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OUR SIDE and THE OTHER SIDE

You are getting two sermons for the price of one! Both of the following reports describe the arrival of the Messiah and Savior of the world under unusual circumstances. Although they describe entirely different scenes, times, places and responses. There are many similarities. I think that we can learn much from both reports.

THE SAVIOR'S ARRIVAL IN BETHLEHEM
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20

THE SAVIOR'S ARRIVAL IN GADERA
Scripture: Luke 8:26-39(also Matthew 8:28-34 and Mark 5:2-20)

Bethlehem
We are all familiar with the Christmas story recorded in the second chapter of Luke. Two very weary travelers, a young man named Joseph and his obviously expecting wife, Mary, approach Bethlehem after a very strenuous trip of about 80 miles from Nazareth. They didn't really want to make this journey, but Caesar Augustus had commanded it and they followed his orders. There were no trains, busses or automobiles in those days. People traveled long distances by ship when possible, but often the only way to get to their destination was to walk or ride on donkeys, camels or perhaps a wagon pulled by a donkey.

Gadera
Six chapters later, Luke records another arrival in a strange country. It is a group of mostly fishermen who arrive by boat, but the trip across the Sea of Galilee was turbulent and they thought they would never make it to dry ground. That trip was not their idea either. They were just following orders. Luke writes, Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side... And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

Multitudes wanted to see and hear Jesus, but he told his disciples, "We are leaving. Get in the boat." What evangelist or missionary would do that today? Jesus was concerned about the salvation of lost individuals, not just drawing crowds. And he knew when his followers needed rest.

Bethlehem
When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, they had just one wish - a comfortable bed and a good night's rest. To their dismay, however, all Bed & Breakfasts, hotels, and Inns were filled to capacity with guests. Add to this the fact that Mary was beginning to have birth pains. I believe that Joseph was totally frustrated. He must have prayed, "Lord, why this? Please help us!" An inn-keeper saw their plight and had mercy on the young couple. He offered to let them stay in his stable. It wasn't a five-star hotel, but there was hay and a manger that the animals weren't using.

Gadera
The storm at sea must have driven the disciples far off course. Instead of arriving in a harbor, they beached the boat in a deserted place. It turned out to be a graveyard, overgrown with weeds and unkempt. No one wanted to even get close to the place because a couple of demonic men lived there among the tombs. Matthew describes them as "exceeding fierce" Mark described one of them: 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. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. We can imagine how frustrated the disciples must have been. This Jesus, who could command the winds and the sea to obey him, had led them to this forsaken place to get some rest? They too must have asked, "Can we leave and find another place."

Bethlehem
The pains were getting more frequent and soon Mary said to Joseph, "I think the fullness of time is come!" The baby was born and Joseph tried his best to perform the task of a midwife. They found swaddling clothes, that were normally used to wrap wounds or embalm the dead. There was water in the stall. They did the best they could under the circumstances. I am certain that Joseph prayed an anguished prayer, "Oh Father God Jehovah, is this the way the Messiah - the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is to enter the world?"

Gadera
The disciples were witnessing an amazing scene and had forgotten that they were tired. One of the demon-possessed men saw Jesus afar off, ran and worshipped him, 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. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And Jesus asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was 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. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

Bethlehem
While Mary was giving birth and Joseph was doing all he could to make her and the baby comfortable, there was another remarkable scene not far from Bethlehem. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Although this scene is depicted on many Christmas cards and played out in church programs, few give the matter much thought. Normally, sheep were kept in a stall or fold at night. One shepherd would have sufficed to watch over a flock of sheep. The shepherds mentioned in Luke 2 were obviously watching sheep that were on their way to be sold in the courtyard of the temple.

Shepherds were always on the lookout for suitable animals for sacrifice. They had to be without blemish. Some drove flocks over great distances to be sold in the temple courtyard. They were careful not to drive them too hard. This was especially true of lambs. After arrival. the animals needed to get rested, fattened and cleaned up before they were saleable. The rural environs and close proximity of Bethlehem to Jerusalem made it the ideal "holding area" for sacrificial animals.

