Did you know Jesus actually told someone NOT to follow Him? This intriguing story is found Luke 8:26-39. In fact, the story is so important that it is found in three of the four Gospels. The setting is the graveyard in an area known as the Gerasenes, or Decapolis, literally, “Ten Cities.”
The story sounds like something you might see in a fictional movie. An unnamed man, possessed by a number of demons, lived near Gerasenes. The community tried to bind him with chains because he was so dangerous and uncontrollable. When that didn’t work, they drove him out of the community to live among the tombs and graves.
As Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee and landed near this graveyard, the demons who possessed this man recognized the power of God in the person of Jesus. The possessed man came running out to meet Jesus, and the demons yelled out, “Why have you come to torment us?” The demons knew Jesus had power and authority over them. They were afraid, and begged Him to allow them to leave the man and enter into a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus agreed, and ordered the demons to come out of the man, and enter the pigs. When they did, the entire herd of pigs ran over a cliff into the sea, and drowned. The man was healed.
As you can imagine, word of this spread quickly. When the townspeople heard what happened, they came to see for themselves. When they arrived, they found the man sitting at Jesus’ feet, completely free of the demons. Fear gripped the townspeople and they demanded Jesus leave their area, and return to Galilee.
Jesus complied, and He and His disciples started toward their boats to leave. The healed man asked Jesus if he could come with Him. Jesus’ response may surprise us, but in His response is a powerful lesson. Jesus was indeed very concerned about this man, but He was equally concerned about the condition of the hearts of the people in Decapolis. Jesus could see the big picture. He could see beyond the miracle of casting out a legion of demons, and setting one man free. His plan, however, included more than just the transformation of one life. He wanted to set them all free from the “demons” in their lives. He wanted to heal them all.
Knowing all this, Jesus said to the healed man, “No, I don’t want you to come with us. I want you to go back home, back to Decapolis, and tell everyone what God has done for you.”
You see, Jesus knew He would return to that place soon, and the best way to break down the barriers of fear, the best way to show the grace and mercy of God, and the most effective way to communicate the Gospel to these people would be through one of their own– the man He had freed from his demon possession. This man was the link, the bridge, the connection between Jesus and the people of the region. He was, in a real sense, the key to reaching the entire community of Decapolis with the Gospel.
What a powerful story! Amazingly, the story didn’t end there. In the chapter that follows, Jesus did return, and the people welcomed him. The man who had been demon-possessed did exactly what Jesus told him to do. Because of this, Jesus performed even greater miracles, and the message of God’s love, and God’s grace spread throughout the Ten Cities. But, it started with this one man. The man to whom Jesus said, “No, you can’t come with us. Go home and tell what great things God has done for you.”
This is the great commission in living color. Go home and tell. Go to the people in your sphere of influence, to your family, your friends, your co-workers and your neighbors, and tell them about the great things God has done for you.
When was the last time you and I did this? What keeps us from doing it? God’s plan is to enter their lives, their homes, and their communities. His plan is for you and I to be the bridge into their world. Just as the people in the Ten Cities were afraid and did not understand who Jesus was, many people around us, those in our circles of influence, do not understand who Jesus is, and they too are afraid. We can be the bridge for them to see and know the Jesus we follow. But first, we must go home and tell about the great things God has done for us.
Will we “go home and tell?”