As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18-19)
He was clothed and in his right mind, and that had not been true of him for quite some time.
The one who had been carefully avoided was now drawing spectators. The pig farmers had made their way back to town from the remote area where they tended the herd, spreading the story of Jesus and the town crazy. The man was sane again.
“No way . . . I’ve got to see this.” Thus gathered a crowd of gossip mongers; the insatiably curious came out to see the one they had feared, the one they had told stories about, the one they had written off as hopelessly self-destructive.
They were almost right. He was being destroyed, but it wasn’t entirely his own doing. Something had long ago taken up residence in this man’s soul and then it started trashing the place. Inwardly tormented, the town crazy became increasingly alienated from everyone and everything around him.
He left his home, much to the relief of his wife and children who never knew when his rage would erupt and scorch them like lava. He left the town, living among the tombs, the death caves somehow amplifying his cries.
And then Jesus came to the region of the Gerasenes and changed all of that. Whatever had ravaged and possessed this tomb-dweller was now gone and he was whole, clothed and in his right mind. A simple tunic covered the lacerated flesh of his chest and arms where he had punished himself with sharp stones. His voice, raspy from the screaming, made normal conversation as if seated with a friend over wine.
He had been given back to himself. Jesus had done this, and this man would follow Jesus anywhere. He was ready to go. In fact, he begged to go. But Jesus wouldn’t let him. “Go home to your family.”
Sometimes following Jesus is hardest in the places that are closest.
When we discover that God is on a mission it seems only right that following this God will take someplace – and usually that means someplace else. Go to a people you don’t know, find a new job, explore a new place. God’s call requires this of us and biblical example backs it up. Again, remember Jonah’s story or Paul’s or Peter’s.
But just as often God invites us into his mission, not by sending us to a people we do not know, but by sending us back to people who know us – sometimes far too well. Following Jesus can be especially challenging at home. Our families won’t allow us to get away with “playing Christian.”
Those closest to us get the anger we vent, they tolerate neglect when we’re distracted and busy, they know our history. The hardest thing Jesus can ask of us is “Go home to your family.”
Regardless of how you define your work, Jesus asks every one of us to “go home” and live our faith with people who will always love us and at times simply tolerate us. What will it take today for you to show those closest to you what the Lord has done for you?
Our desire, Lord Jesus, is to follow you in every aspect of our lives, including our homes. Forgive our failures with those we love most deeply. Help us to live with them in such a way that your work in our lives is evident and real. Amen.