Gadera
Peace and tranquility reigned in the graveyard, but in heaven, there was great joy in the presence of the angels of God over the sinner who repented (Luke 15:10). The disciples were finally able to sleep and get some much needed rest. Jesus and the man who was freed from demons probably talked long into the night. Jesus had brought good tidings of great joy to him. On this day, in the graveyard of Gadera, had come the Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Bethlehem
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Gadera
When they that fed the swine saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gaderenes round about besought him [Jesus] to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.

Bethlehem
And when the shepherds had seen it, they said one to another, Let us now go even unto the city and make known abroad that which we have seen and heard. And all they that heard it in the city and in the country, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Concluding Thoughts
For the Jews, Gadera was a foreign country. It was only on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but it might as well have been the other side of the world. That was Gentile territory. Jews called the area "Decapolis", which means "the ten cities area." It was a place where people worshipped strange gods, had sinful lifestyles and ate unclean food like pork. For the Jews, Decapolis was a place to avoid, but for Jesus, it was a missionfield.

The people of Decapolis knew about the demonic man or men who lived in the graveyard. They had often tried to confine these extreme cases of depraved humanity, but to no avail. Satan makes sin look very attractive, but men and women given to sin and wickedness eventually lose control of their lives. When they realize that they have been taken captive, they often want to get free, but it is too late. They are trapped, bound, chained and they torture themselves and everyone who comes near. Many American politicians have decided that the only way to curb drug trafficking is to legalize and tax it. It is little different with human trafficking. Most Americans simply turn their backs and avoid these extreme scenes, but Jesus sees the missionfield.

Back in Capernaum, there were multitudes who came out to see Jesus. They wanted to see him perform and they liked the way he spoke in parables. When they were hungry, Jesus performed miracles and fed them until they couldn't eat any more. Once it was four thousand and another time five thousand men - plus women and children. But few lives were being changed. After three years of intensive ministry reaching thousands of people, there were only about 120 disciples.

Most of the Jews attended their synagogues and celebrated religious holidays. Like most of the Gaderines and citizens of Decapolis, they avoided association with the really bad guys, but they didn't like it when they were asked to sacrifice comforts of life or when they suffered financial loss even if the money was earned by questionable means.

Dare I say that it is similar in many American churches? People are interested in spiritual things, they are curious and they enjoy a good show, good food and fellowship. But few are true disciples. They don't even see the spiritual needs of those next door, let alone across the sea. They choose a church much like they choose their shoes. They must be comfortable, attractive and not cost too much. Or like a restaurant. it should satisfy their appetites and have a good atmosphere.

Multitudes came from Decapolis and the region of Gadera to see what Jesus had done. They saw a newborn baby - a child of God sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. There was no doubt in their minds that it was the same person who had been driven by demons. Eyewitnesses confirmed the testimony of the man and told how Jesus had commanded the demons to depart into the swine. Matthew writes, And they that kept the swine fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus… But the people also saw the bloated bodies of two thousand pigs floating in the water and washed up on the beach. and when they saw Jesus, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.

And Jesus went up into the ship. 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 compassion on thee. Then he went his way, and published throughout Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

The man who had been demon possessed and was healed was not the only one who asked to accompany Jesus. Before Jesus and the disciples got into the boat to sail across the Sea of Galilee, a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

We don't know if that disciple went across the lake with Jesus or not. It was his choice and he was either blessed or deprived of a blessing.

To some, Jesus says, "Follow me!" and to others, he says, "Go ye!" And there are times when he says, "If you want to follow me, you need to bear a cross." The Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Jesus slept in a borrowed manger when he was born. He slept on a ship in a violent storm and he prayed in Gethsemane while his disciples slept. After he was crucified, his friends laid him to rest in a borrowed tomb.

Our Side The Other Side
The true religion False Teachings
Christians The heathen
We have the Savior They don't
We belong They don't
We believe in God They don't
God bless us! God curse them!

Ralph V Harvey, December 18, 2016