Wrecked and Restored
Hopeless cases. Beyond help. Beyond even God’s help. We all
have someone in our lives we might describe using words like
these. The person who is either so bad or so broken or both that
we hold out no hope that God can reach them, rescue them,
restore them. I want you to bring to mind someone in your life
who you think may just be a hopeless case.
Back in 2015, Russell Moore, speaking about the power of Christ
to redeem sinners and build his church, wrote these words:
The next Billy Graham might be drunk right now.
The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front
of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal.
The next Charles Wesley might currently be a misogynistic,
profanity-spewing hip-hop artist.
The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion
The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star
The next Augustine of Hippo might be a sexually promiscuous
cult member right now, just like, come to think of it, the first
Augustine of Hippo was.
But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to
delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives,
creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to
the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift his church with
everything needed for her onward march through space and
As we continue our journey through Mark’s Gospel, Jesus gets
out of a boat on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and meets
one of those hopeless cases. In fact, it just may be the most
hopeless of hopeless cases ever to exist. Turn with me to Mark
So Jesus has sailed across the Sea of Galilee, and he gets out of
a boat. What boat? The boat he first stepped onto at the
beginning of Mark 4, as the crowds pressed in on the western
shore of the Sea of Galilee. He created some space for himself by
getting in a boat and going a few feet offshore, and he taught the
crowds all day from that boat as they listened from the
And then he and his disciples went across the lake in that boat
and he calmed the storm that arose, the storm that was so bad
his experienced fishermen disciples couldn’t, expertly doing their
best, couldn’t keep up with. And then, safely on the other side,
the eastern shore of the lake, he stepped out of that boat, and
encountered a storm of a different kind. But as we’ll see, it was
no less deadly.
Mark tells us that a man approached Jesus pretty much right as
his feet hit the shore. But unlike the rest of the people who
pressed in around Jesus wherever he went, this man wasn’t
there to ask Jesus for help. He was came telling Jesus to go
away, to leave him alone. He NEEDED help, but he definitely
didn’t WANT help. Well, sort of. The man himself didn’t know
what he wanted or needed. He’d lost his sense of self. There was
little of him left, and what little there was, was completely
dominated by the demons living inside him. Those demons had
taken control of the center, the core of his personality. There
was little of him left.
In 21st Century American, and in much of the rest of what we
would call the “western world,” which is basically western
Europe, North America, and other places in the world influenced
by them, we don’t really believe in the existence of Satan and his
demons – the angels who fell when the archangel Lucifer fell –
anymore. We say, “Isn’t the belief in Satan and the demonic just
the conglomeration of our deepest fears as human beings – like
the adult version of the monster hiding in the closet or under the
But if you talk to Christian missionaries working in other parts
of the world – women and men who were born and raised here in
the United States, or in Canada, or England, or another modern,
scientifically advanced culture, people who share our world-view
– they’ll tell you that evil, that Satan and his demons, are very
real. They know, because they’ve encountered them. They’ve
seen them. Truth is, they exist in our culture too. We just don’t,
or won’t, see them.
NPR (National Public Radio) journalist Scott Simon has always
avoided using the word “evil” when covering terrible events
around the globe. He claims he was “of a generation educated to
believe that ‘evil’ was a cartoonish moral concept.” But then he
watched, with his daughters, some of the sickening images from
the chemical weapons attack in Syria in April 2017 that killed
scores of people, many of them children. Simon writes:
We watched in silence. I’ve covered a lot of wars, but could think
of nothing to say to make any sense. Finally, one of our
daughters asked, “Why would anyone do that?” I still avoid
saying “evil” as a reporter. But as a parent, I’ve grown to feel it
may be important to tell children about evil, as we struggle to
explain cruel and incomprehensible behavior they may see not
just in history. … but in our own times.
I’ve interviewed Romeo Dallaire, who commanded U.N.
peacekeeping forces in Rwanda in 1993 and 1994 when more
than 800,000 Tutsi Rwandans were then slaughtered over three
months. Dallaire said that what happened made him believe in
evil, and even a force he called the devil. “I’ve negotiated with
him,” he told us, “shaken his hand. Yes. There is no doubt in my
mind … and the expression of evil to me is through the devil and
the devil at work and possessing human beings and turning
them into machines of destruction. … And one of the evenings in
my office, I was looking out the window and my senses felt that
something was there with me that shifted me. I think that evil
and good are playing themselves out and God is monitoring and
looking at how we respond to it.”ii The powers of evil are very
real, and very present. BUT, they are subject to the authority of
Jesus, and we need not fear them.
So this man approaches Jesus. And his life is, well, there’s really
no other way to describe it than absolutely and completely
horrible. Like a living, unending death. A truly living hell. We
don’t know how he came to be under the influence of such a
terrible power, but we do know that Jesus treats him with love
and concern, like a victim and not a perpetrator of evil. In the
Bible, demonized people are never aggressive toward others
unless they are being bothered.
