14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
(Mark 5:14-20 NIV)
This story of Jesus and the demon-possessed man actually goes from verse 1 through verse 20. The story, while short, has so many layers and so much historical context that covering the entire story in one day is too much. We looked at the first part yesterday; we’ll examine the second part today.
As we saw in yesterday’s passage, Jesus quieted the forces of hell that churned the wind and the waves as the disciples rowed across the Sea of Galilee (Lake Genessaret). As soon as they reached their destination on the other side of the lake, Jesus was confronted with the forces of hell concentrated in one person – the demon-possessed man.
The demons beg Jesus to not throw them out of the region, but rather send them into the herd of pigs feeding nearby. Jesus grants the demons their request, and the herd of 2,000 pigs immediately rush into the sea and drown.
The region across the lake from Capernaum was largely Gentile (non-Jewish), so the herd of pigs was a source of food for the people and income for their owners. In verse 14, we see those hired to watch over the swine herd freaking out and running off to tell about what they had just experienced.
Many people came to see and experience first-hand what had just happened. They had heard about the pigs; now they saw the tortured, out-of-control, demon-possessed man fully clothed, sitting and talking rationally about what had just happened to him. Seeing this man up close and totally transformed was far more intimidating and scary than all the dead pigs. Who could possibly wield this much authority and power?
When the people realized that Jesus was the One who was behind all this commotion, they were very afraid and asked Him to leave them. In just a few short minutes, Jesus had completely disrupted their comfort, their possessions, and their belief system. What else was Jesus capable of doing? They were terrified and did not want to find out.
So how would you or I respond if Jesus showed up and completely disrupted our way of life, even if He restored one of the “incorrigibles” that had haunted everyone for years? Would we even think that such a transformation was even possible?
Jesus honored the residents’ wishes and prepared to leave the same way He came. The healed demoniac followed Jesus to the boat and begged Jesus to let him come with Him. Jesus refused the man’s request. Instead, Jesus gave the man a far higher calling – to go tell everyone in the ten-city region of Decapolis what Jesus had done for him. Jesus appointed this man as the first missionary to the Gentiles and sent him on his way. The man obeyed Jesus’ command and told everyone he know about what Jesus had done for him.
Notice that Jesus did not call this man to be a preacher, nor did He require this man to convert to Judaism or to be circumcised. Instead, Jesus simply called this man to obey Him and be a witness – to tell his story of what Jesus had done for him.
And so you and I are likewise called to simply tell our story of what Jesus has done for us. As we look across the expanse of history since Jesus’ days here on earth, we see many who have had everything taken away from them – their possessions, their family, their freedom, even their lives. But the one thing that those who are taking away everything cannot remove is the Christ-follower’s story, their witness of what Jesus has done for them.
May we humbly, yet boldly proclaim the story of what Jesus has done for us to any and all who will listen. And may God receive the glory, not us.