“The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” - Mark 5:14-20
Fear is a funny thing. A few days earlier, these people were terrified of the crazed demoniac who could not be bound; now they feared the one who had not only subdued but actually healed him. Surely, the herdsmen were undone by what had just occurred. 2,000 pigs represented quite a fortune, and they had literally just watched it fly off a cliff. Without that flock of swine, their financial future was likely in serious jeopardy. In their awe and distress, they ran into town to tell everyone what had happened to the demoniac. This man Jesus had freed him from the unclean spirits; he was clothed and in his right mind. No one would have thought that possible!
The unclean spirits were gone; the pigs were gone; and now the townspeople wanted Jesus to be gone. Despite having just witnessed or heard about an incredible miracle, they wanted the miracle worker to leave town ASAP. Why? Because Jesus was completely disrupting the Gerasenes’ way of life. And if he could shake things up this much in a few hours, what else could he do? The healed man, on the other hand, had a completely different reaction. He had experienced a new freedom and joy with Jesus and he begged to accompany him on his journey. If Jesus could work this kind of miracle for him, what more could he do?
The townspeople begged Jesus to leave; the healed man begged to stay with Jesus. What a contrast! There are those who love the kingdom of this world and long for things to stay the same. Others see the futility and brokenness of that kingdom and seek God’s instead. They are willing to risk whatever it takes to follow Jesus, to experience his presence, and to join in his work. Jesus is so appealing that he is worth every sacrifice.
These narratives teach us about the power, authority, and person of Jesus. They are an invitation to know him, to follow him in faith, and to continue his work building and spreading the kingdom of God. Mark tells us that the healed demoniac RSVPed with a resounding “Yes!” He proclaimed what Jesus had done for him across the Decapolis and became a great evangelist. Everywhere he went, people marveled at his story and at the power of God demonstrated by this man called Jesus.
Are you open to Jesus’ mighty works in your life? Are you willing to surrender control and the status quo to embrace a new way, the way of the Lord? The kingdom of God promises great power, transformation, healing, and joy. However, Jesus will also shake things up and turn them upside down. The question is who we want to be in control of our lives.
Reflect and Respond:
Consider the contrast Mark creates in this narrative. Who do you identify with more – the healed demoniac who longs to follow Jesus or the townspeople who are afraid of the disruption he might bring to their lives? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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