The First Missionary

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. 32 Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

34 When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Lk 8:26–39). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

A friend and I were talking about this passage the other day. The story is captured in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Most people focus on Jesus casting out the demon legion into the pigs. But look at the rest of the story. The man wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus tells him no. The man must, instead, go to his home. He becomes the first missionary from Christ to Gentiles. Think about that for a minute.

The people are more afraid after the demons have been cast out of the man. They had never seen anyone do that, let alone a Jewish man helping a Gentile in Gerasenes. Jesus’s response is to send the man home to tell the people “how much God has done for” him. They will be able to see him. They will be able to see him changed. They will be able to see how much God has done for him. They will hear that there is one who can cast out even a legion of demons and make all things new for the Jew and for the Gentile.

What an interesting relationship Christ has with us. His first missionary to the Gentiles is a man formerly possessed by a legion of demons. Later, the Apostle to the Gentiles will be Paul, a man who in a former life had persecuted the church.

Christianity takes all kinds and all kinds are welcome to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. Even you and even me. A man possessed by demons went home to scared countrymen and shared the Gospel with them. He wanted to follow Jesus and Jesus said no. But in going home he was following Jesus. He just didn’t realize it. Sometimes we don’t realize it either.