The One He Sent Home
Please read Mark 5:1-20 in your Bible.
“Norman Cates shared the humorous story of a guy who prayed this prayer every morning: ‘Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.’ One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty, but this guy sat next to our praying friend.
“The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before he could get nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep. He then cried out with a loud voice, ‘I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?’ He turned to the Christian and pleaded, ‘Can you show me how to be saved?’
“The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, ‘Lord, is this a sign?’” Gee, I dunno, you think? If you looking for a “sign” to start witnessing, consider it given in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Sharing the Good News of eternal life is best done by every one of us, starting with the person next to us.
Speak Jesus to those closest to you.
1. Jesus saved this man’s life…
The man was afflicted by an EVIL SPIRIT. (1-5) The setting is Gerasenes, a point on the eastern shore of the Sea/lake of Galilee. This event occurs after Jesus calmed a storm that arose suddenly on the Lake of Galilee. It may be possible the man witnessed the sudden end of the storm from the shore and approached to see for himself who it what happened.
The EVIL SPIRIT caused this man an incredible amount of suffering at the same time endowing him with supernatural strength. Many times he had been bound with IRONS as the villagers attempted to control him. He lived in a cemetery, crying out and cutting himself. His wild-looking, mutilated appearance must’ve been horrible.
Jesus confronted the EVIL SPIRIT. (6-10) As is the case with His healings, no two exorcisms Jesus performed were done in the same way. This means what happened here is not to made into some “procedure.” Persons who practice “deliverance ministries” have used this Scripture to say it indicates a procedure or method in dealing with spiritual evil. That’s taking a descriptive passage and turning it into a prescriptive passage. There’s nothing in Mark 5 that says “You go and exorcise demons in exactly this way.
This is a particularly unusual passage. It would be fun to go deep diving into these unusual elements, but we don’t have space to devote to that “CSI” level of inquiry, so we will only mention them here:
- The demoniac approached Jesus and the EVIL SPIRIT spoke first to Jesus.
- The EVIL SPIRIT mistakenly supposed Jesus had come to TORTURE him.
- Jesus initially commanded the SPIRIT to COME OUT of the man, but it did not do so immediately.
- Jesus carried on a conversation with the SPIRIT.
- The EVIL SPIRIT has a name.
- The text calls it an EVIL SPIRIT (singular) but the SPIRIT itself said there were many such spirits possessing the man. (Maybe the singular SPIRIT was a “spokespirit” for the rest or it was simply lying.)
- The SPIRIT pled with Jesus not to be exorcised from the AREA, not from the man.
- Jesus did not simply cast the SPIRIT out but allowed it to possess a herd of PIGS that were feeding nearby.
This last detail needs a bit more consideration: Jesus cast the EVIL SPIRIT out of the man but allowed them to remain in the AREA (albeit temporarily) by casting them into the hog herd. (11-13) The presence of a large herd of PIGS indicates this area was inhabited by Gentiles or Jews who didn’t observe the Law.
The reason the SPIRIT BEGGED to go into the PIGS is not explained. The reason Jesus agreed to this is not explained either, but the size of the herd (2,000 pigs) is so large, this was an effective demonstration of Jesus’ power over evil. (Plus, it improved the smell of the area!)
This demonstration of power was so effective the locals were terrified and they asked Jesus to leave. (14-17) Their destruction proved the terrible power of spiritual evil.
As awful as the financial loss of the herd was, the text tells us it was the demoniac sitting there DRESSED AND IN HIS RIGHT MIND that made them AFRAID. This miracle proved the greater power of Jesus over spiritual evil.
The locals wanted nothing to do with Jesus; they PLEADED with Him to LEAVE THEIR REGION. (There’s all kinds of begging and pleading in this passage (vs. 10, 17, 18). The same Greek word is used in all three verses - parakaleo - variously translated as both “begging” and “pleading.”)
The local should’ve been prompted to have faith; that’s the way miracles are supposed to work. But because they were unbelievers and prone to superstition, they became fearful instead of faithful. This is human nature: we tend to fear what we don’t understand and can’t control.
2. Then he sent him home to tell everyone about it.
In sharp contrast to the villagers who wanted Jesus to leave, the former demoniac begged to accompany Jesus. (18) For the second time in this encounter, the man approached Jesus. This time he wanted to accompany Jesus; tom become part of His group of disciples. Knowing what we do about human nature, this is an understandable feeling. We want to keep a “mountaintop” experience going.
However, Jesus commanded him to go home and tell his family what God had done for him. (19) In the Gospels there is more than one occasion where Jesus disallowed or deterred offers of discipleship. Because He knew people’s hearts, Jesus knew who was suitable and who was not.
This case was not a matter of suitability. Jesus had a better use for the man, so He commanded him to go back home and be a disciple in his community. Jesus had two reasons we can see for this decision.
First, the man had a FAMILY. He needed to go to them and tell them he was no longer afflicted by demons. He needed to relieve their anxiety and grief. Second, he was to testify to HOW MUCH THE LORD had done for him, how God had shown MERCY to him.
The man was obedient and told everyone. (20) To his credit, the man gave up his urgent desire to go with Jesus and was Jesus’ disciple in the Decapolis, an area of ten cities in close proximity to one another.
He not only told his family what had happened, but he told everyone who would listen. Imagine the “street cred” this guy had! He had been a widely known scary character who was now completely transformed! We know his testimony had an impact on the people in the Decapolis: ALL THE PEOPLE WERE AMAZED.
Speak Jesus to those closest to you.
The principle we learn from this passage is that we are to testify to the same things with which Jesus charged the former demoniac: “TELL THEM HOW MUCH THE LORD HAS DONE FOR YOU AND HOW HE HAS HAD MERCY ON YOU.” Granted, our testimony will not be as dramatic as this guy’s: that’s not the point. Every one of us ought to have a story to tell that relates how much the Lord has done for us; how He has shown mercy to us.
Telling your story relieves you of having to win arguments, memorize a lot of Bible verses, or become a sidewalk preacher. Each day you tell your story about trivial things; take that ability and use it to tell people you meet about Jesus. The life experiences where your story intersects with God’s MERCY are going to be the most effective witness. After all, we’re not asking people to agree to a doctrine as much as we are asking them to enter into a relationship.
Witnessing does not need to be intimidating or complicated. We make it so because we are afraid and want an excuse. It is a matter of the right kind of living paired with the right kind of speaking. Truthfully, God does the heavy lifting, we just have to speak up.
I had the privilege of leading a lady to Jesus year ago and she was so happy she said, “If I could bring my cat, I’d live here in the church!” She was thinking like the former demoniac - she wanted to prolong the spiritual experience as long as possible. However, there are lots of reasons living in the church is impossible. Chief among them is reflected in Jesus’ command: the people who needs us most are out there. We need to take Jesus out there so they can hear and believe and be saved.
http://saltforsermons.org.uk/category/witnessing/, (Deacon, Jan.-March 1995, p. 34) By way of the Gospel Radio Group