Why would Jesus turn someone away? Someone who begs to follow him?
In Mark 5, Jesus casted out the demon named Legion from a man who lived in Gerasenes, a Gentile region of northern Palestine. When he was restored to his right mind, he sat with Jesus. His neighbors were in an uproar and begged Jesus to leave. As Jesus entered his boat, the man begged to be with Jesus, to be a disciple. Jesus refused.
But his refusal had a purpose. This man was given a very special mission. Jesus said to him,
Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you (Mark 5:19).
This is quite similar to the mission that the apostles are given in the next chapter of Mark. I find it both ironic and hopeful that this Gentile, recently-possessed man is given the mission of proclamation prior to the carefully selected twelve. I also find it highly instructive that he would be given this task to go to his friends and neighbors, not some distant land or foreign culture. Also as one who has recently experienced mercy of Jesus, he is a passionate advocate for Jesus. New converts are often the most passionate and assertive regarding their faith in Christ.
As a Lutheran pastor, I know that some people are specifically called to be pastors and teachers of Jesus’ message. I am thankful for those who answer that specific call. Yet, as this story bears witness, we can all bear witness to what Jesus has done for us, how we have experienced the Lord’s mercy and joy. God may send us to a new location, but the more probable is that he will send us to our friends and neighbors to give witness.
The Gospel of Mark never mentions this man’s name nor reports on his mission, except that all are amazed at the man’s testimony. Let us together rejoice in God’s mercy and amazing grace towards us.
Lord Jesus, help me to be attentive to your voice and to be willing to use my voice to speak of your mercy.