Christ's Curate In Decapolis
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, June 26th, 1892,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-day Evening, April 27th, 1890.
"And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, God home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."Mark 5: 17-19.
hat is a striking name for a man, "he that had been possessed with the devil." It would stick to him as long as he lived, and it would be a standing sermon wherever he went. He would be asked to tell the story of what he used to be, and how the change came about. What a story for any man to tell! It would not be possible for us to describe his life while he was a demoniacthe midnight scenes among the tombs, the cutting himself with stones, the howling, the frightening away of all the travellers that went near him, the binding with chains, the snapping of the manacles, the breaking of the fetters, and a great many details that he alone could enter into when he told the story among his own familiar friends. With what pathos would he tell how Jesus came that way, and how the evil spirit forced him to confront him! He would say, "That was the best thing that could have happened to me, to be brought to the Master of that desperate legion of demons, which had encamped within my nature, and made my soul to be its barracks." He would tell how, in a moment, out went the whole legion at the word of Christ.
the difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way of life lies here."
III. My third point is this: SEE HOW GOOD A THING IT IS TO BE WITH JESUS. This man entreated of the Lord that he might be with him.
If you have been saved recently, I expect you have a longing in your heart to be with Christ always. I will tell you what shape that longing is likely to take. You were so happy, so joyful, and it was such a blessed meeting, that you said to yourself, "I am sorry it is over; I should like this meeting to have been kept on all night, and the next day, and never to end." Yes, you were of the mind of Peter, when he wanted to build the three tabernacles on the holy mount, and to stop there the rest of his days; but you cannot do it; it is no use wishing for it. You must go home to that drinking husband or that scolding wife, to that ungodly father or that unkind mother. You cannot stop in that meeting always.
Perhaps you have another idea of what it is to be with Christ. You are so happy when you can get alone, and read your Bible, and meditate, and pray, and you say, "Lord, I wish I could always be this; I should like to be always upstairs in this room, searching the Scriptures, and having communion with God." Yes, yes, yes; but you cannot do it. There are the children's socks to be mended, there are buttons to be put on the husband's shirts, and there are all sorts of odds and ends to be done, and you must not neglect any one of them. Whatever household duties come upon you, attend to them. You wish that you had not to go to the city to-morrow. Would it not be sweet to have an all-night prayer-meeting, and then to have an all-day searching the Scriptures? No doubt it would; but the Lord has not so arranged it. You have to go to business, so just put on your week-day clothes, and think yourself none the less happy because you have to show your religion in your daily life.
"Ah, well!" says one, and this I very often hear, "I think that I should always be with Christ if I could not get right out of business, and give myself up to the service of the Lord." Especially do you think that it would be so if your were a minister. Well, I have nothing to say against the ministry of the gospel. If the Lord calls you to do it, obey the call, and be thankful that he has counted you faithful, putting you into the ministry; but if you suppose that you will be nearer to Christ simply by entering the ministry, you are very much mistaken. I daresay that I had about as many of the other people's troubles brought to me this morning, after I had done the preaching, as would last most men a month. We have to bear with everybody's trouble, and everybody's doubt, and everybody's need of comfort and counsel. You will find yourself cumbered with much serving, even in the service of the Lord; and it is very easy to lose the Master in the Master's work. We want much grace lest this insidious temptation should overcome us even in our ministry. You can walk with Christ, and sell groceries. You can walk with Christ, and be a chimney-sweep. I do not hesitate to say that, by the grace of God, you can walk with Christ as well in one occupation as another, if it is a rightful one. It might be quite a mistake if you were to give up your business, under the notion that you would be more with Christ if you became a city missionary, or a Bible-woman, or a coleporteur, or a captain in the Salvation Army, or whatever other form of holy service you might desire. Keep on with your business. If you can black shoes well, do that. If you can preach sermons badly, do not do that.
