How many of you enjoy flying? I like flying. I think the people are interesting to watch and its nice to have a lot of time to kill. But, every so often things can go wrong. Like with luggage. In 2010 Giorgio Gucci landed in Philadelphia after taking a commercial flight from Madrid. Unfortunately, he joined the two million other travelers claiming lost baggage each year in America, though he likely rounded the top for property value lost. His luggage contained over $50,000 worth of designer bags.
Thankfully, according to recent studies, baggage loss has hit an all-time low with only six out of every one thousand bags being misplaced.
What if I talked to you about a different kind of baggage? You know, the baggage you and I carry around with us on the inside? Our hurts, our habits, and our hang-ups? I’ve noticed that no matter when I go in life, no matter how many relationships or substances I tried, my baggage always seems to follow me. Life has a 0% loss rate when it comes to delivering our baggage.
So, are we doomed to carry around the pain of the past? Or, is there something God has to say about it?
TRUTH AND APPLICATION
If you have your Bible, please turn with me to Mark, Chapter 5. Again, that’s Mark 5, and we’ll begin in verse one. As you’re finding your way there, realize that Jesus has just been preaching to the Jewish communities in Galilee. His teachings are difficult to receive, but attested to by signs of power. In fact, just before this moment, Jesus and the Disciples were crossing the sea when a powerful storm appeared. Jesus had fallen asleep and the disciples were given into fear. They wake Him up and He rebukes the wind and waves. They are stunned and amazed. But, Jesus’ show of authority isn’t over yet.
We come now to the story of Jesus and the demon possessed man. I want to use him as a template for how Jesus deals with our own baggage. I am not saying that everything in your life is demonic, nor am I saying this man’s issues were non-spiritual. I am only making parallel applications about Jesus’ compassion and authority. If you’d like to become free today, to stop towing the heavy baggage of your past behind you, allowing it to taint your present, lean in to these four vivid steps.
1. WE MUST FEEL THE WEIGHT OF OUR BAGGAGE IN JESUS’ PRESENCE
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. Matthew 5:1-2 NIV
In this scene, Jesus and the Disciples go from the West side of the lake of Galilee where many Jews resided in villages like Capernaum, to the East. This side of the lake was part of the Decapolis, or Ten Cities. What is important to note is that this is Gentile, Non-Jewish territory. In fact, this entire encounter is a Gentile encounter. No Jewish settlements would be caught living near a herd of two thousand pigs if they could help it. The Gentiles did not have any reason to like the Jewish people who were seen as pompous, prideful, and riotous in their relationship with the Roman Government. However, even one unfamiliar with Jesus, far from knowing the Scriptures of the One True God, could feel the weight of their baggage in the presence of Jesus.
Notice the intensity in which Mark describes the scene. They came to “Gentile Country” and when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, look, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. There was a spiritual connection which took place between this man and Jesus. I understand that demons are different than baggage, but the principles I am talking about are the same. The demons recognize who Jesus is and come running, bowed down. His presence demands we feel the full weight of our sin and our pain.
Have you ever been there? Jesus said in John 16 that the Holy Spirit would come into the world, partially to convict each person of their sin. It may be why some of us avoid church, or silence, or talks with certain people. We have a way of pulling a Jonah and running from the presence of God.
Can I ask you this morning?
- Am I running from Jesus’ presence?
- Am I allowing myself to feel the full weight of my sin and pain?
Stop running. Come to Him and feel the full weight of your past, presence, and future. It is no better than it is. It is no worse. Jesus cannot do anything more until you first recognize that you are carrying weight.
Sydney Harris, a famous journalist of the 20th Century once wrote,
I am tired of hearing about men with the “courage of their convictions.” Nero and Caligula and Attila and Hitler had the courage of their convictions—but not one had the courage to examine his convictions, or to change them, which is the true test of character. (Bits & Pieces, October 1991)
Many of us may be very brave, or successful, but are you willing to stand in the presence of Jesus, and allow His light to flood your heart and reveal all that lies within? If so, we can move on.
2. WE MUST RUN AND BRING ALL OUR BAGGAGE TO JESUS
This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet.
No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. Mark 5:3-6 NIV
What dramatically sad story. Tombs in the Ancient Near East were hewn out of the sides of rock. You can imagine the breeze off of the lake and the craggy hills just inland. It wasn’t uncommon for homeless people to gather in these natural dwellings, or for people to create tombs out of them. This man was once known to the entire community as whole and sane, yet now he imposes danger and fear upon all who pass by. The account is attested not just in Mark, but also Matthew and Luke where they color in more of the picture. He often went without clothes and screamed day and night while living amongst the dead in the tombs.
Then, with a microsecond of control, the man fought back against the mental incapacitation of the demons and lunged to the feet of Jesus. It was his last ounce of strength and his only hope. There he kneels, broken, weeping, and out of control.
