Homeless Man Wikipedia
Homeless Man Wikipedia

We were in Nashville today for a doctor’s appointment at Vanderbilt.  As I pulled off I-40 to the stoplight at Broadway, I saw a familiar sight, a   man selling newspapers.  From our ten weeks at Hope Lodge for Terry’s radiation and chemotherapy treatment, I know these men hocking these newspapers and these newspapers are not ordinary.  These are newspapers published for and about issues of homelessness.  The folks selling them are homeless or have been homeless.  

“Street Newspaper” is a term for a newspaper that focuses on the issues surrounding homelessness and poverty and is sold by homeless and formerly homeless individuals on the street. [1]

Across the United States there are a growing number of individuals and families living without benefit of a place to call home.  These folks, including children, live without benefit of a permanent address. . .while the overall number of homeless decreased slightly between 2011 and 2012 by 0.4%, the number of homeless families increased by 1.4%…62% of the homeless were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, but 38% were unsheltered, living on the streets, in cars or abandoned buildings, places not intended for or safe for human habitation. [2]

Many of these folks are ordinary individuals and families who hit a really bad patch, some are victims of domestic violence, some made really bad choices, but whatever the reason they live in poverty with no place to call home.  Some are mentally challenged or mentally ill individuals who have been discharged from hospitals or simply left.  These individuals face even greater perils as they wander.  Homeless, baffled, tormented they become easy targets and some of them traumatized, carrying a war zone between their ears, become dangerous to themselves and others.

Move back in time with me as we explore the scripture in Luke.  I think this event exists for us to read and consider today, because God intended it so that we would understand the problems of poverty, homelessness, and tormented souls have always been with us.  God wants us to be more like Jesus everyday, so how did Jesus approach and help the man at Gerasenes?

Now, just so you know where I stand, I believe the man at Gerasenes was possessed by a Legion of demons, but I want to approach Jesus response to him from a slightly different angle.  Jesus and the disciples had experienced a rough night at sea and the disciples, no doubt, were still in awe over his calming of the wind and waves.  Face it folks, they were one exhausted company, when they stepped on shore to be greeted by, WELL!  A wild naked man, ranting and raving.  Not a pretty, nor a welcome sight.  Easy to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear, well maybe a little difficult, what with the man running directly at Jesus, shouting at the top of his lungs, flinging himself or being flung into the group of men dragging themselves out of the boat.  Okay, NOT that easy to ignore, but possible.  Point being Jesus did not choose to ignore him.

Let’s stand off from the scene on the beach, not too far, because we want to hear and see what happens.  What happens, what does Jesus do?

He sees the man.
He assesses his condition.
He takes action.
His action creates an adverse reaction in the man.
He probes deeper.
He perseveres.

Too bad for the pigs, but wonderful for the man.  Not so great for the pig farming economy, but restoration for the man.  An indication here of God’s regard for human beings, human rights, the human soul.  Clearly, one man’s welfare outweighed the welfare of a herd of pigs.  Clearly, the results viewed by the community were miraculous.  Here clothed, hair and beard trimmed, talking sense was the naked, violent, insane fellow who lived in the caves.  He cleaned up really good, once Jesus took hold of him.

Still, once the astonished town people started looking around, dead pigs bobbing on the water, frightened workers, the loss of income, the adverse effects of this man’s healing, they got together and asked Jesus and his disciples to leave.  It doesn’t say, “And don’t show your face here again.”, but you get that feeling.

As Jesus leaves, the restored man attempts to follow, but Jesus has another ministry for him.  He sends him back, to live and work among the people in his hometown.  His very presence is a constant reminder of the power of God, but Jesus instructs him to do more…Use your new voice, your ability to reason, your knowledge of God’s action in your life.  Be a living testimony!  And so he did just that!

In light of this scripture what am I, what are you called to do in this world where, just as Jesus said, “the poor you will always have with you.”?  Seems a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?  So much need, so many poor, so many hurting, so many unsaved…I think I will take a nap….I mean, pray about it!

Look instead in prayer to Jesus–one deranged man healed, when surely there were many others in similar states.   I need to look right in front of me, wherever I happen to be and ask God to let me see as He sees, assess as He does, take action, and if thwarted at first, pray again, look again, probe again and persevere. . .One by one!

And then be a testimony to all God has done.    Live as a restored sinner saved by grace!  As D.T.  Niles once said, 

 “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”




[1]  http://thecontributor.org/ [2] The State of Homelessness in America, 2013 http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/the-state-of-homelessness-2013