They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him . . . (Mark 5:1-2)
As I'm reading through chapter 4 of St. Mark, and then into chapter 5, I mused over the scene in my mind. In verse 35 of chapter 4, the Lord tells the disciples: "Let us go over to the other side." From the details here in St. Mark's gospel, and the parallel accounts in Luke and Matthew, there doesn't seem to be an apparent reason why the Lord decided to cross the Sea of Galilee.
But we know what happened when He arrived:
When [Jesus] got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.
I saw the man in my imagination. Dirty. Reeking with dried urine and feces. Filthy beard and hair. Wild look in his eyes. His face contorted with fear, or rage, or helplessness . . . or maybe all three.
The text continues: Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him . . .
If you remember the story, you know the Lord instantly healed the man and then cast the demons into a herd of pigs. When the people of the place heard what Jesus had done, they begged him to leave their country.
I've read that story dozens of times. But this time I noticed something new.
The Lord could have stayed on the other side of the lake and ministered to the hundreds who came to Him. But the Good Shepherd knew of a lost sheep across the water. Bound with chains stronger than iron, no one could free him from his demonic masters. He was their toy. Their plaything who did whatever their cruelty wanted him to do. And he would be imprisoned by them for as long as he lived.
But . . .
I'm so glad for the "buts" of Scripture.
But Jesus knew of the man. And that changed forever the man's destiny.
A changed destiny.
Who thinks Jesus is not the same today as He was yesterday? Who thinks the Good Shepherd does not still go out of His way to meet us in our desperation? Our helplessness? Our bondage to sins that drive us to one failure after another?
The text tells us when the man saw Jesus from distance, he ran toward Him and bowed at His feet, which is what everyone today -- bound by the past, bound by the present, and in fear of tomorrow must do -- lift our eyes to Jesus, bow at His feet, and receive His salvation.
As St. Peter promised: All who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21).