After averting the sailing danger of vv.22-25, Jesus and the disciples sail over to the region of the Gerasenes…opposite Galilee. Jesus is met by a man who was possessed by demons (v.27). The man cries out for Jesus to leave him alone (v.28) but He persists in talking to the man. Rather than be sent to the abyss ¹ they plead to be sent into a herd of pigs nearby, and Jesus gave them permission. The pigs consequently run off a cliff and drown which alerts the local herdsmen, who run off to get anyone they can to come and see the reason it all happened: they came to Jesus.
Rather than finding an animal-whispering magician, they find Jesus and the formerly possessed man. The people are afraid after hearing of the healing and outcasting of demons that had just taken place and they ask Jesus to leave them alone, for they were seized with great fear. The healed man wants to travel with Jesus and the disciples but he is told this:
“Return to your home, and declare what God has done for you.”
(Luke 8.39, NET)
Rather than take along a star witness, so to speak, Jesus tells the healed man to go back to where he’s from and declare what God has done for him. Whilst no-doubt disappointed to not be able to travel with and learn from his Saviour, the healed man is obedient and went away, proclaiming throughout the whole town what Jesus had done for him. This is the first recorded witness for and of Jesus in a Gentile (non-Jewish) area, and it came about through His healing and the healed man’s obedience.
Thinking of the theme of this series, liar, lunatic, or Lord, the most likely objection here would be lunacy, wouldn’t it? Here’s a guy talking to a demon-possessed man, commanding demons to go here and there, who won’t then let the healed man come along with him as He heads off to heal more. Surely, a healed witness would add to the evidence for Jesus’ ability to heal, right? In the same way that ‘faith-healers’ bring a ‘formerly healed person’ on stage with them, surely Jesus could have taken this guy along? Really though, there was no need to take along stage props, extra evidence, or star witnesses. The Words and the works of Jesus speak for themselves.
For you and for me, this is a great example and instruction of how we are to witness and share Jesus with others. Simply, as the Lord said, declare what God has done for you. There’s no need to embellish or add extra details, simply show and tell who you were before and who you are now, show and tell what God has done for you.
¹ – a commonly held Jewish belief was that the abyss was a place where evil and fallen spirits were held until judgement