The fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark records for us the healing of the man possessed by a legion of demons in the region of the Gerasenes, on the south-east side of the Sea of Galilee. The man had been afflicted for some time and had been deemed both dangerous and undesirable. His problems were past human understanding, and beyond the ability of men to heal. Yet for Jesus, it was the work of moments to cast out the demons and restore the man to his former self.
The region, also called the Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28), was not a part of the Jewish state, but was instead a collection of Gentile cities: the Decapolis (or Ten-Cities) (cf. Mark 5:20). It’s Gentile nature is shown by the large herd of swine into which the Demons were cast. (cf. Mark 5:11-13) No respectable Jewish farmer would have had even one pig, let alone a herd. It is very possible that the Gerasene demoniac was himself a Gentile. The miracle, however, and Jesus subsequent work in the area at a later date, shows the concern of Christ even for the Gentiles, and foreshadowed the taking of the Gospel to “all the world.”
The miracle is also notable in that Jesus did not allow the healed man to follow after Him as a disciple. Rather we read, “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 5:18-20; ESV)
Though the man was not to walk with Jesus, that didn’t mean that he had no obligation to Jesus for having been healed. And Jesus did have a job for him to do: Jesus wanted him to go home and tell others what had happened.
Within the context of the work of Jesus, the task given to the man made good sense. If the healed man was a Gentile, his presence amongst the disciples of Jesus would have created more issues than it solved for the Lord as He ministered to the Jewish nation. But more than this, we might note that Jesus had been forthrightly asked to leave the region because of the fear of the locals. (cf. Mark 5:17). By having the man spread the good news of his healing, Jesus was helping to prepare a more receptive welcome for Himself at a later date.
However, there is another lesson we might take from the healing. After the healing Jesus sent the man home to do the Lord’s work amongst friends and family. Sometimes following Jesus pulled men away from the familiar. Consider for instance Peter and John, and the others who were called by Jesus to leave their old jobs and take up a new career with Him (cf. Matthew 4:19-20) Yet here Jesus was not wanting the man to leave, but to return home and do the Lord’s work there.
There is an application here to ourselves.
Jesus comes to us, offering healing. He is able to forgive our sins, give us hope, fill us with joy, and take away our tears. The problems of life we face are frequently beyond the ability of men, but there is no problem too large for Jesus to deal with, if we will only trust Him and obey Him.
But after we are healed, what then?
Sometimes following Jesus is going to pull us from the familiar, calling us to make great changes in our work, our lives and our families. But just as often, if not more so, what Jesus really wants from us is to go home and do our work with those we already know.
Even with the apostolic church we notice this sort of pattern. Jesus sent the apostles first to a local area (Jerusalem), and only then to a larger region (Judea and Samaria) and after that to all the world. (cf. Acts 1:8) Before they could tackle the larger task, they needed to begin where they were.
If you have been healed by Jesus, go and tell people about it. And begin by going home and telling your friends and family what He has done for you.
If you need the healing that only Jesus can provide, the church of Christ invites you to study God’s word with us, and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions, including subjects you might like to see addressed, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.