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What Jesus' Handling of The Demon Possessed Legion Can Teach Us About Pastoral Care
The following is an assignment I did for Pastoral Care at Bible College. I am so amazed to have found such a rich expression of the love of Christ in such a strange place as an account of the Son of God's dealings with the Demon-possessed Legion.
Legion. Mark 5.1-20
Firstly, that Jesus is ministering in Gerasa, a territory that is not Jewish teaches His fully inclusive attitude of care and grace to all peoples. This in itself is a very important concept to bear in mind when possessing pastoral care responsibilities. It is revolutionary in the sense that it really does testify that pastoral care is not only necessarily for believers, but non- believers too. This must have an impact on all outreach and evangelical efforts.
Constantly all night and all day he was crying out and gashing himself with stones. The people had bound and chained him even with iron, and he had even broken free of that restraint. It is staggering to note how vastly different Jesus’ response to this man was. He does not seek to bind him- though He is the only one strong enough to. But what He does in fact do is the very opposite- He frees him. Society had responded to this man’s condition with attempts to control and repress, and this is often the case in modern society too. Out of fear or discomfort society tries to exert control over people when they exhibit offensive or dangerous behaviour, which in some cases, such as crime and deviance may be necessary. Jesus sees the route of the problem and He treats it. In pastoral care it is vital to not just treat the symptoms, which can include imposing sanctions, but to genuinely aim to heal those afflicted with negative behaviours.
Jesus sends the man who had been a social outcast to be a messenger to the ten cities. That would have meant meeting and communicating with a lot of people. This is full circle restoration. This would most likely include preaching the hope of Jesus mission to the people who had bound and ostracised him. Jesus would have been aware of the gravity of this commission to Legion, and in doing this He pushes Legion towards his God given purpose. Thus Jesus pastoral care here has brought this man from being afflicted to being healed and set free by the hope of the Gospel message to being a part- taker in the work of the Gospel. Pastoral care can benefit much from this approach of restoring the afflicted and freeing people to be part- takers in producing fruit in God’s Kingdom.
We are shown however that Jesus wanted to help the man. We know this firstly because Jesus chooses to discern the man’s problem in asking the demon’s name. As Jesus surely already knows all things he would have known the Demon’s name and that there were many of them? So it would seem he does this to set an example of pastoral sincerity in finding out the facts of the problem, and the details. It’s already clear that he’s demon possessed but Jesus still asks the question.
Jesus encounter with Legion also teaches about the common theme in the Gospel of His care for a person’s physical well- being and not just spiritual health. After Jesus had delivered Legion from his spiritual sufferings Legion was described as being seated and clothed (5:15). Where did his clothes come from if not from Jesus and His disciples? This is reminiscent of Jesus telling His disciples to feed the people gathered to hear Him with the loaves and fish. Jesus was concerned for the physical bodies of the people as well as the spiritual health. This is reminiscent of Nebuchadnezzar
Further to being found clothed and seated, Legion is described as being ‘in his right mind’. Though Jesus has delivered him from the evil spirits which dwelt within him, this man had undeniably undergone a horrific experience that would undoubtably mentally scar anyone. However, Legion is in a clear state of mind and showing no mental ill- effects of his experience, this demonstrates that Jesus has carried out a holistic approach to pastoral care on this man. He has healed his spirit, body and mind. This is something to be learned from in pastoral care because one’s mental, spiritual and physical well- being impact upon one another. Encouraging one’s spiritual health while overlooking their mental health, for instance, will only result in the poor state of mental health oppressing spiritual health.
Legion’s response to this situation was a desire to follow Jesus and have fellowship with Him. This is very similar to King Nebuchadnezzar when God restored his sanity (Daniel 4:34-37). Thus Jesus had created in Legion a healed and grateful heart. This is surely always the desired outcome in pastoral care.