As he [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:18-20)
Gratitude. I’m not sure what this word means to you, but I define it as “that feeling of being so thankful and humbled by a word of encouragement or an act of kindness that I cannot help but long to show my appreciation to the one who sowed such love into my heart and my life and to tell others as well.” Gratitude is a thankfulness that produces action; gratitude has to tell others.
I pray you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying such a feeling. Actually, if you have experienced the saving grace of Jesus, you surely have. After all, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Did you catch that? God–the perfect, holy God–loved me (and you!) so much that even when we were in sin, even when we were actively running away from Him, He sent Jesus to die for us. God freed us from the penalty of sin and death before we were even aware or even wanting to be free.
Now that produces gratitude–that produces the feeling of being so thankful and humbled at what God chose to do for you and for all those who choose to believe that your heart begins to overflow with the desire not only to follow Him and to please Him all the days of your life but also to tell others the good news as well. Your heart overflows with such thankfulness that it is impossible to hold it in without fear of exploding. After all, when you experience gratitude, you cannot help but want to share its joy.
And this is where the man healed of the demons comes in to the picture. If you are not familiar with this story, Jesus came across a man who was so overtaken by demons “no one had the strength to subdue him” (Mark 5:4). This man was not just possessed by one demon; he was possessed by many–by a Legion (Mark 5:9). Yet Jesus in His authority cast out those demons and healed the man.
Imagine witnessing such a miracle. Imagine receiving such a miracle! Now I’m sure that produced gratitude–deep gratitude. In fact, the man Jesus healed was so full of gratitude for freeing him he begged Jesus for permission to follow Him. He didn’t just ask; he begged. His gratitude indeed produced action.
Yet what struck me about today’s reading is Jesus’ response to the man. Jesus, the One who knows the beginning and the end, the One who was fully God and fully man, did not permit His newest convert to follow. Jesus did not call for the man to follow like the other disciples; He did not desire for the man to physically follow Him out of gratitude. Rather, He wanted the man to go and to tell out of gratitude. Yes, Jesus told the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).
Jesus could have easily permitted this man to follow Him as He traveled from place to place telling others the good news, but He didn’t. Why? I mean surely He could have used this man’s gratitude to demonstrate His power over sin and death. Surely God would have been glorified as this man testified to all the Lord had done for him.
Yet as God always demonstrates, His ways and thoughts are higher and greater than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). So although at first one might wonder why Jesus told the man he could not follow, I believe Jesus provided the reason in His command and in the subsequent results. For prior to the man’s request, Mark wrote, “And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region” (Mark 5:17). So instead of the miracle healing drawing people to Him, it made them afraid to the point that they begged Jesus to leave. While the healed man was begging to follow; the people of the region were begging Jesus to leave.
So as Jesus was leaving, He could have allowed the man to follow. I mean, it would have made sense for Him to allow the man to leave his home–a region rejecting Jesus–to enjoy the pleasure of His company. I’m sure I would have begged as well. Why would I want to remain in a region rejecting the very One who healed me?! Yet I believe Jesus knew doing so would also remove the opportunity to still share Himself with those in the region. Think about it. The people of the region knew this man before the man met Jesus; this means they would be fully aware of the before and the after. They would have the side-by-side comparison. If the man had gone with Jesus, the people in other regions would have only seen the after. Sure, this would still have been good news, but I believe God was most glorified by Jesus telling the man to go and to tell in his home region, for by doing so, Jesus was in effect continuing to make disciples in a region that had rejected him. Just look at the last verse: “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:20).
What happened when the man full of gratitude shared the good news? “Everyone marveled.” The region may have turned Jesus away, but it “marveled” at the testimony of one of its own. This means God used the gratitude–the extreme thankfulness–of one man to reach a region He was being sent away from. God used the testimony of one man–one grateful man–to reach out to many more.
So how can I apply this to my life? How can you apply it to yours? Well, I believe one lesson to take away from this is what to do with our gratitude: we are to act on it. We are to be doers of the Word He has given us, not hearers only (James 1:22). Are you grateful for what God has done for you? Then go and tell. Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Tell your family. Go. Tell.
Yes, I believe there is a time and a place for returning to the One who saved you–a time and a place for resting at our Savior’s feet and humbly thanking Him for all He has done–but I also believe He wants us to then rise up in our gratitude and “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
But the key in our going and our telling is in the first two words of the above verse: go home. You don’t need to go far to share your gratitude. Start at home. Start at work. Start at the store. Start sharing your gratitude for the great things He has done, right where you are.
And as you do. As we all do. As we go and share with others the good things He has done, they will marvel. They will see the great things the Lord has done “and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).