Tuesday Morning Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 5:18-20
May God's Grace fill you with anticipation for the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ.
May of the joys of this time of waiting and getting ready to be prepared for the holiest of nights and the Heaven's loudly singing the glory of God on that first night and the birth of Christ be yours every day. We can only stand in wonder at the greatest ever gift of our God for all people, in fact, for His whole Creation. However, for these next two weeks, we are called to be ready, as so many stories in the Bible relate to us. In our prayers today we need to remember the people of war-torn nations who are depending on our nation to help them get through to a lasting peace. The Ukraine, Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the people of Myanmar who live under a tyrannical Government. The peace that we celebrate in the Holy Gift of the Christ Child is meant to enter the lives of all people transforming their hearts and minds to be filled with Love, Compassion, Kindness, and the Light of the Christ of God. So, may war and tyranny lose their grip on our world, and loving God and Neighbor replace them in every heart.
The lessons that we have been working on that have to do with the Gerasene Demoniac are all about Christ's love for a man who was not a Jew, and for Christ's willingness to bring healing and hope to those who are were not Jews. Depending on which Gospel you choose to read you will very likely find hints of how the author sees this as Christ brings those "outsiders" into the fold of His sheep.
In our reading for today we find Jesus on the East side of the Jordan River in an area named the Decapolis, that is ten cities. These were primarily Greek cities who maintained at least some autonomy even from the Romans. These cities are related to the period of time when Alexander moved to conquer the promised land, and later were conquered by the Maccabees who converted them to Judaism. Rome freed them from the rule of Israel in about 63 B.C.E. So here is Jesus in an area where Jews may not have been well received based on the historical relationship between Jews and these cities. The cities were named as follows according to some scholars, while others debate if we really know much at all about these cities: Scythopolis which was the only one of the cities on the west side of the Jordan River, Pella, Dion, Gerasa, Philadelphia, Gadara, Rephana, Kanatha, Hippos, Damascus. The two which have a very similar spelling and pronunciation are the cause of the questions about where the man in the cemetery was really from. In different Bibles the translation has him from one or the other of Gerasa and Gadara. This area is really a first opportunity, according to Mark's Gospel, for Jesus to reach out to non-Jews. We see the result; these people wanted Him to leave! But that was certainly not true of the man who had been healed, he wanted to accompany Jesus on His journeys. Instead, Jesus turns him around to become the first source of the Good News of God's in-breaking love for these people too. So he was indeed sent away to become the beginning, the seed, of Christianity's bloom. It is very interesting because in all of these Greek cities was a common attitude about the superiority of the Greek mind, and its solutions to life's problems. But now there is one who knows what the Truth and Light of God's Love are all about, and the superiority of God's way of doing things, and in this let's stay focused on the New Testament revelations of Jesus instead of getting tied up in figuring out what the writers of the Old Testament passed off as God revenge and willingness to destroy those who had not heard the Good News of His love for their lives. The tribal warfare of the Jews against one another, and their historic and current battling with the others who are also the children of Abraham who also have the promise of God for their provision sometimes makes us question if God is really loving, but that is another conversation for us to have about how histories favor the writer' people, making someone else take the blame for their flaws, mistakes, and choices. Jesus makes it clear that believer communities often judge others as unworthy when they are really the people to whom we should be approaching with the Good News and the Great commandment, which leaves no room for us to play judge and jury about how others are not loved by God because of their "sin". If Jesus was willing, why aren't we? This Advent and Christmas we will sing a carol that voices "Joy to the World, the Lord has come". It is not the few who are to receive this miracle of God's love. It is everyone!
I will be back with you this Thursday as we work our way through Ezra in the O.T. After Christmas I will be taking two weeks off to be with my boys on their break from school, so that I can spend time with them. This time is growing more limited as two of them will be 18 in 2024, and I suspect, headed off into their adult life. I will be here however for New Year's Eve Sunday Morning Worship, and available for emergencies in the congregation. We might even get in the van and head up to see their brother Joshua in Colorado. Plans, at this point, are still very fluid. Thank you for your study with me, and please remember that I will still be doing the Bible Study next Week. In the hope and anticipation of Christmas.
In Christ's love, Pastor Kim