Mark 5 begins with a trip across the sea of Galilee, initiated by Jesus in the prior chapter. En route, Jesus calms the storm, and subsequently we find him and his disciples on the shore of the “region of the Gerasenes,” where they run into a demon-possessed man.
This region was a place well outside of most Jew’s comfort zones – it was a secular, Hellenized place close to Rome’s influence. You can see this by the pigs that are being raised.
Although I’d love to have some hidden wisdom about this demon-possessed man, Jesus’ incredible negotiations, the demon-to-pig transfer, or the subsequent suicidal swine, I don’t, beyond what's evident already.
Demons are real; they trap us, and delight in the systematic destruction of human lives. Jesus has absolute power over them. And there’s some sort of strange sort of permanence about them in our current world – the evil cannot just be obliterated, it must go somewhere.
But what comes after Jesus expels the demons (and they wreak havoc on the aforementioned pigs) is what really interests me. This man – likely a Gentile – wants to follow Jesus, learn from him… be discipled! Other disciples Jesus had to convince to follow him… but this guy is begging to come without even being asked! Jesus should definitely help remove him from this Pagan, Gentile land and bring him to Israel – the folks who’ve really got this God thing figured out – for some one-on-one “follow me” style training... right?
Jesus tells him to stay put, in his Pagan land, and to tell his community about what Jesus has done for him. No theology instruction, no Romans Road outline, simply “Go to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has healed you.” Pure experience.
Apologies to Lexi, who will write about this section next week, but the main power of this story is revealed when you read it together with the following chapter. Jesus returns, and the entire region’s population instantly recognizes him – and they immediately run everywhere to find their sick to bring them to Jesus. This man has started a movement on this far side of Galilee.
Jesus could have plucked this man from a secular situation and swept him up in his ministry. But instead, Jesus sent him back, equipped with little more than the evidence of his own life story.
Sometimes we wish that Jesus would pluck us out of our current situation and take us away for some proper discipleship. We can think that we’re missing some sort of holier Christian life that’s closer to God because we’re living in a complex, secular world that we don’t feel equipped to minister to.
But it’s clear that God knows exactly what he’s doing when he leaves us in some of the world’s most complex situations, with little more than our own stories of His grace.
Ryan Patch is a film writer and director. He will soon be trading the terracotta beauty of NW for the glass-and-steel excitement of SW. He co-leads the Best Core Group, aka Logan Circle, and is probably the bike commuter who just cut you off in traffic.