Recently, I reread the story of the man among the tombs in Mark 5:1-20. My heart is encouraged again and again as I think about it.
The same story in Luke 8:26-39 tells us for a long time the man didn’t wear clothes or live in a house. He lived among the dead. In isolation. Away from those he knew. We’re not told how the man ended up naked and alone in the tombs.
It doesn’t matter.
We know he was desperate and in pain. We know he wasn’t really living. Not how an image bearer of God should live. I can guess his friends and family had given up hope for him. According to the story, some had tried to help by taking him away from the tombs, keeping guard and binding him but eventually “no one had the strength to subdue him.” The story doesn’t tell us how long “a long time” is.
However long was too long.
Without meaning to, maybe his friends and family forgot who he was before he lived naked among the tombs. Maybe the weariness of trying to help over and over was too much. Maybe the waiting and the disappointment of the man returning to the tombs again and again hardened their hearts and they drifted away. Or worse, maybe they lost sight of his humanity and they condemned him for his bad choices or lack of faith. Maybe they even wrote him off as a lost cause. And so the man stayed among the tombs.
“Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (Mark 5:5)
Then the man sees Jesus. Although the man falls at the feet of Jesus, the story never tells us the man asked to be healed. But Jesus healed him and the people noticed.
When Jesus was leaving, the man begged to go with him. We’re not told why. Did he simply want to be with the One who saved him? Was he afraid he’d go back to the tombs? Was he embarrassed to see his family and friends? Possibly for all of those reasons the man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus didn’t allow it. Instead Jesus told the man to go back to his friends and tell them what happened. Go back to the ones who lost hope. Go back to the ones who forgot. Go back to the ones who tried to help over and over.
And he did. The man went home and all around the city, and he proclaimed how much Jesus did for him and everyone marveled.
Because God changing us is never just for us.
God loves the man among the tombs and He loves the ones who gave up on the man among the tombs.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy………”