Mark 5 tells the story of a man that was being terrorized by demons. He lived out among the graves and would often cry out in agony and cut himself. Thankfully, when he met Jesus he was powerfully set free. When news of what happened began to spread, a group from the community came and found the man dressed and in his right mind. But they were so frightened by the whole story that they asked Jesus to leave. As Jesus and the disciples prepared to leave, the man begged Jesus to let him come along – BUT JESUS SAID NO!
“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the demon-delivered man begged to go along, but [Jesus] wouldn’t let him. Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” The man went back and began to preach in the Ten Towns area about what Jesus had done for him. He was the talk of the town.” Mark 5:18-20 (The Message)
Given the man’s history, I would have thought that it would have been important for him to be welcomed into the healing fellowship of Jesus and his disciples. But that’s not Jesus’ perspective. I can only conclude that Jesus had faith that the Father was working in this man’s life and would protect and nurture him. (See John 6:44-45)
And perhaps, for the sake of this Gentile community (Decapolis), rather than extract him from his community, the Father was raising up a person everyone knew, who could be a witness to the mighty work of Jesus in order to influence the whole region to open their hearts to Jesus.
Our story of how God has changed our lives is so important for us to share – especially early in our transformation when we are still in relationship with those who know the way we were before we met Jesus. We tend to be focused on the salvation of individuals, but Jesus and the early disciples were careful to reach out to families and communities.
This is very important when the new believer is from a different cultural and religious background. If this man had gone with Jesus back to a Jewish community, he would have gone through a huge cultural shift. This shift would have extracted him from his Gentile community.
When we reach out to those from different faith backgrounds, it may not be best to disciple them by bringing them into our “Christian church culture”. Instead, it may be better to be incarnational, and spend time with them in a setting that is more comfortable for them, where they can learn how to “go home to their own people and share what Jesus is doing in their lives.”
Father, show me the people you are drawing to your Son.
Give me faith in the work you are doing in their lives.
Give me the courage to be incarnational, and go out to people who are different than me
Help me to pay attention not just to individuals, but families and communities.