His wondrous works in our lives in very recent times as well.  I expect, if we think but a bit and ask God to illumine our minds, that we shall not suffer from want of material here.

Indeed, we have the privilege to tell what the Lord has done for us and how the Lord has shown mercy upon us.  Let us aim to do this in ways our hearers will understand and welcome.  As we meditate upon God’s goodness to us, our testimonies will flow forth to others.  May all who hear us testify to God’s Person and work be amazed—and may they glorify and follow Him too.

AMEN.

[1] “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”  Words and music by Janet Jackson, James Samuel “Jimmy Jam” Harris III, and Terry Lewis (1985).  It peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 issue dated May 17, 1986 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Have_You_Done_for_Me_Lately, accessed January 7, 2018).

[2] These are key facets of the Reformed ordo salutis, or order of salvation.

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