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On Your Mark

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As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20, NIV)

The citizens of Gerasa were begging Jesus to leave (v. 17), but the delivered man was begging to go with Jesus. So, who’s in their right mind now? You are only in your right mind when you want to be with Jesus!

Jesus, however, had other plans for the man. He was to go home and tell his family how much the Lord had done for him.

We don’t know if the man had a wife and children, or if “family” refers to extended relatives. What we do know is that he had a family at home while he had been living out of control among the tombs.

Jesus called other disciples to leave their homes, but not this one. Why? It’s reasonable to assume his separation from family was long and difficult. What joy to be restored to them after such a horrendous absence!

Perhaps you are one whom Jesus has delivered, or you belong to a family that welcomed home a member whom Jesus set free from alcohol, drugs or bondage of any kind. Jesus came to set the captive free.

The man is not only called to go home, but also to tell “how much the Lord has done for [him] and … had mercy on [him].” Early on, Jesus called himself Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). Now, for the first time, Jesus calls himself “Lord” without any modifier.

The word Lord demonstrates authority, but when Jesus uses the term of himself for the first time He links it with mercy. “The Lord … has had mercy.” We learn from this that Jesus uses His power not to impress, but to relieve suffering. How wonderful to have the Lord who not only is moved by our infirmities, but also has power to help us!

The account of this miracle ends with the man going well beyond his own family to tell his testimony. The Decapolis consisted of 10 Gentile cities, nine of which were east of the Jordan. It’s the first time the good news of Jesus reaches non-Jewish audiences. It’s a tip-off of what’s to come when the disciples go into all the world to proclaim the gospel.

Notice that the man is never named. But compare Mark’s account with that of Matthew (8:28-34). You’ll see two key differences.

The first is inconsequential — two different names, Gerasa or Gadara — similar to a city in Poland like Gdansk which also bore the name Danzig. Same place, just different names.

The second difference — Matthew notes there were two demoniacs, while Mark mentions only one. What’s going on?

If you’ve ever used a zoom lens, you know. Matthew zooms out to focus on two, but Mark zooms in on the one. Why? Matthew leaves out the account of the man going into the Decapolis. Mark tells us the story of the one man because of what happened after he was delivered. Only the one man begged to go with Jesus. And, only the one man went out and talked about Jesus everywhere.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, You have done so much for me. May I be like the man who not only received Your mercy, but who also went out and told others all You had done for him!

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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