“The Role of an Outcast” by Pastor Andy Braams

We are in the midst of an on-again, off-again series on Unsung Heroes. On January 9th, we began with a brief look at a farmer. Granted that farmer, Elisha, would go on to become someone, but we didn’t get that far. The rest of his story will wait until March 6. All we know from 1 Kings 19 is that he gave up his farming and his family to follow in the footsteps of Elijah.

On the 16th, we celebrated Mel’s service as a deacon, and then on the 23rd, I shared a message about two nobodies who played a major role in two different stories. In the book of Esther, we found that Hathach played a significant role in the communication between Esther and Mordecai. Those two got all the credit, but without Hathach, who knows what might have happened. Then, I mentioned Paul’s sister’s son who overheard a plot to kill Paul. Because he shared the plot with Paul and then others, Paul’s life was spared. Imagine if Paul had been killed, we might not have about ½ of the New Testament. But Paul gets the credit and his nephew is completely unknown.

And that is the point of this series. Many people do great things for God and no one ever knows, or even notices. No one, but God that is. Last week, we heard from the Community Youth Group and an otherwise unknown freshman who preached quite well. And today we are back to our series once again.

Today, we are going to look at another unsung hero. Again, we do not know this man’s name, but unlike the nobodies from two weeks ago. This man was an outcast. But he was an outcast not because he was unknown, but because he was feared. The man I am referencing is the demoniac found in Mark 5.

Mark 5 is a fantastic chapter. We have Jesus healing this man, then the woman with the issue of blood, then raising the leader of the synagogue’s (Jairus) daughter from the dead. As I often share with people, this is Jesus fulfilling His plan of discipleship with the apostles. In Mark 3, Jesus said He would teach them to preach and cast out demons (which could be expanded to do miracles). Then, in Mark 4, Jesus taught them how to teach (preach). In Mark 5, He showed them miracles. In Mark 6, Jesus sent them on their way to teach and do their own miracles. Jesus truly practiced what He preached!

But let’s focus in on this demon-possessed man. First, this man was from the wrong side of the Sea of Galilee. That is how Mark 5 begins. They came to the other side of the sea. They had left the western edge (at or near Capernaum) and en route, Jesus calmed the sea. Once they arrived on the eastern shore, they encountered this man who lived among the tombs (v. 3). Verse 2 says he had an unclean spirit (a demon), and verse 9 says that he was possessed by a legion of demons. You may recall that it was this set of demons that was cast out of the man and entered into pigs who jumped into the sea.

What else do we know about this man? He was too strong for anyone to bind him, not even with a chain (v. 3) because he could wrench the chain apart and break the shackles (v. 4). He cried out (like a mad man) and cut himself continually with stones.

This man was physically powerful. This man would have been scabbed and bloodied. He would not have been someone you wanted to watch, and its possible if he caught you looking at him, he may have done great harm to you.

Again, this man was not a nobody. Most likely everyone knew who he was. We do not know his name, but the words used to describe him paint a picture of someone who was well known, and because of that, he was cast out of the village.

So, Andy, why is this man an unsung hero? Well, let’s remember the reaction of the other people of this man after he was healed…and then look at what happened over time.

In Mark 5.14, the people herding the pigs went to town to tell what happened. (This verse is proof this scene is not among the Jews because Jews did not have anything to do with pigs.) The towns people came, saw the outcast was “clothed and in his right mind” (v. 15), which made them afraid. The eyewitnesses to the pigs told the townspeople what happened and they “begged” for Jesus to leave (v. 17). Whether or not it was because of their request, Jesus did get into the boat to leave.

Now, here is why the man is an unsung hero. First, try to grasp what happened to this man. He was an outcast. He was “out of his mind.” Everyone feared him, but now he is healed and he wants to go with Jesus. But Jesus does not allow him to do so. What does Jesus say instead? “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you” (v. 19). And the man went away and shared what Jesus had done.

He is an unsung hero because he was obedient. Remember, he was an outcast. How many “friends” do you think this guy had. I mean maybe if Facebook existed, he could have used a different name and given himself a different profile pic so people wouldn’t recognize him. But, in that day? Not a chance. He was an outcast. He was sent to live among the tombs. How many people do you think went to visit this guy? How many friends do you think he still had?

