No one could restrain him any more, even with a chain. (Mark 5:3)
In Mark 5, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee into Gentile territory. He was outside of his native Jewish land and his first encounter is quite symbolic, a demon-possessed man. The encounter with the unclean spirit is described in rich detail. He is living among the tombs (the dead) and totally alone. People had tried to bind him with chains, but failed due to the strength of the demons. The man must have been in great pain, howling at night and bruising himself with stones. He would not be someone I would be excited to meet. My first reaction would be to build a fence to keep him out.
The story may sound bizarre and strange to our ears, but the reality of people caught in destructive behavior is real. To be possessed by Satan should not be restricted to horror movies or distant lands. While I believe in demonic possession and the power of Satan, I also believe that the demonic is more cloaked and hidden in our modern culture. Addiction, cutting, pornography, and abuse are some of the means that Satan uses today to bind us in chains. Drew Jonell’s photo reminds me that our chains can try to keep us from the light.
As C. S. Lewis once cautioned there are two dangers with a Christian’s understanding of Satan. One is to deny his existence and thereby open the door to his temptations. The other danger is too become overly obsessed with Satan’s affairs. The Gospel writers see both dangers and steer clear of either. Demons are confronted, but Jesus always wins. The scriptures show us that demons, like death, may distract us from Jesus, but they will ultimately be defeated. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus.
C. S. Lewis also wrote in Screwtape Letters, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
The cross and empty tomb are our signposts on the way to God’s kingdom.
Lord Jesus, continue to save us from the time of trial and to deliver us from evil.
I have been reading 1Thessalonians this week. In Ch. 3, Paul is encouraged by Timothy’s report that the people in Thessalonica are holding on to their faith, putting aside the idols and turning to God. However, in the next Ch. he writes to urge the Thessalonians to live to please God more and more. A dear lady I know has said, “Satan is always at our heels”. I constantly have to be aware of that and tap in to the Holy Spirit for direction that keeps me on the right path. Paul ends his letter with a wonderful prayer that gives me hope because I know God is faithful (Ch. 5:23-24)!