True story. Name changed.
45-year-old Joe was hunting in the mountains of California. He climbed to a ledge on the slope of a rocky gorge and raised himself to look onto the ledge above. He caught a movement to the right. It was a rattlesnake. The snake struck and just missed Joe’s right ear. However the rattler’s fangs snagged in the neck of his sweater. The force of the strike caused the snake to land on his shoulder and coil around his neck. Joe grabbed it several inches behind its head. He felt the hot venom running onto his skin. The rattler was buzzing furiously. Joe fell backwards and landed among some rocks with his legs extending uphill. He could barely move, wedged between the rocks. He was able to reach his rifle and used it to disengage the snake’s fangs from his sweater. But it had enough leverage to strike. Joe turned his face away as the rattler made about eight attempts to bite, its nose hitting his face four times. Joe had to choke the snake to death.
Does that sound anything like your life – wrestling rattlesnakes? It does for a lot of people. Real life full is full of rattlesnakes. Evil, corruption, destructiveness. And there’s pain, suffering, and hurt.
Jesus lived in real world. He wrestled with the rattlesnakes. Still does.
Read these excerpts from the Gospel of Mark (hover your cursor over the texts):
It’s clear what Jesus did with the evil and pain he found. He met them head on. He grabbed them by the throat and choked the life out of them. Jesus brought God’s Kingdom into the world with the power to confront and defeat evil.
He drove out evil spirits. He broke Satan’s hold on people and got rid of the corruption, the wickedness, the destruction.
Still does. There is a river in Africa that was called “Satan’s River” because sacrifices to the devil were made in it. Several years ago, a team of Christians showed the film “Jesus” in that area. The next day many people started destroying idols and places of Satan worship. Witch doctors tried stop it but they literally fell to the ground. The new believers wanted to be baptized like they had seen Jesus baptized in the movie. They went to the river dedicated to Satan. In fear, others watched and waited for Satan to attack. Nothing happened. They renamed the river “Jordan.”
Jesus drives out evil. He exerts his power against addictions, against racism, against false religion. He sets people free from immorality, from materialism, from selfishness. Stops abuse and violence and uncaring. Jesus takes evil by the throat and chokes the life out of it.
Jesus healed people. He brought relief and comfort and strength for the pains of life.
Still does. The car a man named Rick Jones was driving was broadsided by a truck going more than 80mph. He suffered multiple fractures including a broken neck. Doctors doubted he would live through the night and when he did they said he would never walk and be institutionalized the rest of his life. Nine days after extensive surgery he walked out of the hospital and went home. He had to have many more surgeries, and he went through a bout with cancer which left him with diabetes. Never pain free, he is alive, serving God, and enjoying life with his family. Rick said, “Christ can give us the strength and determination to literally walk through pain every day. His power is perfected in our weakness and by adding the eternal gift of hope, you have the ability to walk through anything.”
With grace and power, Jesus deals with our pains. His ability gets you through suffering and heartache. At times he heals injuries and diseases. Other times he gives hope and strength for endurance. He ministers to the other pains of life, too. The ones in your heart and soul. The emotional and mental suffering that come about in the broken and tangled, dangerous and damaging world. Just as he touched and healed fever and leprosy, Jesus heals the pain of real life.
When Jesus began dealing with the evil and pain in real life, it electrified the area. Like an earthquake tremor, news about him spread throughout Galilee. People who were trapped by evil or suffering in pain flocked to him. “They were coming to him from everywhere.” (verse 45) People went to Jesus in droves because he helped them with the real evil and pain of their lives.
When you look at our real world you see people wrestling with rattlesnakes everywhere – trapped by evil or suffering in pain. Many struggle with horrible evil in their lives. Many hurt severely with physical or emotional or spiritual pains. It is so bad for some that they use pain to deal with the evil. Some harm themselves, cause themselves physical pain to try to make the deeper pain go away. A girl I knew put her experience in a poem she titled “Don’t Run”:
Don’t run daddy, don’t be afraid
it’s only a bloody razor blade
Don’t run daddy, just come back here
don’t run daddy, there’s nothing to fear
This blade was here more than you
This blade is what helped me get through
When you didn’t want to tuck me in at night
My blade was there to make it all right
Don’t take away my friend that kept me alive
Don’t hate my friend that helped me survive
It’s sad enough that the object that should have hurt me bad
Did not hurt me as much as my own dad
The real world is a matrix of evil and pain.
Jesus brought his Kingdom so there can be something different. He cares and wants to help. People will come to him if they know he will help. Somehow his Kingdom must spread through the layers of society; his power must get to people, into the real world. It happens same way now as it did in Galilee. Only different.
Jesus used a physical body to take his power into Galilee. He became a flesh and blood human and went into the world of evil and pain to help. Today he uses a flesh and blood body, called “church.” That’s not a building or even an organization. It’s people who have committed their lives to Jesus, living in his Kingdom, joining together to know and follow the King. Depending on the Holy Spirit for power, we are to be finding ways to choke the life out of evil and pain in the real world.
That doesn’t happen like this.
It happens like this – Luke 6:27-28. And this – Hebrews 13:16. And this – Colossians 4:5-6. And this – Romans 12:21. And this.
The widow of the man who killed those Amish children, Marie Monville, shares this:
Hours after learning about what Charles Roberts had done, a contingent of the grieving Amish came to visit her. Monville recalled that she was standing in her parents’ kitchen, and she could see a group of the Amish walking towards her parents’ home. Her father offered to go outside and talk to them.
“And I couldn’t hear the words they were saying, but I could see the exchange that was happening. I could see their arms extending. And the way they laid their hands on my dad’s shoulder. I could feel it,” she said. “I could feel the emotion of the moment. You know, it said everything,” she said, adding that her father said they had forgiven her husband. “They were concerned about me and concerned about the kids, and wanted us to know that they supported our family.”
It didn’t end there. When her family was besieged by media en route to bury Charles Roberts, the Amish stepped in again. Even though they don’t like to have their pictures taken, members of the community placed themselves directly in front of news cameras to shield her family, Monville said.
“They turned their backs to the cameras so the only pictures that could be taken were of them and not of our family. And it was amazing to me that they would choose to do that for us,” she said. “It was amazing. It was one of those moments during the week where my breath was taken away, but not because of the evil. But because of the love.” (ABC News)
Jesus has not abandoned the world of evil and pain. His Kingdom is here. He is here. He has his people here to do his work. We get to be partners with the King releasing his love and power into people’s lives, choking the life out of evil and pain.