Luke 8:38-39 (NIV) The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
The most natural thing in the world would be for someone who had received such a great deliverance form Jesus to want to follow Him, to become His disciple. And some see Jesus as being a bit cruel for not allowing this man to do that.
But there were two issues that arose here. First, this man was a gentile, which would introduce some serious complications for Jesus’ ministry if he was brought into Jesus’ group of followers. It would actually close doors into the hearts of the Jewish people that were Jesus’ primary target group. Some may be dismayed or critical of that being the case, but it was the state of the hearts of the Jewish people, and Jesus was always extremely practical in how He worked to spread the good news among them.
The same kind of practicality is seen in Paul when he had Timothy circumcised before allowing him to accompany him in his missionary journeys (Acts 16:3). Paul, who had just fought strenuously in the Jerusalem Council to allow gentile believers to not undergo circumcision (Acts 15), insisted that Timothy be circumcised because he had a Jewish mother, and was therefore considered Jewish by birth, not a gentile. And, whether he liked it or not, for Timothy to be an uncircumcised Jew would get in the way of Paul’s whole group reaching the Jewish people with the gospel. The people of the kingdom must follow Jesus’ lead, and be eminently practical in how they reach out.
The second issue was that this man now had a story to tell, and telling that story would go far in planting seeds that would open the hearts of the gentiles in the area of the Gerasenes and the whole Decapolis to the gospel when it began to spread among the gentile population in just a few short years.
This man was given no teaching in evangelism. His only tool was to be his own story, his testimony of “all that God has done for you.” No theological argument can be more powerful than the personal testimony of a transformed life, and this man’s life had been transformed indeed, from the ground floor all the way to the top.
It is interesting that this man apparently made a connection that Jesus’ own disciples had not yet made, a connection that Luke takes great pains to emphasize. Jesus’ commission to the man was to “tell all that God has done for you.” The man’s actions in obedience to that commission was to tell “how much Jesus had done for him.” Somehow this man sensed that, at the very least, God was somehow present in Jesus in a way that identified Him with God.
Father, these two lessons, the need for practicality in how we spread the gospel, and the centrality of our personal testimony in how we share with others, are vital for all of us to remember. Lord, You have completely transformed my own life, and I never tire of sharing that story. Help me to be even more eager to share it freely among everyone I meet, so that the Holy Spirit can use it to prepare the hearts of the people who hear it to receive salvation. Amen.