This week we are discussing Chapter 3 “Jesus was in the Transformation Business” of Dr. Hanna Steele’s book Living His Story.
Stories of Transformation:
One way of reading the New Testament is that it is a collection of stories of personal transformations. As Dr. Steele writes, every story of personal transformation is different – some stories are gradual and some are more immediate.
Think of Peter in the gospels and in Acts. He is called by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry and follows Jesus. To him is given the secrets of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:11). And it is Peter that first declares the true identity of Jesus, as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Matt. 16:13. But it is also Peter that tells Jesus he cannot go to the Cross (Matt. 16:22), tries to violently prevent that from occurring (John18:10), and denies Jesus on the Cross (John 18:17). And Peter remained wishy-washy on the issue of the full inclusion of Gentiles within the Church (Acts 10, Gal. 2:12). But through all of this, Peter had his story of transformation. See, Acts 2, 1 Peter, 2 Peter.
Or think of Paul. Paul had an immediate conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Acts 9. But then he spends three years figuring it out. Gal. 1:18. Paul also has his story of transformation. Phil. 3.
Dr. Steele asks us to focus on the story of the transformation of the Gerasenes demonic in Mark 5. Unlike the transformation stories of the apostles, the demonic experiences an immediate transformation from chaos to peace and from danger to security. Also, unlike the apostles, the demonic does not spend years hearing the teachings of Jesus, or evaluating his experience, or going to seminary. He was a gentile who lived among gentiles who probably knew very little about the Jewish religion of Jesus. After this encounter, the man wanted to continue to physically follow Jesus to learn more. However, Jesus sends him back to his village saying “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19.
Like the Gerasenes demonic, we see a similar story transpire with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. The woman who is drawing water alone (probably because she is ostracized from her community) befriends Jesus. Within a brief dialogue, Jesus tells her that he is the Christ who is to come. His male Jewish disciples are taken aback that Jesus would even interact with a woman or a Samaritan, much less give her his teachings. The woman immediately grasps the identity of Jesus and runs back to her town proclaiming whom she had met.
Evaluating the Stories:
When we read these and other stories of transformation, there are some commonalities. Each of these individuals encountered the living Christ and had their lives changed. Each of them was sent out by Jesus to go to others. However, each of these individuals encountered Jesus under different circumstances and in different places in their lives. Each of these had a different experience of Jesus. Peter came to know Jesus as a teacher, a friend, and the Christ. Paul knew Jesus as the conqueror of sin and the law. The demonic only knew Jesus as a healer who frees us from the powers of this world, and the Samaritan women knew the intimate love of God who excludes no one from the kingdom. All of their stories share certain traits, but none of their stories are the same. Everyone had a different experience of transformation.
Our Story of Transformation:
Think about your story of transformation. Your story may or may not follow a typical conversation experience. Some of us may have had that immediate experience of God’s transformation like the demonic. Or it could have been that gradual realization of Christ’s presence in our lives like Peter experienced. And think about what was personal and unique to your experience. Again, was that experience an immediate freedom from the powers of this world, or an insight into the spiritual freedom that Christ gives. Think about your story.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is vegetable soup and salad. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
“Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.Mark 5:19-20