The back of my right hand is permanently scarred. The skin there is thin and, therefore tender and overly sensitive to touch. Over time the scar has gotten smaller, it will never completely disappear. I am so used to it I generally forget it is even there – that was not always the case.
When Jesus arrived in the area of Gadara (or the Gerasenes), (The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5) He was immediately met by a man having an unclean spirit; the man was demon-possessed. The Bible describes this man in gruesome detail:
- He dwelt in the tombs – he lived in the nearby caves where dead bodies were interred. (Mark 5:3)
- No one could bind him, even with chains – at times, people would tie him up and attempt to restrain him with chains. (Mark 5:3)
- He had repeatedly broken his chains – he had “super-human” strength. (Mark 5:4)
- He was extremely violent – people were afraid to walk that way because of him. (Matthew 8:28).
- He was naked – he had not put on any clothing for a long time. (Luke 8:27)
- He screamed constantly – day and night his cries echoed in the caves and mountains. (Mark 5:5)
- He gashed himself with stones – his body was crisscrossed with self-inflicted cuts, some old and scabbed, others fresh and bloody. (Mark 5:5)
The picture painted of this man is both terrifying and tragic. Jesus does not flinch or pull away when the man runs to him, bows, shouts and pleads that Jesus, “…do not torment me.” Instead, Jesus speaks to him, or rather to the unclean spirits who controlled the man’s body. Jesus casts the spirits into a herd of pigs and the pigs leap off a nearby cliff into the sea. The man is healed and restored to sanity. The man begs permission to travel with Jesus.
But I believe the man still had his scars and he would probably carry them to the end of his days. His scars were a graphic reminder of his tormented past but also a compelling symbol of his miraculous healing and his glorious future.
Jesus response to the man’s plea? “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19). Jesus was saying, “Use your scars and tell your story so others can know about Me.”
The scar on my hand is pretty minor as scars go but like every scar it has a story behind it. In my case, as an infant I had a growth covering the back of my hand. When it was removed, it left a large scar, not a big or dramatic story really but as a child and young person, I was terribly embarrassed by this scar. It seemed like everyone noticed and asked about it – I hated that and tried to keep my hand hidden. What scars do you carry? Maybe your scars are like mine, just a part of your life story. Do you bear the outward scars of self-inflicted wounds or the wounds of others who intended to harm you? Are your scars hidden deep inside, the emotional scars of past hurts or loss?
The demon-possessed man’s scars were self-inflicted, a result of his deep inner torment. Difficult and painful things that leave scars can be turned to the good when we share our stories of healing and redemption; we can point people to hope in our stories. Jesus told the man to share his story, to share his experience with others. Jesus knew the story of the demon-possessed man. Jesus knows your story; He sees your scars. He is scarred too. Share your story with him from your heart, He longs to heal you and bring you peace and give you a new direction.
“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and I will trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:2,3