February 6, 2022
“As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Jesus to stay with Him. But He would not let him go...”
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“As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging Jesus to stay with Him. But He would not let him go; instead, He told him, ‘Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord had done for you and how He has had mercy on you.’” Mark 5:18-20
Having left the religious Jewish town of Capernaum, Jesus departed by boat to the “other side” of the Galilee. Scripture says He did this because the crowds in Capernaum were growing too large. The region of the Gerasenes (aka Gaderenes) was a Gentile region.
It is essential to know that religious Jews did not mix with Gentile communities. I say this to point out a practical reason for Jesus’ journey to the “other side.” If you want to be left alone by a large crowd of religious Jews, the region of Gerasene was the right destination!
Therefore, it cannot be assumed that everyone Jesus interfaced in the region of the Gerasenes was Jewish. If there were Jews in the Gerasene area, there would not have been many, and they were by no means religious. The plain fact that the community was farming pigs is another strong argument for the absence of Jews.
While the Jews were prejudiced against mingling with Gentiles, we know that Satan isn’t! Satan wants to control ALL nations & people groups. When Jesus and His disciples sailed into town, demons were tormenting the Gentiles, just as they had been tormenting the Jews in Capernaum. This issue posed a perfect opportunity for Messiah to communicate to His disciples: I am (ultimately) sent to redeem ALL NATIONS.
“Prejudice” is essentially the “demonization” of a people group. To undo prejudice, one must “humanize” the object of discrimination. For His disciples, Jesus was “humanizing” this Gentile, known in Scripture as a “demoniac.” Once the demons had left, a regular friendly, likable guy remained. Jesus was breaking down the prejudice of His disciples, preparing them for the “Great Commission.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
As Jesus and His disciples were leaving, the man pleaded with Jesus to let him go with them. The Shepherd of Israel’s directive for this Gentile was for him to “Go back home to YOUR OWN PEOPLE.” Then, the man evangelized the Decapolis, 10 Greek-influenced Gentile communities. It’s all further evidence that the man was a Gentile. Note the difference to Jesus’ directives in Capernaum, where He instructed the ones He healed not to tell anyone but to go to the priest and offer the gifts Moses had prescribed. This is not the case with His words to the former “demoniac” because Jesus did not have to send the message to the Gentiles that He was not operating outside of Mosaic Law.
In a sense, the “former demoniac” acted as a type of “John the Baptist” for the Apostles. He went ahead of the likes of Paul, preparing the soil of the Gentile mission field by testifying about all that God had done for him through Jesus.