He was hardly the welcoming party any mayor would want a famous visitor to encounter first. In fact, he was the scourge of the entire town. But, of course, in typical Jesus-fashion, he was the first one the Son of God met when He came to the country of the Gerasenes. Scripture doesn’t record his name, but it does give a few grisly details about his life (Mark 5:1-19; Luke 8:26-39). First, this man went around naked. No matter how hard his “handlers” tried, they just couldn’t keep a set of clothes on the guy. He also must have had a few things in common with the Incredible Hulk, because when they tried to shackle him and contain his madness, he would just break the chains. Finally, the townspeople resorted to keeping this dangerous specimen away from the rest of the population and allowing him to live out of town, roaming the mountains and tombs. What else could they do?
As Jesus climbed out of the boat one fateful day, this apparent lunatic rushed toward Him. Immediately, Jesus perceived that more was going on inside this disturbed fellow than met the eye: he wasn’t crazy; he was completely overrun with demons. Though a legion of demons possessed the man, they knew that they were no match for the Son of God. They implored Him not send them out of the country, begging instead that He relocate them to a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus complied, and the demons immediately vacated the poor naked man and entered the swine. The herd, feeding on a mountain, went crazy and launched themselves off the cliff and to their deaths—no doubt devastating at least one person’s livelihood in the process.
When news reached the village, the people became outraged—and very afraid. Who finally tamed the wild beast of a man and destroyed an entire herd of pigs? Without stopping to listen to His or the former demoniac’s story, they demanded that Jesus and His cohorts leave town. Before shoving off, the demoniac-turned-disciple asked Jesus to take him with Him, only to receive a surprising answer from his new Master.
“No. Stay here. Tell your story and glorify your heavenly Father.”
No doubt disappointed and afraid, the now clear-headed man turned around and walked away.
A Logical Request and a Difficult Response
Of course, we don’t know the man’s heart, but it seems that he was eager to learn from Jesus. Even before the people could accost Christ about the pigs, the man had found clothing and was seated at the feet of the Messiah, soaking in His teaching. It makes perfect sense that he would be allowed to follow like one of the many disciples.
But Jesus says no.
Yes, this guy had baggage. No one would ever be able to forget the image of him roaming the countryside without clothing, cutting himself, and totally out of control. No mother would let her child talk to this man. No woman would want a relationship with him. And no man would want to risk befriending him. What if he went nuts again? His desire to leave town makes perfect sense.
But Jesus says no.
Jesus’ Call to Be Faithful
I’m not about to say that Jesus’ response to this man is one-size-fits-all. Over the course of his three-year ministry, He allowed many people to follow Him from town to town and sit under His teaching. Surely some of them had difficult and even shameful stories as well. But here we learn that sometimes Jesus tells us to stay.
Sometimes He calls us to be faithful right where we are.
Be Faithful with Your Story
The Bible tells us of some pretty dramatic conversion stories, but this man from Gerasene may just take the cake. Maybe yours could rival it. Mine certainly cannot. I accepted Christ at a young age, was baptized a couple years later, and have basically walked with Christ—albeit very imperfectly—ever since. I could fill in a few more details for you, but there it is. A snoozer, I know. But it’s my story, and God wants me to faithfully steward it. Ultimately, though, it’s not my story; it’s His story.
It’s the story of Christ rescuing a rebel heart from eternity in hell.
It’s the story of the resurrected Savior granting new life to a dead, lifeless soul.
It’s the story of Christ canceling out a hostile list of debts by nailing them to His own cross and paying for them with His own blood.
The man in Mark 5 could not have had a more different story from my own. His is rife with drama, heartbreak, and shame. It might be one thing for him to tell it to a crowd of strangers, but it would be quite another for him to tell it to the very people who tried in vain to chain him and then ran in fear when he broke through the manacles. Yet, Jesus calls this man to faithfully wield his story of God’s grace to bring glory to the Father.
Whether your story of redemption is drama-filled and documentary-ready, or whether it’s plain-Jane vanilla, like mine, Jesus wants you to be faithful with it. Tell it, and let the glory of the Gospel shine.
Be Faithful with Your Platform
We hear the term “platform” bandied about quite frequently these days. Some people have a social media platform, with thousands of followers. Others speak to the masses at conferences. Some have podcasts downloaded by thousands each week.
And then there’s the rest of us.
If you’re like me, you’ve wondered what it would be like to have such a wide-reaching platform. If we’re honest, we all long for our fifteen minutes of fame. (Why else is TikTok a thing?)
I don’t know that the former demoniac was seeking a bigger, better platform when he asked Jesus to let him tag along with him. Probably not. I think he just wanted a different one. And that’s a tale as old as time, isn’t it? It was the reason for the fighting about spiritual gifts in Corinth, and it’s sometimes the reason that people leave churches.
I’m not saying that it’s never right to leave one church and go to another. However, to leave just to gain a different (or bigger) platform, is to fall prey to a trap of our deceitful hearts.
The platform that Christ had providentially given to this man was to tell his story to a bunch of people who at the moment hated him. Some days my platform doesn’t seem a whole lot better. It involves a lot of dirty diapers and even more dirty dishes. But God is frankly uninterested in the size or beauty of my ministry. He’s far more interested in my being faithful to minister where I am using the platform He has given.
Be Faithful to the People God’s Given You
People are the worst. Am I right? Without people, there’d be no wars, no hunger, no conflict. It would be great! While, of course I’m (mostly) joking, sometimes I’m tempted to think that the people God has given me are the worst. Often, we think this in regard to our church, as we look longingly at the church down the street where everyone seems to be so happy all the time. However, we can also think it of our families, assuming that another husband would be quicker to listen; other children would be quicker to obey; other families have fewer problems.
While it may be possible that God would call you from a toxic, unbiblical church situation to another, more biblical one; and it’s possible that in certain cases, God may call you out of a toxic marriage1; it most cases, God calls us to faithfulness. Think of Moses and his faithful leadership of a nation of “stiff-necked rebels.” Forty years with them, and they never really got it.
In the case of our friend the former demoniac, the people Jesus left him to witness to did not seem too friendly. They knew too much about him and probably blamed him for the death of their pigs (and subsequent blow to their economy). He was hardly in an ideal situation. Yet, Jesus called him to be faithful.
Maybe you’re sick of the people to whom God has called you to minister. Maybe they’re ungrateful, gossip about you, and complain about nearly everything you do. While I don’t know your specific situation, my guess is that God wants you to be faithful to those people. Even if it’s hard.
Sometimes Jesus calls us to stay and be faithful where we are. He calls us to be faithful with our stories, faithful with our platforms, and faithful to our people. Thankfully, though, He doesn’t call us to be faithful by ourselves.
He who calls you is faithful; he will do it. (1Th 5:24 CSB)
1While I don’t have the space in this article to discuss the ins and outs of biblical grounds for divorce, I do believe that there are some, namely adultery and abandonment. And, of course, if you’re caught in an abusive situation, please seek help and don’t believe that lie that God is trapping you there!