Out of Our Minds

When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Luke 8.35 NIVimg_0719.jpg

The story of the man of the tombs, the insane savage who existed in the graves of Gadera, is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It wasn’t always. You will remember that Jesus walked peaceably into the lair of the dead, into the haunted place where others feared to tread, and mercifully but commandingly cast out the horrible demons from a tortured soul. These demons of this poor fellow had caused him to become like beast. He was a human savage. He was isolated. He hurt himself, purposefully and repeatedly, on the jagged stone edges of the tombs. He hated himself as much as others hated him. He lived among the dead, perhaps envying their condition. This one even sought to attack Jesus. But instead Jesus transformed him. And the grace of Jesus was greater than all of his sins. This dirty man became a clean man. This man who was out of his mind, we are told, sat at Jesus’ feet, the humble position of a disciple. So this is why I now love this story: it reminds me of the power of God to change the worst of us. It reminds me, personally, of how God changed me. I am that Man of the Tombs:I once was isolated from human love, by my own sin, lived in the land of the dead, but now I am gathered in a community of eternal life called the Church;I once hurt myself through the powers of Hell that were at work within me, but now, the tender love of Jesus, and His acceptance, is bringing healing to old wounds;I once sought to destroy the Gospel I now desire to learn and to share with others;I once thought like a madman, but now am beginning to be renewed in my thinking. And all of this, not because I went out and chose Jesus, but He chose me. I was bound to the graveyard of my sins. But Jesus my Savior walked into my life and literally saved me.

If you were to ask some people about the folks over there at First Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga, claiming salvation through grace alone in Jesus Christ alone, they might very well say, “They are out of their minds.” But I would rather say with Paul:“If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God…” (2 Corinthians 5.13 NIV).

There are two things I share with you, today, to focus on the work of Jesus: one is this picture, the picture of beautiful flowers growing amidst the inhospitable environment of granite rock mountains. I think of the life of pink-flowers-on-rock.jpgJesus taking root and flowering in lives like that, lives like yours and mine. If you are like me, you couldn’t imagine yourself to be the place where Jesus’ beauty could take root. But that is grace.

The other thing I share with you are the words of one of my favorite songs. The song, “Man of the Tombs,” by Bob Bennett.

“Man of the tombsHe lives in a place where no one goes

And he tears at himself

And lives with a pain that no one knows

He counts himself dead among the living

He knows no mercy and no forgiving

Deep in the night he’s driven to cry out loud

Can you hear him cry out loud?

Man of the tombs

Possessed by an unseen enemy

He breaks every chain

And mistakes his freedom for being free

Shame and shamelessness equally there

Like a random toss of a coin in the air

Man of the tombs, he’s driven to cry out loud

Underneath this thing that I’ve become

A fading memory of flesh and bloodI curse the womb,

I bless the graveI’ve lost my heart, I cannot be saved

Like those who fear me, I’m afraid

Like those I’ve hurt, I can feel pain

Naked now before my sin

And these stones that cut against my skin

Some try to touch me, but no one can

For man of the tombs I amDown at the shoreline

Two sets of footprints meet

One voice is screaming

Other voice begins to speak

In only a moment and only a word

The evil departs like a thundering herd

Man of the tombs, he hears this cry out loud

Underneath this thing that you’ve become

I see a man of flesh and bloodI give you life beyond the grave

I heal your heart, I come to save

No need to fear, be not afraid

This Man of sorrows knows your pain

I come to take away your sin

And bear it’s marks upon my skin

When no one can touch you, still I can

For Son of God I am

Dressed now and seated

Clean in spirit and healthy of mind

Man of the tombsHe begs to follow, but must stay behind

He’ll return to has family with stories to tell

Of mercy and madness, of heaven and hell

Man of the tombs, soon he will cry out loud

Underneath this thing that I once was

Now I’m a man of flesh and blood

I have a life beyond the grave

I found my heart, I can now be saved

No need to fear, I am not afraid

This Man of sorrows took my pain

He comes to take away our sin

And bear it’s marks upon His skin

I’m telling you this story because

Man of the tombs I was”

(Bob Bennett © 1989 Matters Of The Heart Music [ASCAP])

The Body of Christ is a place where those who are out of their minds come to be renewed, and given a purpose to go and tell what wonderful things God has done for us.

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
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