As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 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.’ 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 5:18-20 (NIV)
Read: Mark 5:1-20
Consider: Mark 5 contains details of an incident where Jesus demonstrated his power over evil, by freeing a man who had been demon-possessed. Demon possession is not something that the church today talks about very much, yet in Jesus’s ministry (and also that of the disciples and the apostles), it was recognised and openly dealt with. Some people argue that what is described in this kind of incident is mental illness. However, we must remember that Jesus didn’t see it this way; he spoke to and cast out demons. If he had thought it was mental illness he wouldn’t have said and acted in the way he did.
In the incident recorded in Mark 5 Jesus goes into the area of the Gerasenes and is confronted by a man who has been socially isolated and spiritually oppressed for many years. The people in the area where he lived recognised his problem, but tried to deal with it by chaining the man up, to prevent him hurting himself and others. This incident is recorded in three of the gospels (Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8). While there are differences in the recorded incidents, the central message is that Jesus’ identity is evidenced by his authority over the powers of evil.
What I find interesting is the reaction of the people to this incident. In Mark 5:15 we are told that the people from the area ‘… saw the man who had been demon-possessed … sitting there and in his right mind; and they were afraid’. They weren’t pleased for the man, they weren’t in awe of Jesus’ power, it says that they were afraid. The next reaction from the people is to beg Jesus to leave their region – ‘Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region’ (5:17). Perhaps this was a reaction to their perceiving a threat to their livelihood (the loss of the pigs), or their initial fear had escalated to a point that they wanted nothing to do with Jesus.
These negative reactions are contrasted with two positive reactions later in the passage. As Jesus was leaving the man ‘… begged to go with Jesus …’ (5:18). Here was a man who knew something had changed in his life and, more importantly, who had achieved it. His natural reaction was one of thankfulness and wanting to serve the one who saved him. However, Jesus had other plans for him and told him to ‘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’ (5:19). Jesus understood the power of personal witness and the man does what Jesus wants by going throughout the area (the Decapolis) telling the people how much Jesus had done for him. This produces the second positive reaction as we are told that because of the man’s testimony ‘… all the people were amazed’ (5:20).
Don’t be surprised by people’s reactions to the Good News of the gospel. Some will react in fear, afraid of the changes becoming a Christian can make in their lives. Others may react by rejecting the message entirely, wanting Jesus to go away and leave them alone. Others may accept the offer of forgiveness and be willing to testify to the life-changing nature of the gospel by telling others. Lastly, this personal testimony (when it testifies to what God is doing in the person’s life) can cause amazement in others who know the person and can see what Jesus has done for them.
Pray: Father, help us to be faithful in sharing the good news of the gospel, but not to be surprised by how people might react. We know that not everyone will welcome the message. We ask for courage to share with others what Jesus is doing in our lives. Amen