"Ah!" says one, "I know how I would like to be with Christ." Yes, yes, I know; you would like to be in heaven. Oh, yes; and it is a laudable desire, to wish to be with Christ, for it is far better than being here! But, mind you, it may be a selfish desire, and it may be a sinful desire, if it be pushed too far. A holy man of God was once asked by a fellow-servant of Christ. "Brother So-and-so, do you not want to go home?" He said, "I will answer you by another question. If you had a man working for you, and on Wednesday he said, 'I wish it was Saturday,' would you keep him on?" The other thought that he would need a large stock of patience to do so. Why, do you not? You will be glad to see the back of him before Saturday comes, for he will be no good for work. Have I a right to be wanting to go to heaven if I can do any good to you here? Is it not more of a heaven to be outside of heaven than inside, if you can be doing more for God outside than in? Long to go when the Lord wills; but if not to remain in the flesh be more for the good of the church and the world, and more for the glory of God, waive your desire, and be not vexed with your Master when, after having prayed that you may be with him; it has to be written of you as it was of this man, "Howbeit Jesus suffered him not."
Still, it is a very delightful thing to be with Jesus.
IV. But now, in the fourth place, SEE THAT THERE MAY BE SOMETHING EVEN BETTER THAN THIS. In the sense which I have mentioned, there is something better even than being with Christ.
What is better than being with Christ? Why, to be working for Christ! Jesus said to this man, "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."
This is more honourable. It is very delightful to sit at Jesus' feet; but if the most honourable post on the field of battle is the place of danger; if the most honourable thing in the State is to have royal service allotted to you; then the most honourable thing for a Christian is not to sit down, and sing, and enjoy himself, but to get up, and risk reputation, life, and everything for Jesus Christ's sake. Dear friend, aspire to serve our Lord; it is a more honourable thing even than being with him.
It is also better for the people. Christ is going away from the Gaderenes; they have asked him to go, and he is going; but he seems to say to this man, "I am going because they have asked me to go. My leaving them looks like a judgment upon them for their rejection of me; but yet I am not going away altogether. I am going to stop with you; I will put my Spirit upon you, and so will continue with you. They will hear you though they will not hear me." Christ, as it were, resigns the pastorate of that district; but he puts another in his place, not so good as himself, but one whom they will like better; not so powerful and useful as himself, but one better adapted to them. When Christ was gone, this man would be there, and the people would come to him to hear about those swine, and how they ran down into the sea; and if they did not come to him, he would go and tell them all about it; and so there would be a permanent curate left there to discharge the sacred ministry, now that the great Bishop had gone. I like that thought. Christ had gone to heaven, for he is wanted there, and so he has left you here, dear brother, to carry on his work.. You are not equal to him in any respect; but yet remember what he said to his disciples, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." That is why Christ does not suffer you to be with him at present. You must stop for the sake of the people among whom you live, as "he that had been possessed with the devil" had to remain for the sake of the Gaderenes, to whom he might testify concerning Christ.
His remaining, also, was better for his family; and do you not think that, oftentimes, a man of God is kept out of heaven for the sake of his family? You must not go yet, father; those boys still need your example and your influence. Christian mother, you must not go yet; I know that your children are grown up, and they are grieving you very much; but still, if there is any check upon them, it is their poor old mother, and you must stop till you have prayed them to God; and you will do so yet. Be of good courage/ I believe that there are many here who might be in heaven, but that God has some who he intends to bring in by them, so they must stay here a little longer. Though infirm in body, shattered in nerve, and often racked with acute pain, perhaps with deadly disease upon you, and wishing to be gone, you must not go till your work is done.
