One of the most popular films of all time is Forrest Gump. One of the reasons for this is the homespun wisdom of Forrest, and in particular his mama. The film is punctuated with such pearls, though of course the most famous is: ‘Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.’ Although actually, with a box of Chocolate Brazil Nuts, you always know!
Wisdom is often found in the most unlikely places. Much as we like to think that it’s only clever adults who have a monopoly on wisdom, the reality is very different. A great friend of ours who was considering mission work was pointed towards the country where she eventually served by the spiritual intuition of a child she was teaching. She was so overcome she sought further direction from one of our ministers, who confirmed exactly what the child had said. God can speak through anyone!
Yesterday we saw the disciples’ awestruck confusion at what they had just seen and experienced. Jesus had just done something that only God could do, prompting them to cry out: ‘Who is this?’ At this stage they weren’t sure. Someone special, certainly – but was Jesus more than that?
We get an answer in the very next passage (today’s reading), albeit from a most unlikely source. Having crossed to the Eastern side of the shore of Galilee they are immediately accosted (v2). The man who approached them – who had never met Jesus before – knew exactly who Jesus was, albeit for somewhat unsettling reasons. He was a tormented soul, and whatever it was that possessed him – which the text clearly indicates was a demonic spirit of some sort – spelt out Jesus’ identity for everyone to hear: ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God.’ (v7)
Tragically for this man, the demonic oppression he was afflicted with had tortured him for many years, leaving him wild and friendless – and we’ll see how Jesus heals him tomorrow. But today, let’s note the heavy irony that the very first person to truly grasp the identity of Jesus was this spiritually tormented loner. It took the disciples many months more to manage that, and many of the most educated religious people in his culture never got it; but this chap did.
I trust the Lord preserves all of us from torment of this kind – but let’s keep our eyes open for wisdom in unexpected places. God is able to speak in surprising ways: how might he do that for you today, or this week?