What would you do to be rid of your baggage? The pain of your childhood, the breakups, divorces, or abuse? What would you do to be read of your sin, the terrible things you have called other people, the way you’ve made your loved ones cringe, and shoved God out of the picture so you could have life your way? It’s not pretty, the way we willingly live in the cold of spiritual tombs. Yet, from all we have done and the creatures we have become, the light of hope has fainted away.
Until, He. Steps. Foot. On. Your. Shore.
- Will you do whatever it takes to run to Jesus?
- Will you show Him everything?
King David is revered as the greatest of all kings in the history of Israel and Judah. Yet, he sinned against God by sleeping with a married woman, then having her husband killed. He would have liked to keep the pain, frustration, and guilt within—hidden from all. But, he could not.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:3-5 NIV
We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Let us not keep them from Jesus.
And now that we have opened our hearts, Jesus can deal with what’s inside.
3. WE MUST NAME OUR BAGGAGE BEFORE JESUS
He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” Mark 5:7-9 NIV
The word legion here is a Roman military word representing a dispatch of 6,000 soldiers. A comparison might be a demon replying its name is “platoon”, “battalion”, or “brigade” In Jewish thought of this time, to know an angel or demon’s name gave control over it (Jewish Annotated New Testament.) It appears that the demons have taken on a single, collective identity, working together to corrupt this man. This passage can easily give us the chills as we imagine multiple demonic voices joined together to speak from this man’s mouth.
But, there is no real need to fear. Jesus is in full control. He knows what He is doing. The demon is trembling in fear before the Eternal Begotten Son of God. If it’s true what John writes, that all things which have been made have been made through Jesus, then this demon cowers at the feet of its Creator and Judge. It has been caught red-handed distorting and terrorizing a person made in the image of God.
For this man to be set free, though, the demon needs to be named. Jesus has said “Come out of this man” and yet the demon resisted. Jesus, I fully believe, could have violently cast this demon out of the man with the wink of His eye, but He teaches us the importance of identifying that which holds us in bondage.
You see, we can become open to Jesus and say “I finally admit I am broken and laid bare before you. But, will we do the hard work of really identifying those things which hold us in chains? Is it an interaction with a father who hurt you? Or a mother who manipulated you? Perhaps you are riddled with the guilt of something you’ve done or failed to do? What is its name?
Is it fatherless? Is it worthless? Is it failure? Perhaps it is named criminal, druggie, liar, or, forgive me, slut?
- Will I name my baggage before Jesus?
- Will I let Him have power and authority over it?
Sometimes we go through life so close to our pain that we think it is part of us. I have a friend who is a dairy farmer up in Wisconsin. He is a blue-collar working man. He puts on his muck boots and trods out into the manure morning and night. He’s grown a successful operation. The lines in his face are deep and craggy. He has been a big giver to the church. But, his children despised him. My friend was not a good father. He was harsh, cold, and unforgiving. There were many unspoken moments of pain filling the back-closets of their minds. A sense of fear and stuffiness tainted family gatherings.
That is, until he agreed to go to counseling. In his 70s, my friend went to professional counselor, along with family members over time, and the closets were emptied, memory by memory. There were tears. There was anger. There was forgiveness. My friend opened up about his own past and insecurities. In the end, the healing can only be described as miraculous.
I never knew a man who could cry more easily than my friend. Every board meeting he would cry thinking about how God is able to bless and transform even “old codgers” like himself.
You don’t have to wait until you’re 70. You can name your baggage before Jesus, and perhaps a counselor. In fact, we will gladly help you pay for Christian counseling, because we believe in healing and transformation.
4. WE MUST SUBMIT TO JESUS’ POWER OVER OUR BAGGAGE
And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”
He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Mark 5:10-13 NIV
There are a couple of different interpretations of what is going on here.
- It could be that the demons were desperate not to be in a disembodied state.
- It could be the demons desired to stay in the area, as for some reason we see demons primarily working in Gentile areas, or
- It could be the demons desired to engage in one final act of destruction. We aren’t sure the reasons why, but we do not for certain is that Jesus has full authority over them, because He must give them permission to do anything. We can also note a lot of symbolism as pigs are unclean animals to the Jewish people, and so there may be a symbolization here of how the unclean spirits will go down into final destruction at the final judgment at the command of Jesus.
And that’s the big takeaway, Jesus has the ultimate authority over your baggage. He can speak the word to make you free. But, will you submit or resist?
- Will you submit to Jesus authority?
- Will allow Him to speak freedom and forgiveness?
We must bow down before Jesus and give Him Lordship if we would like to be free. You see, we are all slaves to either sin or righteousness. We are all either carrying this suitcase, or giving it over to Jesus.
Band, please come on up at this time.
Church, Jesus said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NIV
And proved His desire to do so, as Peter writes,
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 24-25 NIV
Rev. 1:5b-6 – To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Go with God.