You can look at some of the big picture issues of location and context and fear within Mark 5:1-19. Today I want to look at little bit a the people involved in this story:
Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”
First, we see the man. Look at the torment he had been through. One of the things that we see Jesus do over and over again in the text is to bring healing. This man needed physical healing: he was cutting himself, harming himself, and in great pain, but his physical needs came from a spiritual place.
Jesus cast out the demons and in doing this brought spiritual and physical healing to this man. Healing always starts with the spiritual. In this life, the physical may, or may not, be healed. But, through Jesus, the heart and the soul can be healed. Jesus wants to bring healing. He wants to bring grace. He wants to bring forgiveness: forgiveness for us, and the ability for us to forgive others. He longs to restore our soul and restore our lives.
Jesus saw this man in pain, and he brought healing.
And look what the man wanted to do. He said – let me follow you. And Jesus said, no. Do something even harder. Tell your friends what God has done for you. Why? Why didn’t Jesus let him go with them?
Look at the reaction of the people in verse 17. The people begged Jesus to leave. Why did they want Jesus to leave? Well, we see that their swine had been destroyed (by the way, sidebar – why did the demons want to go into the pigs? There are lots of opinions on this, but I’ll give you mine. They were destructive. They wanted to destroy as much as they could. When they could no longer destroy this man, they wanted to destroy something else). The people also saw Jesus’ power. And they were scared of it. It was bigger than them.
Jesus was other. And the didn’t know what to do with him. So they asked him to leave.
We would never do that, would we?
Well, how many of us have felt God calling us to something? We know, we know, we know that there is something that God is calling us to. And we run. We run from it, we run from God.
Why? A thousand different reasons, different reasons for all of us. But for me, and probably for many of us, it’s control. We like being in control and to let God lead and to follow him with abandon means losing control, giving him full control. And that’s terrifying. Even though we know he is good and only wants the best for us. It’s still scary.
And that’s why we’ve got to trust him and follow. And sometimes we follow, not to far away places, but to our own town.
Today, no matter where he calls, may we faithfully follow.