They were afraid

Mark 5:1-20: In reading this passage it is surprising that there were people that were actually fearful of Jesus. It’s not often that as Christians we see Jesus as someone to be feared but this is how the people of the Decapolis saw Jesus. Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee with a purpose in mind. This was unreached territory and the people living there needed to discover the message of the Kingdom of God too.

This region had been settled by Greeks from as far back as the era of Alexander the Great as he spread the Greek Empire eastward. It’s for this reason that we find a herd of 2000 pigs on the eastern seashore of the Sea of Galilee. Commentators tell us that the Greek culture was flourishing here and influenced the Jewish communities on the other side of the of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River.

What we must think about is why they were fearful of Jesus? Perhaps one of the reasons is that unlike their Jewish neighbours they weren’t awaiting the Messiah nor did they have the historical background of the prophets and their ministries. Jesus demonstrated that he was very different from the Greek philosophers when he freed this man from demoniac control, leaving him clothed and sitting there in his right mind. Jesus possessed a power and authority that they were unaccustomed to and that can be a frightening thing. The people of the Decapolis were unprepared for Jesus ministry.

For the demoniac this must have been a wonderful experience. He was finally free from that terrible thing that had driven him away from his family and village into lonely places. He had even been forced to endure the barbarisms of exorcism that had nothing to do with a real freedom ministry like that of Jesus. With only a few short words between Jesus and the spirits indwelling him he had gone from being tormented to being completely calm and in his right mind! Freedom was no doubt a marvellous feeling for him.

Jesus remained true to the guiding principles of ministry that he would soon give to his followers (Mark 6:6-13). He would tell them “and if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” In other words, leave the home or town, don’t waste your time, go to those who will receive you. But he did leave the man behind as a testimony to what he could do in the life of one who was ready. At this point the Decapolis wasn’t ready for Jesus but in only a few weeks that would change and Jesus would be back teaching on eastern hillsides of the Sea of Galilee to Jews and Greeks alike, healing their sick and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Mark 7:31-8:10)

We can discover an important principle about bringing the Kingdom of God to the unreached. It is possible that the person and ministry of Jesus can cause fear in the hearts of the unreached. It’s a powerful, transformational ministry. It can take time and a personal testimony to what Jesus can do before people are ready for it to happen in their own life. It’s after the people saw this man’s transformed life and heard his testimony of what Jesus had done for him that “everyone marvelled” (Mark 5:20). That’s a real positive step forward from “they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region” (Mark 5: 17) A testimony of what Jesus has done is an important part of telling people what he can and will do.

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