As my wife and I pulled into the church parking lot on a cold Sunday morning, we saw a woman with special needs walking in the winter weather with her young niece and nephew in tow. I admired the fact that this woman would bring the children to church as often as she could, especially since their mother had committed suicide a few months previous.
On that same Sunday, a senior adult couple brought a younger couple to church, along with the couple’s elementary-aged son. The dad had recently been homeless, the son had lived with relatives until Dad found a place to live, and the mother had just been released from prison.
Not everyone at my church has these kinds of stories, but everyone has a story. And, our stories can be messy. Jesus understands mess. In fact the gospel writer Mark shows us that Jesus came to a messy world, full of messed up people, to offer us hope.
Jesus was no stranger to the messiness of life. After all, Jesus was born in a stable surrounded by animals, placed in a feeding trough, and visited by smelly shepherds.
In Mark, chapter 5, we read that Jesus gets out of a boat and is confronted by a crazy man. The demon-possessed man was no weakling. He had supernatural strength. And, he was loud. He was also tormented by demons.
What does Jesus do? Does Jesus say, “I haven’t had breakfast yet; I’ve been on a boat all night with these smelly fishermen; oh, and by the way, I calmed a storm last night”? No, Jesus meets the mess head on.
A Solution to the Mess
Jesus confronts the mess, not the man. Jesus transports the unclean spirits from the man to the pigs. Have you ever been around pigs? Is anything messier than pigs? And, don’t forget what Jews thought about pigs. They were unclean.
Just as Jesus demonstrated His power over nature by calming the raging waves the night before, Jesus exercised His power over Satan by calming the raging spirit of this tormented man.
When the Mess Ends, Ministry Continues
While the initial mess had ended, there was still more mess for another day. Think about it. The pig herders probably weren’t thrilled that they wouldn’t be bringing home the bacon that night. Also the crowd was afraid, probably more of Jesus than of the formerly demon-possessed man. In the meantime, however, the healed man shared God’s grace with others.
As the healed man could attest, life without Jesus is a life of torment. Like Jesus, we confront people who are messy. Every week, messy children and their families show up at our churches. Families that have experienced pain and tragedy up close and personal. Moms and Dads whose lives of promise are torn apart by hopelessness and bad choices. Children who find hope and love at church. Adults willing to get messy, because ministry is messy.
Kids are messy. Families are messy. Life is messy. Our role as kids ministry leaders and volunteers is to introduce kids and families to the One who came to clean up the mess, Jesus.
Landry Holmes leads LifeWay’s Kids Ministry Publishing Team and is a kidmin volunteer at his church. He is a husband, dad, father-in-law, and dog person.