Almost all of our teens have gone back to school at this point, and I think it would be safe to say that most of them are not especially happy about it.
After all, why would anyone WANT to go back to early mornings, late night homework sessions, increased temptation, and a never-ending list of demands that is constantly placed on you by coaches, band directors, teachers, parents, and seemingly everyone else in the WORLD??
In the pages of Scripture, this transition from summer to school might be compared to the account of the demon-possessed man in Mark chapter 5.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that our teens are possessed by demons (although the jury is still out on a few of them), but let’s see if some of these comparisons don’t fit:
In this story, this man had been possessed by a “legion” of demons. He had “lived among the tombs” and “no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones” (Mk. 5:3-5).
If we’re being honest, school can definitely have this kind of effect on our young people. It oppresses them, tempts them, and tries their faith. It can often cause them to behave in unexplainable ways, robbing them of their identity in Christ and turning them into something…else. They feel separated, isolated, and it can cause a great deal of emotional and spiritual pain. And yes, it can even happen for those who call themselves Christians.
In our story, Jesus showed up – almost out of nowhere - and miraculously healed this man. These demons were cast into a herd of 2,000 pigs, and this man was returned to his “right mind” (vs. 15).
We see this same transformation in our teens every year when the month of May comes around. It’s not technically a “miracle,” but it produces some near-miraculous effects in teenagers. If you’re watching closely, you can almost see the change in these young people as school ends and summer begins. They smile more; they become more optimistic; they have plans, goals, hopes, and dreams. They are, all of a sudden, “clothed and in [their] right mind” (Mk. 5:15).
Similar to the story that we are examining today, these young people typically make this kind of transformation because of Jesus! They now have more time, , energy, and space in their life for HIM! They feel less stretched, less committed, less tired, and more available for their Lord and for His Church. They begin to see what they’ve been missing all year, and they realize how much better their life is when Jesus is part of it! Naturally, this leads to a greater and deeper relationship between these young people and their Savior!
In our story, this man felt this connection as well, and he “begged Him [Jesus] that he might be with him” (vs. 18). In other words, “I don’t want to go back home! I’ve ruined my reputation with those people, and they’ll never accept me! It is going to be too difficult to go back into that situation after the way I’ve behaved! I belong with you!”
Perhaps our young people can relate to this. Maybe one of the reasons that going back to school is so difficult is because we tend to allow it to turn us into someone else while we’re there. If we have allowed school to drain us of our spiritual focus, dedication to God, and sense of purpose, then we probably realize how difficult it is going to be to regain those things when we go back!
We are much like this demon-possessed man when the summer is over: “Please let me stay! Please don’t make me go back! I don’t like who I am when I’m in that place!” I realize that this doesn’t describe EVERY teenager, but I think that all of them can at least RELATE to this idea.
And what does Jesus say to this man? The Bible says, “And He did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.’” (vs. 19)
In other words, Jesus wants this man to go back home and do the hard work of repairing his reputation among his own people. He wants him to use his life as a testimony of God’s grace, power, and healing.
Jesus basically tells him, “Summer is over. Go back to school, and be DIFFERENT than you were when you got out last year!”
I believe that Jesus is saying the same thing to our young people right now. I can almost imagine Him saying, “Go back to school. Face whatever situation you might find yourself in. If you made mistakes last year, make them right. If you’re in a new place, be the person you know you should be. Use the spiritual energy you gained over the summer and have an impact on the people around you. Bring glory to God. Do the work. I believe in you.”
Our story ends by telling us that, “he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (vs. 20).
Will you do this at YOUR school this year? How many people will learn about Jesus because of YOU this year? May God bless all of our young people as they go back to school this year, and may God use them in mighty ways to bring glory to Him!