When Jesus got out of the boat, instantly a man with an evil spirit came to him from the burial caves. This man lived in the caves, and no one could tie him up, not even with a chain. Many times people had used chains to tie the man’s hands and feet, but he always broke them off. No one was strong enough to control him. Day and night he would wander around the burial caves and on the hills, screaming and cutting himself with stones. While Jesus was still far away, the man saw him, ran to him, and fell down before him.
The man shouted in a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I command you in God’s name not to torture me!” He said this because Jesus was saying to him, “You evil spirit, come out of the man.”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “My name is Legion, because we are many spirits.” He begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of that area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on a hill near there. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us into the pigs; let us go into them.” So Jesus allowed them to do this. The evil spirits left the man and went into the pigs. Then the herd of pigs—about two thousand of them—rushed down the hill into the lake and were drowned. The herdsmen ran away and went to the town and to the countryside, telling everyone about this. So people went out to see what had happened.—Mark 5:2-14 (NCV)
I read that passage of Scripture today, and I guess I never got the weight of that incident. When we think of Jesus, we like to think of Him as our best friend, like you’d see in a print hanging up at the Christian bookstore with a halo around his head walking with you up a stairway to Heaven while the poem “Footprints” is in the background.
We might think of Him as our sacrifice and envision Him on the cross… wounded, beaten and punished for our sins. If you’ve seen “The Passion of the Christ”, you probably have a good idea of what I’m talking about.
Jesus is also kind of scary… not in a Halloween “I need to be afraid and hide under the blankets” kind of way or a legalistic “I’d better watch my step or I’ll get zapped by a bolt of lightning out of the sky” way… but you have to admit that in a logical sense, following Jesus is scary.
The Bible is a scary book too… Revelation certainly has some scary imagery, especially when you read about the beast, Jesus pulling a sword from his mouth, the lake of fire, the opening of the seven seals and the seven trumpet blasts, the four creatures with six wings each, and my personal favorite, the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. While I’m no end times scholar, you have to admit that outside the symbolism, there’s a lot of freaky stuff going on there.
But really, following Jesus is scary if you approach it from the wrong frame of mind. It’s scary to surrender your future to someone else. It’s scary to surrender your will and your decision-making to God’s will. It’s scary to tell God that you are willing to be tested and refined to glorify Him. It’s scary to give up control. You can see the effects in the story… when the shepherds watched the pigs receive the legion of demons and plunge themselves to their deaths, they were freaked out!
We see a man with no control over himself. He’s controlled by the demons possessing him. For him, surrendering to Jesus is his only option to get his life back. He’s giving up one controlling force for another, but I think you can see that although giving up that control might have been scary for him, being inhabited by evil forces is way worse.
We have the benefit of looking back and seeing what Jesus has done for us, the ways that the Holy Spirit intervened when we got ourselves out of the way, the track record that God has in our lives. Sure, it seems scary to surrender, but God has proven Himself over and over again in your life and mine.
Has there ever been a moment in your life where you’ve been “scared straight” by God? Maybe it’s a dramatic event like the story told in Mark 5, or maybe it was something quiet and personal… whichever it is, feel free to share your story in the comments.