Whenever and however this man’s life began to fall apart and
the demons took hold in his life, the townspeople became afraid,
and they tried to protect themselves from him by chaining him
up, but they couldn’t, because the supernatural power in him
broke every chain. Mark tells us that “no one had the strength to
subdue him.” The word translated as “subdue” here means to
tame. As in taming a wild animal. They no longer viewed this
person as a human being to be helped. They viewed him as an
animal to be tamed. And they couldn’t tame him, so they ran
him off. He was forced to live outside the town, in the wild
country, where there were underground caves that were used as
burial places and also as homes for the poorest of the poorest of
They drove him off to wander and live in the wild country, and
he was often seen by townspeople as they traveled down to the
shore, shrieking wildly and cutting himself with sharp stones.
He was so tormented by the demons, so miserable, so far gone,
that he was trying to end his miserable existence. What little
part of him that remained knew he was hopeless, just as the
townspeople knew he was hopeless. That’s why they drove him
off. His family, his friends, the people who knew him, HAD
known him, when he was himself, couldn’t see, couldn’t get
through to him, if there was any of him left. And the little part
of him who was left just wanted to die.
Now, look at Vv. 6-13. This is not Jewish territory. The land east
of the Sea of Galilee was gentile country. We know that because
there was a herd of 2,000 pigs nearby. And the demons who
were in this man don’t want Jesus anywhere near them. They
know exactly who he is. In fact, they call him very specifically by
name – “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.” They aren’t doing
that out of respect. In the ancient pagan world, it was believed
that if you knew and used the name of a spiritual power, you
had power over it. They’re trying to control Jesus. And these are
not your every day, run of the mill demons. They’re wily and
cagey. They won’t go easily. But they never try to get physically
aggressive. They try to outsmart, not overpower. But they can’t.
Not only do they try to use Jesus’ name to control him and exert
power over him, they refuse to give their name. When Jesus
asks for the name, and he was probably asking for the name of
the man, they simply replied, “My name is Legion, for we are
many.” “Oh no Jesus, we aren’t falling for that one. We aren’t
giving names. You just need to know there are many of us here.
There are too many of us and we aren’t giving you any control
over us.” But they knew who they were up against. Believe it or
not, they actually appeal to the grace of God to save them. “I
adjure you by God, do not torment me.” The demonic powers are
doing everything they can, using every tool they have, to stay
where they are, but there’s nothing they can do.
Jesus doesn’t need to know the name of the demonic powers. He
doesn’t need to use magic words. He doesn’t need to yell and
work up a sweat. He simply speaks. Well, he spoke. Mark
records Jesus’ words almost as an afterthought. “For he was
saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Mark
hadn’t forgotten the words of Jesus. He’s emphasizing the
complete and total authority and command Jesus has of the
situation. His words aren’t the focus here. His presence and
innate authority are the focus.
Ultimately, the demonic powers know they don’t have a leg to
stand on, and that they must obey. But this is their territory.
Evil and darkness had completely taken over the region. They
want to stay, so they beg to be sent into a nearby herd of about
2,000 pigs. And Jesus allows it. So they go into the pigs. There
were enough demons in this man to take over a herd of 2,000
pigs. That’s a lot of ham and bacon. And the pigs went mad, and
ran down a steep hillside and into the sea, where they drowned.
And now we see the true intent of Satan and his demons – to
disfigure and destroy the image of God in people, and to destroy
1 Peter 5:8 says that “Your adversary the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And Jesus, in
John 10:10, says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and
destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Look at Mark 5:14-20.
The swine herders ran into town telling the people what
happened. And when the village shows up to see what’s going
on, they see this man who they’d known to be sleeping in graves,
and running around shrieking and yelling and cutting himself
with stones whenever they saw him – sitting quietly, fully
clothed, chatting calmly and coherently with Jesus.
And there are two responses to the power and presence of Jesus
here. The first is the response of the formerly demonized man.
He begs Jesus to let him come with them, to become one of his
disciples. And very interestingly, Jesus says, “No.” This is the
only place in the Gospels where Jesus tells someone NOT to
follow him. The words are always “Follow me.” Here, they are
“Don’t follow me.” Why is that. Well I think there are two
The first is that Jesus knew what this man needed more than
anything else – the thing that had been stolen from him over the
years of his torment – his community. His family and his
friends. Jesus tells him to “Go home to your friends and tell
them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had
mercy on you.” Go home to your family and be restored. Go home
to your friends and be restored.
And TELL THEM. Not only does Jesus give this man his home
and his family back, he gives him a mission, a purpose. Jesus
has restored everything that the demons tried to steal and kill
and destroy. Tell them. Tell them what? “Tell that how much the
Lord has done for you.”