"Howbeit Jesus suffered him not." This demoniac must go home, and tell his wife and his children what great things the Lord had done for him. Many eminent preachers have pictured the scene of his going home, so I will try to do it. You may only fancy what it would be if it were your case; and you had been shut up in an asylum, or had been almost too bad even for that. How glad your friends were to have you taken away, and then how much more glad to find you come back perfectly well! I can imagine how the man's wife would look through the window when she heard his voice. Has he come back in a mad fit? How the children will be filled with terror at the sound of their father's voice until they were assured that there was indeed a change in him! Ah, poor sinner, you have come here to-night! Perhaps you forget that your children often have to hide away under the bed when father comes home. I know that there are such persons about, and they may even find their way into the Tabernacle. The Lord have mercy upon the drunkard, and turn his cups bottom upwards, and make a new man of him! Then, when he goes home, to tell of free grace and dying love, and of the wonderful change that God has wrought in him, he will be a blessing to his family and to all about him. It may be, dear friend, that you have to stop here till you have undone some of the mischief of your early life. You have to bring to God some of those whom you tempted, and led astray, and helped to ruin.
So, you see, dear friends, there is something better even than being with Christ; that is working with Christ.
V. But, lastly, CONSIDER THAT THERE IS YET A CASE WHICH IS BEST OF ALL. We must always have three degrees of comparison. What is the best state of all? To be with Christ is good; to be sent by Christ on a holy errand, is better; but here is something that is best of all, namely; to work for him, and to be with him at the same time. I want every Christian to aspire to that position. Is it possible to sit with Mary at the Master's feet, and yet to run about like Martha, and get the dinner ready? It is; and then Martha will never be cumbered with much serving if she does that, and she will never find fault with her sister Mary. "But, sir, we cannot sit and stir at the same time." No, not as to your bodies; but you can as to you souls. You can be sitting at Jesus' feet, or leaning on his breast, and yet be fighting the Lord's battles, and doing his work.
In order to do this, cultivate the inner as well as the outer life. Endeavour not only to do much for Christ, but to be much with Christ, and to live wholly upon Christ. Do not, for instance, on the Sabbath-day, go to a class, and teach others three times, as some whom I know do; but come once and hear the Master's message, and get your soul fed; and when you have had a spiritual feast in the morning, give the rest of the day to holy service. Let the two things run together. To be always eating, and never working, will bring on repletion, and spiritual dyspepsia; but to be always working and never eating,well, I am afraid that you will not bear that trial so well as the gentleman who yesterday ate his first meal after forty days fasting. Do not try to imitate him. It is not a right and wise thing to do; but very dangerous. Get spiritual food as well as do spiritual work.
Let me say to you, again, grieve very much if there is the least cloud between you and Christ. Do not wait until it is as thick as a November fog; be full of sorrow if it is only like a tiny, fleecy cloud. George Muller's observation was a very wise one, "Never come out of your chamber in the morning until everything is right between you and God." Keep in perpetual fellowship with Jesus; and thus you can be with him, and yet be serving him at the same time.
And mind this, before you begin Christ's service, always seek his presence and help. Do not enter upon any work for the Lord without having first seen the face of the King in his beauty; and in the work often recall your mind from what you are doing, to him for whom you are doing it, and by whom you are doing it; and when the work is completed, do not throw up you cap, and say, "Well done, self!" Another will say to you, by-and-by, "Well done!" if you deserve it. Do not take the words out of his mouth. Self-praise is no recommendation. Solomon said, "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips." When we have done all, we are still unprofitable servants; we have only done that which is our duty to do. So, if you are as humble as you are active, as lowly as you are energetic, you may keep with Christ, and yet go about his errands to the ends of the earth; and I reckon this to be the happiest experience that any one of us can reach this side of the gates of pearl. The Lord bless you, and bring you there, for Christ's sake! Amen.
1, 2. And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gaderenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.
Our Lord crossed the Sea of Galilee on purpose to rescue this poor man from the power of the unclean spirit that possessed him. He knew that there were many who needed him on the Galilean side of the lake, and he could forsee the storm that would threaten to sink the little ship; yet he calmly said to his disciples (see chapter iv. Verse 35), "Let us pass over unto the other side." As soon as the great Physician landed, a dreadful apparition appeared. "Our of the tombs", an uncanny place, rushed a man, howling and yelling like some wild beast; or worse still, under the influence of Satan, who had taken possession of him.
