Last time when we reflected upon Mark 5:1-20 we stayed in the beginning. Primarily we reflected on the fact that the man Christ met was possessed. That reflection can be found in this post. Our previous reflection took us through Mark 5:1 & 2. Now we’ll continue on to verses 3-6. Here is 3-5 in full:
The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones (Mk. 5:3-5).
We won’t go any further than this until the end of the post, because of how clearly these words reveal sin. Sin, as I said last time, is the ultimate illusion. We read this passage and we see the illusion and the reality placed side-by-side for our benefit.
What is the reality of where sin leads us? It leads us to live among the dead. This man was dwelling among the dead. He had put up his tent among those who were dead and entombed. 2000 years later sin does the same thing to us as well. It leads us out of the community of the living and into the community of the dead. Sometimes this is because we are addicted, misled, or misinformed, but it still leads us away from life and toward death. Sin makes us like the dead, because they can’t judge us. We tell ourselves that it is far better to have silent or closed off company who won’t challenge us, than to feel alone in a community because we are attached to our sin.
The illusion is that sin leads to freedom. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can’t be held back and we can’t be held down. We make our own rules and we do what we want. This man was able to pull apart chains and smash shackles. You could not hold him down, he was free from the restraints of society. No one could subdue, no one could tell him what to do or how to live his life. We fool ourselves into believing that sin leads to freedom when all it leads to is licentiousness or the idea that everything is allowed. Freedom is not doing whatever you want, it is being free to do whatever is good; whatever is allowed. The problem with the freedom that sin offers is that takes into account only the immediate results that impact me.
When I was in college I lived by this kind of freedom – the “I can do whatever I want”. I was living under the philosophy of licentiousness. The reality is I did not want to hurt family or friends, but the things that I wanted to do because I liked their immediate impact for me didn’t take those consequences into consideration. “I’ll do what I want” thinking led to me doing so many things that I didn’t want to do. This is why we like the company of the dead when we are in sin, they don’t get offended — they can’t feel pain.
This hurt and pain that I caused myself and those who cared about me is the final reality of sin revealed in this passage. This man spent day and night bruising himself and crying out. I can imagine his family in the village trying to fall asleep hearing the faint echoes of his cries every night. Or I can recall the number of times my freshman year that one of the guys on my floor did something they wanted and in turn hurt someone they didn’t want to hurt. The response was almost always to punch something or drink something. If you live among the dead long enough, you’ll eventually try to stop caring. It seems to work for them.
Catching Sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him (Mk. 5:6).
But there is hope, we know we don’t belong among the dead. We know we don’t want to hurt our loved ones, and we aren’t made for shackles and chains, we are made for true freedom. Not freedom that can’t be chained, but freedom that doesn’t need to be. We find this freedom in Christ. This is the freedom of discipleship. This is why repentance is necessary, because when Christ calls us to be free, He wants us to understand that it means we are free to follow Him. The sight of Jesus calls us out from our sin, when we see Him we see one truly alive. Called out from our sin, He wishes us to repent and be healed so that we are free to not go back to dwell among the dead, but instead free to bring them new life.