But Jesus said go tell them what happened. And he did. My guess is that at first, they saw him coming and had some level of fear, but as the word spread, people came to him, and as verse 20 says, “everyone marveled.” That is everyone in the Decapolis, the region made up of ten cities, marveled. I think over time even some of the people who had begged Jesus to leave marveled. I would guess that maybe even those who had been watching the pigs marveled.

But that is not the end of the story.

In Mark 7.31, we see that Jesus is back in the region of the Decapolis. And while there, we have the story of Jesus feeding the 4000. Earlier, Jesus had fed 5000, and those were Jewish people. But now He repeats the miracle among the Gentiles. (Take a moment to read Mark 8.1-3.)  Why in the world would that many people follow…especially that many Gentiles from that region?

Well, the Bible doesn’t say it, but based upon the story in Mark 5, I believe a part, if not most, of the answer is found in the idea that this man who had been healed by Jesus, the man who went and told others what Jesus had done for him, the man whose healing had caused others to marvel, that man had convinced others to be ready to follow Jesus if Jesus ever returned to that region. And when He returned, they did follow. And now they got to be a part of a miracle as well. I just have to wonder how many of those people who wanted Jesus to leave might have been a part of the crowd in Mark 8.

Yes, this man is an unsung hero. He was an outcast whose obedience seems to have prepared thousands of people to follow Jesus.

But let’s notice one more idea about this man from Mark 5. We can’t overlook that He wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus said no. Presumably, the man wanted to serve alongside Jesus because of his appreciation for what Jesus did for him. But Jesus said no. This man petitioned Jesus directly – in the flesh. But Jesus said no.

We have all asked God for something and did not receive an answer, and most of us could admit that we have also received an answer from God we didn’t want. But how do we respond when that happens? Do we go ahead on our own or do we follow God anyway?

What makes this man an unsung hero? His obedience. And it was his obedience even when his request was rejected. Jesus gave this man a responsibility that was quite different than what he wanted, and I doubt it was simply because they did not have enough room in the boat (although that could be an explanation). But what Jesus knew, that the man didn’t at that point, is that this man, who had been an outcast, would now be a catalyst for preparing thousands of individuals to be ready to receive their own miracle from Jesus.

In other words, the man’s plea was noble – he wanted to follow Jesus. But God had a bigger plan and he needed to be obedient even through the answer of no to his request. Frankly, we could dive into that topic further, but for our purposes today, and as part of this series, it is good enough to note that his obedience, even as one who had been cast aside from culture, cast aside from friendships, cast aside from family…it was this man who was unexpectedly turned from the role of outcast to that of a hero.

What about you?

Do you feel like you have been cast aside? Do you feel like others have abandoned you or that they ignore you?

Most everyone has felt that way at some point in their lives – maybe for most of their lives. But this story reveals that Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee for just one appointment. Chapter 4 begins with Jesus and His disciples on the western shore. Immediately after this incident, Jesus is back in Capernaum having gotten back in the boat. Yes, He calmed the storm on the trip over, but this trip was made to show an outcast that God cared about him, that God loved him, that God could use him, even if this man, this outcast, did not believe he was worth anything.

Again, what about you? Do you feel worthless? Useless? Or maybe helpless? Well, I have good news. None of that is true with God. When you feel this way, remember this man. Remember this story. Remember what Jesus did for Him (and in turn what this man did for Jesus). And realize Jesus can do the same for you (and you can then share your story just like this man shared his story).

As I have said countless times so far in this series, all it takes to not be ordinary is to add a little extra. This man was less than ordinary, and all he did was share what happened to him. But what he did not only led to extraordinary results, it was also recorded in Scripture that the world might know for generations and centuries to come.

And as I have also shared repeatedly, we don’t serve God to get the accolades or to have our story remembered. As Jesus taught in Matthew 5.16, we serve so that others might glorify God. That is exactly what this man did. That was exactly the result. This man, once possessed by demons, did something that should be considered extraordinary and God was indeed glorified. He was an unsung hero.

The question for you and me is what has God asked us to do for Him that will bring Him glory? Are you doing your part? Are you willing to do your part? The truth is that God is waiting for each of us to do something extra. Let us be diligent, and perhaps we will be unsung heroes as well.