By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Sometimes following Jesus means not following Jesus. This was the case in Mark 5, when Jesus healed a man with a demon in remarkable fashion. The man then implored Jesus that he might go with Him, but Jesus urged him to stay and tell his family and friends how much He had done for him (Mark 5:19). For this man (and for many of us), following Christ meant exemplifying Him and talking of Him in the circle of influence he already had. As we too consider our own circles of influence, here are some encouraging thoughts.
The unrestrainable melts before the presence and power of Jesus. This man was basically out of control. The people had often tried to subdue him and couldn’t (Mark 5:3-4). He had tried to find relief himself but couldn’t (v. 5). Nothing could bring him under control and relieve his condition. But when Jesus stepped out of the boat on local soil, this man ran and fell down before Him. There is no person, no matter how hardened or spiritually deceived or resistant to the gospel, who will not bend and bow before the King of the world when in His presence. Every corner of the universe belongs to Jesus, and every knee, no matter how scraped up from pottery pieces, will be brought into submission to His authority. Everyone melts before Him.
Jesus works from the inside out, not the outside in. Jesus doesn’t tame the flesh; He gives a new heart. Everyone had tried to subdue this man from the outside — chains, shackles, and therapy. Nothing worked. Nothing worked because it was all from the outside — attempts to modify the flesh — like changing the outfit on a corpse. Jesus, on the other hand, worked from the inside. “Come out of the man,” He said to the demon (Mark 5:8). No chains or shackles can ever bring new life within. And Jesus never adds to our chains; instead, He breaks them and sets us free.
Jesus is most popular among those who are least popular among us. This was a Gentile man. In fact, he was an outcast among the Gentiles. He was uber-unclean — the spirit in him, death around him, and the pigs nearby. And when the demons were cast out, and he was changed by Jesus and believed, then he wanted to be with Jesus. In fact, this is true of anyone who’s been changed by Christ. They want more of Him. They want to be with Him. They love Him. And much of the time it’s those who are the furthest outcasts whom He brings closest. In doing this, He compels those in the highways and hedges to come in (Luke 14:23).
Jesus often presses us on that which we’re unwilling to do. When others encountered Jesus they often wanted to stay behind, and instead He called them to follow Him (Matthew 8:21-22). This man implored Jesus that he might follow Him, and instead Jesus told him to stay behind. In this we see that Jesus is always stretching us, taking us beyond ourselves and our own strengths and comfort levels to launch out with Him — whether it’s coming into the boat or staying on the shore. For some, sharing Christ right where they are is the most foreign thing they could do, and that’s precisely what Jesus calls them to. So let’s get about telling how much the Lord has done for us, and how He has had mercy on us — right here, right now.