The scream. That is what expressionist artist Edvard Munch depicted in the work he titled The Scream of Nature. It is the silent, but real cry of fallen man. Desperate and unheard.
The artist wrote in his journal:
“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.Stanska, Zuzanna (12 December 2016). “The Mysterious Road From Edvard Munch’s The Scream”. Daily Art Magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2019. from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream.
We hear it too. It is the cry of my neighbor, weeping out of fear and loneliness behind her locked door. It is the cry of the eight year old girl, throwing her lunch away without eating it, because she feels fat. This scream is silent because it is beyond words, silenced by despair.
What if no one is listening? What if no one cares enough to stop, turn, and come?
A Scream Beyond Words
All three stories in Mark 5 present pictures of utter helplessness. The bleeding woman has exhausted all means to restore her health and ritual purity. She is penniless as well as hopeless. The synagogue ruler has been reduced to begging Jesus, his religious enemy, for help in saving his precious daughter. These two arouse our pity.
But it is the demoniac who strikes me as the most helpless of them all. He couldn’t even come to Jesus. He couldn’t even ask.
CS Lewis, in The Great Divorce, talks about hell as a place where evil overtakes us to the extent that there is nothing left of us, only the evil remains. So the man who used to be a grumbler becomes no longer a man, but merely a grumble. The demoniac in Mark 5 was like this–barely recognizable as human. Tormented day and night, isolated, driven by uncleanness into further uncleanness, he had become a scream.
Heard by the One Who Can Help
If you can’t even call for help, are you beyond help?
Not if the only One who can help you is paying attention. Jesus is clear about why he came. The Gospel of Mark tells us he came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Why then did he cross the lake? To get away from the crowds? To take a break? Maybe eat something in peace and rest a bit? Or was he looking for someone who couldn’t come to him?
If you can’t even call for help, are you beyond help? Not if the only One who can help you is paying attention.
This whisper of a man buried under the legion of demons could only go where they permitted him to go. But when Jesus stepped off the boat, they were out ranked. They had no choice, but were compelled to run to the God-man in a rage of humiliation and grovel at his feet. The demons themselves brought what was left of the man to the Savior.
Mercy heard the scream and came. Power delivered him, both from demons who ravaged him and from the sins that had let them in.
When we, too, are beyond words, he hears our cry.
Only Believe? Only Believe Him
Jairus asked. The woman touched. But the demoniac shows us the extent to which our God will go to deliver us. Do you see that? Do I?
“But what about faith?” we ask. “I thought Jesus wants us to believe?” Not quite. He wants us to believe Him. Our faith isn’t a commodity that somehow solicits a certain level of help from God. No, our faith is a response to seeing him. Jesus wants us to see, to keep seeing, to see him better. That’s how our faith will grow.
Jairus believed in a Jesus who could heal. Jesus wanted him to see and believe in a Jesus who could raise the dead. Even the demons believed and trembled. But the demoniac, released from their tyranny, believed and was at peace.
What is Jesus showing you about himself today? Fear not. Only believe him.