As a pastor, I tend to rage at mischaracterizations of Jesus.
Jesus can often be portrayed as a weak, helpless victim. According to some, He only talked about sunshine and moonbeams and skipped around meadows in Birkenstocks. I don’t have a lot of patience for “hippie Jesus”. This portrait of Christ claims He would never alarm anyone, but only proclaimed a flowery message of love. Some talk about a Jesus who is very tame. He is so tame that He could be crafted into a Precious Moments figurine. But the gospels present a much more comprehensive portrait of Jesus. The Bible presents a Jesus who speaks a lot about love, but also about wrath. It tells of a Jesus who welcomed and embraced little children, but also made a whip and flipped tables in the temple. We need to a comprehensive view of who Jesus is—a biblical view of who He is. We need to see Him as the epitome of meekness and power.
There is one story, in particular, which highlights a robust depiction of our Savior. Mark describes what happened when Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee into the country of the Gerasenes. As he is getting off the boat, Jesus is confronted with a man who had some issues in his life. This man made his home in the graveyard, constantly screaming and cutting himself with stones. Oh yeah, he was naked too. The people of the area tried to lock him down. They attempted to shackle him with chains, but he broke them with his superhuman strength. Nobody could handle this guy.
Enter Jesus. Immediately, there is a confrontation. This man knew who Jesus was. He fell down before Jesus and said: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me. (Mark 5:7).” When Jesus asked the man his name, he answered: “Legion, for we are many (Mark 5:9).” A Roman Legion was made up of thousands of soldiers, indicating that in this one man a massive horde of demons was taking up residence in him.
Jesus orders the demons out of the man and allows them to enter into some grazing pigs, who immediately run off a cliff. When the townspeople hear of the incident, they beg Jesus to leave them and depart.
I know many teachers and commentators believe that they begged Christ to leave because Jesus was bad for business. He just hurt their bottom line. Jesus cost them 2,000 pigs. That’s a lot of bacon. They were put out because we can infer they only cared about their wallets, so they begged Jesus to leave.
However, the text is indicating a different reason why they begged Jesus to leave. Mark says that the people “came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had the legion, sitting there, clothed in his right mind and they were afraid. (Mark 5:15)”
Why would they be afraid? The scene is a cause for celebration. A man that no human could restrain, who was bent upon harming himself and others, had been restored to a healthy condition. Yet, this was the cause of their awe and fear. In Legion, these townspeople came against a power none of them could possibly control or limit. He was a lost cause. He was too much for them—too powerful and too scary. But now in Jesus, they are confronted with someone even more powerful than the terrifying legion. They came face-to-face with a man who easily restored a man afflicted with an army of demons. And this scared them. They did not want any part of Him.
Sadly, today we lose sight of the sheer power of our Savior. He is alive! He is still at work. And yet we often pray and act as if He is not the same Jesus who easily overpowered a demonic host with just a few words. Why don’t we believe that the most hard-hearted of our friends or family can be saved? Why don’t we believe that we, as Christians, can have victory over the habitual sins in our lives? Our view of Jesus is too small.
Jesus is meek, gentle, loving, and gracious, but He is also the God-Man who terrified Satan’s fiercest followers and set a “lost-cause” free from his prison. He still does this today. As C.S. Lewis famously wrote about Aslan, “He isn’t safe. But He is good.” The same power that paralyzes Satan’s forces is available for Christians today!
Jesse is the Senior Pastor of Paradise Bible Fellowship Church in Paradise, PA. He received his D-Min from the Souther Baptist Theological Seminary and his M-Div from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Laura and has 5 children.