Evangelism Part 6 – Three Unexpected Evangelists #2 The Demoniac of Mark 5
Continuing with our discussion on evangelism, I am looking at three unexpected evangelists in the Gospels. Last month we looked at the women at the well in John 4. This month we will look at a man whom none would ever think would become a bearer of the good news of Jesus. But Jesus has a way of picking the least likely people to be the most impactful. We see this throughout the gospel and the book of Acts. Paul, Peter, the woman at the well, the blind man of John 9, and so many others. This list also includes the man possessed by a demon in Mark 5.
To set the scene, Jesus has asked the disciples to get into a boat and travel to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. Along the way, they encounter a demonic storm. Why do I call it a demonic storm? Because Mark uses the word ἐπιτιμάω (epitimaō), which is translated as a rebuke. This word is the same word Mark used to describe the exorcism Jesus performed in chapter 1. Jesus commanded the wind and the rain to stop with the same authority he cast out demons.
The area they were traveling to was also an interesting choice. On the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is the region of the Gerasenes. There were Gentile cities that had many businesses that catered to the Romans living in the region. Romans loved their pork, and they bought their pigs from herders in that region. The whole area was considered unclean by that the Jewish people. The people were unclean; their businesses were unclean, even being in their land could make on unclean. Yet, this is precisely where Jesus went.
Mark chapter 5 brings us to the shore of the Gerasenes, where the crew encounters a demonized man—finding that the man is full of demons (Legion meaning between 3-6,000). Jesus uses the same kind of language that he used for the demonized man in chapter 1 and that he used for the storm and cast the demons into a herd of swine who commit suicide. Interestingly, when the people of the city nearby hear about this, they all come out to see Jesus and ask that he leave. Why would they do this? One of the reasons may be that, in their polytheistic world, Jesus was a god who had come down and destroyed their primary source of income. If that was the case, he was an angry god, and who knows what more damage he could do. Jesus agreed to leave.
You may be asking, “what does all this have to do with evangelism?” Well, I’m glad you asked because this brings me to the text I have in mind:
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demonized begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. Mark 14:18-20
The man had an extortionary encounter with Jesus. He had a dramatic deliverance from evil. Because of this, he knew that Jesus was a man who needed to be followed. But Jesus had a different mission for him. This man was to sow the seed for future evangelism in the Decapolis (10 Greek / Gentile cities). In Acts 8, great persecution starts in Jerusalem, and all the believers, except for the apostles, fled and scattered. You have to imagine that many of them went to the Decapolis and found a waiting group of people. These people would have heard the man’s testimony and eagerly expected more from the man called Jesus.
So, what can we take from this story? First, through Jesus, anyone can be saved, no matter how evil the things they’ve done. This man was genuinely engulfed in tremendous evil. Who knows what he did to get him associated with 3-6,000 demons? But Jesus delivered him, and he became a follower. However, second, Jesus had another plan in mind for him. Instead of continuing into Judea with the ministry, Jesus told the man to go back home and tell his family. Sometimes God calls us to a ministry we were not expecting. We need to have our hearts and ears open for what God is calling us to. Third, the text also states that he also went to the other ten towns in the region. How would the gospel writer know this? Because my guess is, the other evangelists from Acts 8 reported to Peter, Mark’s source for his gospel, the delivered man’s missionary activities.
As Christ-followers, our encounters with Jesus must compel us to talk about him and offer him to a sick and dying world. God may not call us to the ministry we are expecting, and we may or may not see the results. But the key here, and what the delivered man teaches us, is that if we act in obedience, leaving the results to God, we are genuinely living out His mission.