On Sunday, we were on the tramvai on our way to church when a smell which I can only describe as Satan incarnate crept up. And, yes, it was creeping, for this smell was surely something alive. But by “alive,” I mean the word you’d use to describe a zombie, not a cute little bunny rabbit.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw what was certainly no cute bunny rabbit. There, taking his seat just a few feet away was the most bedraggled homeless guy I’ve ever witnessed, complete with crazy muttering, scraggly hippy beard, and blood-smeared shirt. But it was the smell that was killing us… perhaps literally.
People all around us indiscretely gagged and covered their noses with their hands, held handkerchiefs to their faces, reached vainly to open windows, shoved their faces into dirty baby diapers… anything to escape the smell.
I’d like to say that the compassion of Jesus (or even the annoyance of Paul, Acts 16:18) came on me, but I revealed my American propensity towards political correctness and pretended not to notice anything out of the ordinary.
It got me thinking, though, about Jesus’ encounter in Mark 5 with the man living near the city of Gerasa.
Mark 5:1-5 – 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, 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.
He lived among rotting corpses, bound at one time by chains and now I’m sure bearing the scars. Screaming night and day, his voice had to have been hoarse and raspy. His arms and legs bore the scratches and blood of innumerable cuts as he ran naked (verse 15) among the stones. Of all crazy guys in the world, this has got to be one of the craziest. And of all the guys I wouldn’t want to sit down with and serve, this one’s surely on the top of the list.
But what’s Jesus’response?
Mark 5:6-8 – Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
Jesus takes time to heal him! Apparently, this was quite a long encounter, too; the words “had been saying” show a lengthy process, not a quick action as would have been shown by “had said.”
Think about this. Jesus, the most important man in all the universe, could have been anywhere, speaking to anyone in all the world, and yet he chose to take time with this one, very despicable creature. He’s got the world’s most important task and a mere three years in which to accomplish it, and yet he deliberately takes an afternoon to minister to Legionbob Crazypants.
The one that everyone else would have been hurrying away from is the very one whom Jesus stops to help.
To make a long story short, the man is delivered from a pile of unclean spirits, his mind is healed, his life transformed, and he goes on to tell everyone about the awesome way God changed his life.
And it all stems from an act of compassion coupled with power. Compassion and power, two things I am sorely lacking in right now, two things I must have more of in my life. Compassion and power.