But there’s another response to the power and presence of Jesus
here. It’s the response of the townspeople. Look at Vv. 15-17. It’s
fear. Not healthy fear and wonder and awe. Just fear. Fear that
Jesus will upset the way they think, the way they live. They,
like the demons that had been in this man, want Jesus to go
away and leave them alone. They don’t want him to upset their
lives anymore than he already has. Maybe they valued their
community swine herd, more than they valued this man. 2,000
pigs a A LOT of pigs. That was their source of food. A lot of
money and a lot of meals that was destroyed. Jesus had upset
everything … for what? To save one wretched man? In their
eyes, it wasn’t worth it. What do you value? What do I value? Is
one restored life really worth upsetting everything? To us, even
those of us who follow Jesus, it all to often isn’t. If we put a ton
of effort and money into something, like a VBS or a Family Fun
Fest or something else, and it isn’t packed with people, do we
view it as a failure or as a success? Is it WORTH doing again?
We value MANY. Jesus sees, and values, and restores the ONE.
Never think that one restored life isn’t worth it. Look at V. 20.
As this man, over time, went to the store, and about his
business, and visited friends and family – his very existence was
a testimony to the power of Jesus. And he TOLD them over and
over again what God had done in his life. And the fear of the
people turned to wonder. Everyone marveled. From one changed
life. Because Jesus met this man, set him free and restored him,
and then left in the boat again.
It’s almost like the Jesus and his disciples went across the Sea of
Galilee, and through the deadly storm that pushed the sailors in
the group beyond their capabilities, just for this one man. It’s
almost like the power of Satan and his demons raised up a storm
to keep Jesus away from this one man. But nothing could. Jesus
went across the sea, through the storm, and then stared down
the demons to restore this ONE MAN. This one hopeless case.
Do you think the person you think is hopeless doesn’t matter to
God? You’re wrong.
BUT, you might not be the person God wants to use to reach
them. You might be too close to their pain and brokenness. You
might be a part of the unhealthy cycle. If that’s the case, if God
is telling you to step back, trust him and do it. Step back. Step
back, and pray. Pray daily. Pray daily for God to send the person
or people into their life who he wants to use, and he will. In his
time, in his way, he will. You can trust it.
Casey Diaz was a gang member as a teenager in South-Central
Los Angeles. As a leader in the Rockwood Street Locos, he led
his gang in home invasions, robbing convenience stores, and
stabbing rival gang members.
He was eventually caught by LAPD and sentenced to nearly 13
years for second-degree murder. When he was transferred to
New Folsom State Prison the guard said to him, “Listen closely,
Diaz. We know that you’re a shot caller (a prison power-broker),
so we’re putting you in solitary.” He was cooped up in an eightby-ten-foot windowless box, with all his meals slipped in through
a slot in the steel door.
The only source of illumination in his cell was a heavy Plexiglas
light that couldn’t be turned off, which made it difficult to get
any sleep. There was nothing to do—no TV, no radio, no books.
He had been told by other prisoners that if a person is not
strong-willed, then solitary confinement could absolutely break
After about a year at New Folsom, as I was lying on my bed, I
heard an older woman say, “Is there someone in that cell?” The
guard said “Yes, ma’am, but you’re wasting your time.” She
answered, “Well, Jesus came for him, too.”
She approached the cell: “How are you doing?” “I couldn’t be
better,” was my sarcastic reply. She said “Young man, I’m going
to pray for you. But there’s something else I want to tell you:
Jesus is going to use you.”
A year later, he was lying down in his cell, daydreaming. When
he looked at the wall, something strange was happening. A
movie was playing, it was the crucifixion of Christ which he saw
enacted in vivid detail.
He then writes: What got to me most was when this man on the
cross looked at me and said, “Darwin, I’m doing this for you.” I
shuddered. Apart from the guards and my family, no one knew
my real name. Everyone called me Casey. Then I heard the
sound of breath leaving him. At that moment, I knew he had
That’s when I hit the floor in the middle of the cell. I started
weeping because I knew, somehow, that this was Almighty God.
I started confessing my sins: “God, I’m sorry for stabbing so
many people. God, I’m sorry I robbed so many families.” With
each new confession, I felt another weight come off my
That was the start of my journey of faith. I was no longer a shot
caller. I had found a new calling: telling other inmates about
Jesus. Casey Diaz lives in Los Angeles, where he serves as a
There is absolutely no life that is beyond the reach of the grace
of God. Not your life. Not your friend’s life. Not your spouse’s
life. Not your child’s life. No addiction, no condition, no situation
in life is beyond the reach of Jesus. There is no one, absolutely
no one, who is so far gone that Jesus cannot reach them. Let us
Wrecked and Restored