Updated: Feb 26
“And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”
We were on a mission trip to Chicago and were serving at the Pacific Garden Mission which is one of the best known and well respected ministries for the homeless in the nation. After our service project we did a tour of their amazing facility.
We were finishing the tour and I asked Jonathan, who was one of the residents if he would share his story. This is what he said
I grew up in a solid Christian family in a small town when I began to make some poor decisions on whom I allowed to influence me. I began to dabble in drugs & eventually ended up with a terrible life that led to a terrible criminal history. Not only that, but I was arrested, charged and convicted multiple times. My parents tried everything to get me off that path. I finally had hit a low point when my mom told me she was out of ideas except one... The Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, a ministry for people who had run out of options. It was a ministry that helped the addicted, broken and homeless. People who had run out of options. She asked me to go, and I told her I would. She set up a plan and let me know that they would be taking me in the next morning at 4:00 AM. I agreed but then told my dad, I will be here tomorrow at 4:00, and then we can leave, but I had something's that I needed to do, my dad knew what this meant and said No... if you do that, the deal is off, and he would be out of options. They drove me all the way to Chicago from where we lived several hours a way. They brought me in, and I saw people everywhere who were, broken, sad, desperate and homeless. I felt I really didn’t belong here, but my mom let me know this would be the best thing for me right now and that I would be fine. I was reluctant at first but then settled in. I sat under the teaching of God’s Word and soon re-committed my life to Christ.
Furthermore, I decided to go through their Bible Training School and began to get involved in serving. The more I served, the more opportunity I i received. I’m totally amazed at when the Lord has done in my life. When I came here, I was 160 lbs. and totally skinny and emaciated. I began to work it’s in addition to the work and Bible Training and I am feeling like a different man but the best was yet to come, I felt like I was ready to go back into the workforce, so I decided to apply at a local company as an architect. I went through all the steps, paperwork and interviews. I was at the final step of the process when the HR person got to the background check. This was the part I was the most nervous about. I let her know up front that I have an extensive criminal record, and she let me know she appreciated it, and she would take a look at it and let know where things stand. I really felt once she looked at this I was going to be disqualified and not get the job. I bet with her again and was expecting bad news. I said, I tried to warn you that I have an extended criminal record. She looked at me and said I did see your criminal history Jonathan... But that was who you used to be right? I said, yes it is. She then said, Ok, welcome to the company.
I was so moved by this story because when I look at my own life, I can honestly say I see myself and the grace the Lord has given me for my past.
This is what I think of when Mark 5 tells the story of the demoniac in Mark 5:1-5:
“Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”
He was homeless, miserable and a tortured soul who dwelt in the tombs among the dead. He was so miserable that he would try to inflict as much pain on himself as he could, he was out of control, and I’m sure written off as a lost cause... until he met Jesus!
The Lord had a brief conversion on the man and knew that what was driving him was the demonic forces. The Lord had compassion on him, and set him free from the shackles that bound him!
After the Lord set the man free, the Bible says...
“And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”
And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”
The man wanted to go with the Lord Jesus in a boat to be with Him, but the Lord told him no. “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”
Jesus had a different mission for this man whose life was totally revolutionized! He was to be a representative for Christ! He was sent to tell his friends the great things the Lord has done for you. This man’s whole identity was transformed! He was once a homeless, miserable, demon-possessed outcast that is now a
powerful ambassador for Christ!
As I study this, I’m encouraged by the powerful takeaway(s)
1. God’s power is able to set us free from whatever
shackles we have in our lives.
2. God is able to change our identify from what we once
were to something He wants us to be!
3. God has given each one of us a mission to represent
Christ and what He has done in our lives as well as
what He can do in the lives of others!
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”