3, 4. Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains; because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
See how the world deals with furiously guilty men. It tries to fetter them, or else to tame them; to keep them in check by fear of punishment, or else to subdue them to a gentleness of morality: poor work this! Christ neither binds nor tames; he changes and renews. Oh, that everywhere his aid were sought, and not so much reliance placed on the fetters of law, or the power of morals!
5. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
It must have been dreadful for travellers to pass that way at night, or to meet with this terrible madman at any hour of the day. But how terrible must have been the poor creature's own condition! We get just a glimpse of it from the words, "always in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones." See what Satan does with those who are in his power.
6. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
The devil does not like doing it; but if it will serve his purpose, he will pretend to be a worshipper of Christ. He comes here sometimes; he goes to all sorts of places of worship, and makes men turn worshippers who have no worship in their hearts; for there is no end to the depth of his cunning, and many are they that have served the devil best when they have pretended to worship Christ.
7. And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
Using the lips of this poor man, Satan spoke in him and through him. He is afraid of Christ. This dog of hell knows his Master, and crouches at his feet. He beseeches the "Son of the Most High God" not to torment him before his time.
8. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
Christ never wastes words over the devil. He speaks to him very shortly and very sharply. It would be well sometimes if we could be more laconic when we are dealing with evil. It does not deserve our words as it did not observe Christ's words. Jesus said to the devil, "Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit."
9, 10. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. An he besought him much that he would not send him away out of the country.
The devil can pray; he did so in this case. It is not because a man is fluent in prayer that we are sure of his salvation. It is not because a man prays with such fervour that his knees knock together, that we may conclude that he is a saint. It may be that he is trembling through fear of God's judgment. Satan besought Christ much.
11, 12. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
Satan would rather vex swine than do no mischief at all. He is so fond of evil that he would work it upon animals if he cannot work it upon men. What unanimity there is amongst the evil spirits! "All the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them."
13. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave.
The devil cannot enter even a pig with Christ's leave. So he cannot tempt you, my friend, without our Lord's permission. You may rest assured that even this great monster of evil is under Christ's control. He cannot molest you till Jesus gives him leave. There is a chain around the roaring lion, and he can only go just as far as the Lord allows him.
13, 14. And the unclean spirit went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a deep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled,
At which we do not at all wonder. Who would not flee when they thus saw the power of Christ?
14, 15. And told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they came to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
You would have thought that it would have been said, "They marvelled, and they praised Christ for this great and wonderful deed." No, "They were afraid." If you see another converted, do not be afraid; but rather have hope that you may be saved yourself. What a beautiful sight these people saw: "they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind."! That thought ought to have made them rejoice instead of being afraid. There are still people who are afraid of what will happen when they see those whom Christ has blessed spiritually as he had healed this man.
16, 17. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
If Jesus should come to you to-night, do not ask him to go away. Open wide the door of your heart, and entreat the Lord to come in, and dwell there for ever and ever. This narrative teaches us that the Lord Jesus Christ will go away if he is asked to do so; he will not remain where his room is preferred to his company.
18.20. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had companion with thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
He was told to publish what great things the Lord had done for him. He went and published what great things Jesus had done for him. Did he make any mistake? Oh, no! It is but another name for the same Person: for Jesus is the Lord; and when you speak of him as divine, and talk of him in terms fit only for God, you do but speak rightly; for so he deserveth to be praised. "And all men did marvel." So our Lord left them all wondering. Leaving this one messenger to bear testimony to him, he went his way elsewhere, to carry blessings to many others on the other side of the sea. The man appears to have gone through the wide district that bore the name Decapolis, and his testimony to the power of Christ was so convincing that, when the Saviour revisited that part of the country, he had a very different reception from that which he received on this occasion. (see chapters vii. 31-37, viii. 1-10).
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"797, 847, 806.