how a crazy man and a bunch of pigs changed my entire perspective
Have you ever read Mark 5? It is one of the wildest stories in the Bible and one of my favorites. Jesus and His disciples take a trip to "the other side" of the sea, to go to the region of Gerasenes, a place largely inhabited by Gentiles and a place where no "good" jew would ever go. That statement alone is enough to just sit and ponder, but we will continue. So Jesus and his tribe arrive by boat. As soon as He gets out of the boat a man begins to walk towards him. Now this man is not coming to welcome Jesus, no instead he runs to Jesus, falls at his feet and cries out
What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!
This man was filled and tortured by many demons. So many that the demons say their name is Legion. During that time a Roman legion was known to have about 6000 men! Did you notice that this legion fell at the feet of Jesus? The demons then begin to start begging him to not send them out of that area. Can you picture it? The sound of the water lapping on the shore's edge and the rocky tombs behind them that had for years been this wretched man's home. The look and the smell of dirt and sweat and blood, from self wounding, all mixed together covering this man's body. The disciples watching with a mix of terror and awe. And Jesus, standing above this man, full of all authority but also full of compassion. Just pause a moment and put that picture together in your mind. Jesus went where no one else wanted to go, to the people that no one wanted to visit. After the resurrection, Jesus appears again to his tribe and tells them "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age". (Matthew 28) He calls his children to do the same. To step out of the realm of what is expected and to take His love and freedom to people that no one else wants to visit.
The area of Gerasenes was home to many pig farmers. As the man fell at the feet of Jesus, the demons begged to not be sent from that area and instead asked permission to be sent into a large herd of pigs nearby. That's right, asked permission. If you have ever wondered if God has command over all the ways of the enemy, this story will silence all those questions. Then a crazy scene unfolds and 2000 pigs rush down a steep bank into a lake and drown. The disciples have witnessed some wild things at this point, but can you imagine them standing there and all the emotions they must have felt as they watched this scene? And what about the man who had been possessed by all those demons? He was now clean, dressed and "in his right mind". At this point in the story, I expect to read...and all the people of the town rejoiced together and recognizing that Jesus was the Son of God, they turned from their wicked ways and followed Him. But that is not at all how this story goes. The people of the town were not filled with wonder, but instead fear. Their hearts were hard and there desires were only for their own wealth and sin. They valued things above people and their lifestyle above salvation. This miracle did not bring the pig owners to repentance, instead they beg Jesus to go away and never come back.
Let's take our minds back to the man who has just been saved from the depths of hell on earth. Grateful for his new freedom and not feeling the love by the people of the surrounding him, he implores Jesus to take him along on their next adventure. Next come the words that jumped off the page a few years ago as I read this passage.
And He did not let him, but He said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord ha done for you, and how He had mercy on you."
The man who had been demon possessed wanted to go and Jesus said stay. I will be honest with you. I don't like being told to stay. Going is way more exciting than staying. I have spent many of my years gone by imploring Jesus to send us away from where my husband and I grew up. And everytime the answer has been... stay. I have had many arguments with God over the years, mostly me complaining....side note, I realize this makes me sound like a whiny brat and that description is unfortunately often true. So I want to speak to the heart that has been told to stay.
Staying is not a lack of a calling, staying is not boring, staying is not doing anything. There can be great purpose and beauty in staying.
Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you. And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great thing Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
There is an incredible need for the church family in America to live on mission. It may not be as glamorous as leaving everything you own and traveling to a foreign country for the gospel. But surrendering your life, your possessions, and your time to God is not only for those who have been called to another country. A few years ago, Kevin and I started to have this crazy idea....what would it look like to live as missionaries in our hometown? It is a question that remains a constant discussion in our home and guiding our lives. What if the church of America began to "proclaim what great things Jesus has done".... every one sharing the life change that has happened because of Jesus? What if we decided to surrender everything and 24/7 live only for Jesus? What if we spent everyday truly believing that Jesus was Lord of all and had power over every evil? It is not going to be easy or comfortable but I do know it will be good.