A man filled with a legion of demons, living alone, and cutting himself in a graveyard is exorcised and put in his right mind by Jesus. Filled with what appears to be a mixture between gratitude and desperation, this man begs to follow Jesus.How does Jesus respond? Simple. Jesus forbids the new Christian from following him. Wait, is that really what the Scripture says?
Let's look at Mark 5:18-20
"18 And when He got into the boat, he who had
been demon-possessed begged Him that he might
be with Him. 19 However, Jesus did not permit
him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends,
and tell them what great things the Lord has
done for you, and how He has had compassion
on you.” 20 And he departed and began to
proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for
him; and all marveled.*
Well, that's awkward. Jesus does forbid the new Christian from following Him. What happened to the Jesus who says, "Pick up your cross and follow me"?
Why wouldn't he let the man follow him?
Jesus didn't permit the former demoniac to follow him because He wanted a whole community to follow Him instead of just one person. Jesus believed this man could be a distributor as well as a receiver of grace and hope.
One of the best times to preach is immediately after becoming a Christian. However, we often say things like:
"You need to go to Bible school before you can share the Gospel!"
"If I only I understood theology like that person, then I'd preach."
"I don't know what to say. How can I witness?"
I assumed this man didn't know the Old Testament, the teachings of Jesus or techniques of ministry. However, Jesus knew this man's personal story would open up Decapolis's hearts to the Gospel, and he did. We see in Mark 7:31 Jesus goes back to Decapolis and the community that previously pleaded for Jesus to leave is now open to the Gospel.
If Jesus trusted a recently demon-possessed man to proclaim the good news, how much more is He trusting you to do the same. You're more ready to share the love of God than you may realize. It's great that you are a Christian and a follower of Jesus, but it's time to "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you."
Don't just receive grace. Distribute it. It's selfish to follow Jesus by yourself when it's clear He wants every tongue, tribe and nation to know His love. Am I saying we don't need to follow Jesus? No. We must not only follow Jesus, but follow His instructions to make disciples of all nations.
Right now, I challenge you text your friends who don't know Jesus and tell them you want to share the "great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you."