I have something in common with the man who was possessed of the demons in this passage in Mark. No, I don't believe I'm possessed although that might answer a few questions some of you have about me! :-)
In previous readings of this passage and in sermons on this story, I remember hearing the miraculous way God restored this man and he was quiet a picture of the cleansing and healing power of Jesus. This passage talks about how he was sitting down and speaking calmly and coherently and that everyone was amazed. But the story seems to end there in my head. He was healed of his horrible and situation and they all lived happily ever after.
But it didn't end there. He wanted to follow Jesus. In his gratitude and excitement over his changed life he wanted to become a disciple and serve at the feet of Jesus. That is a good idea and a noble goal, but Jesus discouraged this idea and sent him home. At first reading I kinda thought, how disappointing for him, but the more I thought the more clear the story became and I realized this man and I had something in common - we both overcomplicate things.
You see, Jesus didn't save the man to benefit himself. He saved him to benefit God's kingdom and the man would have far more impact back with the people who "knew him when" than he would following Jesus from town to town. He was overcomplicating the idea of service and sacrifice. He was making it harder than it needed to be and as a result, less effective.
I do this at times. Especially in the area of my quiet time. I tend to add too much into it so that I don't even bother because I don't have two hours of time. And the whole time, I'm sure God is saying "Hey, just sit down and chat with me for a minute. Stop making everything so hard." I often box myself in with unrealistic expectations when the truth is that it isn't necessary and often doesn't work in the long run.
Another application that came to me later was a reminder of one of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis that I think fits into this story so well. He said "The world does not need more Christian writers - it needs more good writers and composers who are Christians." I think this sums up in a nutshell what often bothers me about the "sectioning" of Christianity. We think if someone doesn't sing lyrics that say the word "God" or "Jesus" every 7.1 words they aren't enhancing the kingdom of God. But I wonder sometimes if the people who sing about love and life and getting out of bed in the morning with excitement and joy, who show a Godly heart and Christ-like actions - in a world of musicians and singers who live for themselves - don't show a stronger picture of a changed person.
Just like the demon-possessed man would have more impact if he interacted with the world instead of locking himself up in a group of disciples, we would have more impact if we would look beyond "Christian" labeled things and got out into the world we are called to save. I have such a respect for Christians in the arts and entertainment world who are creating quality, God-honoring works of art that proclaim the message of Christ in a tangible way that don't need to have it labeled "Christian" to get the message across. We need more of that, but with the church's current habits of bashing those who try, it's not likely to keep growing on a larger scale. This is sad, because I think we're overlooking the message of this story in Scripture to our detriment.