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Daily Devotional • January 21

Ed Little
Set Free
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 5:1-20

1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain, 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces, and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him, 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding, 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, stampeded down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man possessed by demons sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion, and they became frightened.16 Those who had seen what had happened to the man possessed by demons and to the swine reported it. 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But Jesus refused and said to him, “Go home to your own people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and what mercy he has shown you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.

“The man who had been possessed by demons begged [Jesus] that he might be with him.” That’s an understandable reaction. After tortured years under the thrall of demons, Jesus had set this man free. The demons were expelled and, in a scene that must have made Jewish Christians chuckle, entered a herd of pigs, who rushed down a steep bank and were drowned in the Sea of Galilee. So much for the demons. But that was far from the end of the story. It was time for the “Now what?” Almost instinctively, the newly freed demoniac knew that he needed a clear, outward, and demonstrable sign that his life had been transformed. And so he pleaded, “Jesus, can I come with you?”

When we encounter the living God — whether that encounter is a dramatic conversion or a quiet, almost imperceptible, movement of the heart — we need to do something. C. S. Lewis, in his journey from atheism to Christianity, decided to attend his parish church, even before his conversion was complete. “I thought,” he writes in Surprised by Joy, “that one ought to ‘fly one’s flag’ by some unmistakable overt sign.” Conversion becomes real when you take action, however small and insignificant. Our lives are composed of the sacramental: outward and visible signs to make concrete the inward and spiritual grace.

Jesus had other plans for the man who’d just been set free. “Go home to your friends,” Jesus ordered, “and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” The man may have been disappointed, but he carried out Jesus’ command with enthusiasm. “He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.” In whatever way the Lord is moving in your life and mine, what concrete steps is he asking us to take? What comes next?

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).

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Today we pray for:

The Episcopal Church in Wyoming
The Diocese of Panama – Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America
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