One of the things you can count on when reading the Gospel of Mark, is that everything moves rapidly. One moment Jesus is being baptized in the river Jordan; the next, he’s being forced into the wilderness to be tempted to give up on God’s plan and make his own. And before you can take a deep breath or turn a page to the a new chapter, Mark records Jesus’ call for disciples and just as rapidly, gets down to work. His first task is the one we just read…he heals a man with an unclean spirit. All this happens in the first 28 verses. Amazing!
I’ve been reading another book by one of my favorite writers, Anne Tyler. This one, “The Amateur Marriage” seemingly moves at the speed of light. There are chapters but no hint that any real time is passing. One moment there’s a marriage, children, a misplaced kid, a new found grandson, a divorce and remarriage and the next a death, life restored, and a family straining to reconnect. No dates, no sense that the next words will also be the next era, the next 5, 10 years down the road. There’s a passing of time, a lot of time without the sound of a clock ticking or a page in a calendar turning to another day, month or year. I’ve been surprised more than once and yet, not unhappily so. After all, it’s life and life is recorded not by jotting down each precise moment but more often than not by grabbing large chunks of time, huge spaces of things happening and lots of untold, perhaps even uninteresting events clustered into semi-similar categories, which in and of themselves, have little meaning. What we know is that people give life meaning. Human beings with their emotions and needs, their feelings of pleasures and pain, desires and hopes fill the spaces of time in a life lived.
Perhaps that’s why Mark spends most of his gospel recreating images, retelling events, and painting pictures of Jesus doing what Jesus does best…interacting with others…with other human beings. Mark wants to get to the heart and reason for Jesus ministry…to restore God’s people to God’s holy purpose and plan by healing our brokenness and preaching, leading, and loving them. All of them – the good, the bad and yes, as in this passage, even the ugly.
For indeed, this man whom an unclean spirit tormented suffered from an inner demon to such an extent others feared him. He became an outcast, his condition raising up walls of indifference, apathy, prejudice, fear, even hatred. In the eyes of others, he was a voice for evil, a tool of the inner workings of the enemy but under the ugly and challenging words this demon possessed man is forced to utter, Christ sees something worth saving. He reaches out and heals him.
Our own lives may be colored by pale shades of struggle and diminished self-esteem as we wrestle with the demons, which might plague us. Perhaps we are victimized by our lack of resources, our poverty both economic and spiritual. Perhaps we struggle with addictions that rule our existence, alcohol, drugs, a love of money or propensity to want more, and more and more. Perhaps we are battling a hidden secret we dare not share or we have fallen victim to an obsession to make an easy buck by gambling away our assets. Perhaps we feel pinned down by a certainty that the opinions of our parents, brothers, sisters, and friends regarding our worth define how we should live out our lives as worthless. Perhaps we struggle with our short tempers and envious desires to have what others have in the way of goods, looks, money, houses, cars or a position in society. Whatever we might be battling – and we all have such battles whether we admit them or not, the enduring message of Mark’s recording of this event in Jesus’ ministry is very clear. In God’s eyes, by Christ’s love and sacrifice, we are made worthy of healing. No one can take this from us. God has already proclaimed us as worthy, as his own and therefore, as children of God’s divine heart.
And that is who Jesus saw on the edge of the town…not a hideous ogre and fiend but a friend of God, a man of worth, one to whom Christ could and would heal. Once healed the man. Where once the demon possessed man was scorned and rejected now he was freed and made whole, an example of the power of Almighty God and of son, Jesus Christ. This is the God we worship and the One who reclaims us for a divine purpose each and every day of our lives. Amen.
 Anne Tyler, “The Amateur Heart” Ballantine Books, NY C. 2006