Christianity is a doing religion. We are not saved in order to become statues in a museum; rather, we are saved to become active doers of God’s will in this world (ref. James 1:22). It should be no wonder then, that our Lord so often commanded His followers to “Go!” and do something.
So far we have considered four of our Lord’s “Go!” statements, “Go be reconciled,” “Go in peace,” “Go and learn” and “Go and surrender.” In today’s lesson we will explore the application of Jesus’ command, “Go and tell.”
Following a day of intense preaching and teaching along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus wanted to take leave of the crowds (ref. Mark 4:1-35). So, He instructed his disciples to take Him to the other side of the sea, “to the country of the Gerasenes” (Mark 5:1).
“When Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him… a man with an unclean spirit” (v. 2). The man who stood before our Lord must have been a sight to behold. Possessed by many demons (v. 9), he “lived in the tombs” (v. 3a), wore no clothes (v. 15; cf. Luke 8:27), possessed super-human strength (vv. 3b-4) and was “always crying out and cutting himself with stones” (v. 5).
Compassionately, Jesus freed this pitiful man from his demonic captors (vv. 6-13). The man’s transformation was astonishing. When townsfolk came to see what had happened (v. 14), they did not find a wild man as before, rather they found peaceable a man, “sitting [at the feet of Jesus], clothed and in his right mind” (v. 15; cf. Luke 8:35).
Frightened, the people begged Jesus to leave them (vv. 16-17). So, “as He was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged Him that he might go with Him” (v. 18). However, Jesus “did not permit him” but, rather sent him on a special mission saying, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you” (v. 19).
So the man went away and starting at his home he “began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (v. 20; cf. Luke 8:39). What a story he had to tell.
When I was growing up, I was accustomed to hearing the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 proclaimed on regular basis. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Folks still preached from the KJV back then.) Also, the Mark 16:15-16 parallel was a popular sermon topic. I’m not trying the buck the system, but I find the commission of Mark 5:19 to be a compelling commission as well. I like to call it the Commission for the Rest-Of-Us. Let me explain.
Where to Go:
Just as the Great Commissions of Matthew and Mark send the disciples into the “nations” or “world,” the Gadarene was commissioned by Jesus to go somewhere… “home.” If you will, let me take these two passages literally, “world” verses “home.”
My cousin John travels the “world” preaching the gospel. He has been to such places as Romania, Hungary, India and Moldova, where he and his family now live. Additionally, his has worked via Skype and radio in Guadeloupe, Sierra Leone, Russia, and France. This guy gets around. The church needs people like John, people who are willing to leave home and go out into the “world” to preach the gospel.
On the other hand, I am a homebody. I have lived my entire life in Middle Tennessee and quite frankly, I have no desire to leave. But I too, have answered the commission to share the gospel of Jesus with others but I do all my work at “home.”
It has been my experience that, for the most part, Christians think of missionaries as people who go off to live and work in some far away land isolated from society. I suspect that 99% of the people reading this article are more like me than like my cousin John. You like where you live and you do not want to leave and that is okay… so long as you recognize the mission field is not halfway around the world, it is at “home.”
Mark 5:19 does not call for us to go across the sea, it says go across the yard, across the street, across town or the room, the table, or wherever you might find yourself. According to the Commission for the Rest-Of-Us, you my friend are a missionary in your own hometown.
Who to See:
I admire people who can strike up a conversation with total strangers. You know the type; they have never met a stranger and can easily transition a polite “hello” into a conversation about God and salvation. I do not have that gift and because it is a rare talent, I suspect you do not either. For the most part, people are uncomfortable talking to strangers. Thankfully, the commission of Mark 5:19 does not require that of us, instead, Jesus sent the Gadarene home to those he knew best, his “friends.”
It is only natural that we share the gospel with those who are closest to us. When Andrew found Jesus, his brother Peter was the first person he went to (John 1:35-42). When Matthew answered the Lord’s call, he invited his tax collecting friends to sit at table with Jesus (Luke 5:27-32). When the Samaritan woman concluded Jesus was the Christ, she brought her whole village out to meet Him (John 4:1-45). And Peter acknowledged that wives have a great influence over their unbelieving husbands (1 Peter 3:1-6).
According to famed anthropologist Robin Dundar, the average human is only capable of comfortably maintaining 100 to 230 stable relationships at any one time, with the average commonly cited as 150 (which is referred to as Dunbar’s Number). If you were to just focus on the unbelievers in your circle of “friends,” you would have enough missionary work to last you for a long time. And just think if you expanded that number out a little further to capture you acquaintances. Now the number of people you can comfortably share the gospel with has grown exponentially, and you did not even have to leave home, nor talk to a stranger.
Mark 5:19 does not call for us to go door knocking, or street preaching, or approaching strangers. All those are good in their own right, but only a few people have the personality to be successful in these endeavors. But, according to the Commission for the Rest-Of-Us, our circle of friends, family and acquaintance compose our target audience, and we can share the gospel with them and there we can be more successful.
What to Say:
It is a common practice in advertising to rely heavily on testimonials. Sure, companies can give you all the technical information for why you should buy their product. However, that hardly holds any weight compared to a trusted friend saying this product is worth having because it improved their life. What is true in advertising is also true with the gospel.
It was my experience growing up that the preferred method of evangelism was a technical, theological presentation of the gospel. Maybe this was influenced by the “teaching” part of the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Or perhaps, it was that we were taught, as a priority, a confrontational form of evangelism that focused on correcting religious error in other people.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are perfectly legitimate and necessary aspects of spreading the gospel. However, only a handful of Christians in any given congregation possess the skills to evangelize this way and furthermore; few people are persuaded by straightforward, technical presentations of information.
On the other hand, the Gadarene was told to go, “tell how much the Lord has done for [him], and how He has had mercy on [him]” (Mark 5:19). His sharing of Jesus’ mercy and love was not in technical, but personal. He could say, “Here is the man I used to be, here is who I am now and here is how Jesus changed me.” That was a powerful message. We all have a story of how Jesus has transformed our lives; we need to tell it to others; “Here is the man/woman I used to be, here is who I am now, here is how Jesus changed me and here is how Jesus will do the same for you.” One note: If you do not think you have a story, then you really need to do a serious gut check about your relationship with Jesus.
Mark 5:19 does not call for us to be theologians in our presentation of the gospel. Rather, the Commission for the Rest-Of-Us, says simply tell others how the Lord has shown you mercy. Couched in a personal story, the gospel message is easier to tell and becomes more appealing since you are a living testimony of its power.
If you have ever been reluctant to share the gospel of Jesus because you were too scared or you just did not know how, I hope you will embrace the Commission for the Rest-Of-Us. Simply, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”
As always, I’m more than happy to help you in your quest to know more about Christ. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll be happy to come alongside you on your spiritual journey.