INTO DECAPOLIS and making an impact

The other day I watched a video from the fourth volume of  “That the World May Know” and one of the segments was – stand fast before the gates of hell at Decapolis.  That story so impressed me and proclaimed how we as followers of the Messiah are to not just stand for truth but we are to go and tell truth.  Jesus the great teacher does a show and tell on confronting evil.  Here it is right from Mark chapter five.

East of the Sea of Galilee is a region known as the Decapolis: meaning a district of 10 cities founded by the Greeks.  To the Jew, this region was one where gentiles worshiped pagan gods.  It was off limits to any respectful Hebrew.  Jesus brings his disciples directly to this region on a missionary journey.

Mar 5:1  They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

Mar 5:2  When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

Mar 5:3  and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;

Mar 5:4  because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

Mar 5:5  Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.

Mar 5:6  Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;

Mar 5:7  and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”

Mar 5:8  For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!

Mar 5:9  And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

Mar 5:10  And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

Mar 5:11  Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.

Note:  The pigs represent the sacred animal of the fertility cult.

Mar 5:12  The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.”

Mar 5:13  Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

Note:  In Mark 5: 10 – 13 the pigs drown in the lake and the lake is also a symbol.  In Luke’s writings he calls the lake “the abyss.”

Mar 5:14  Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

Mar 5:15  They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened.

Mar 5:16  Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.

Mar 5:17  And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

So this Scripture tells of Jesus who goes across the Sea of Galilee (the abyss) with his disciples in tow and in a very deliberate, conscious planed way; he went out to find the demon possessed man of the region.  Immediately the unclean spirits/man comes running to meet Jesus and it’s as if the man were on the lookout for him.  He certainly called Him by name!  Jesus finds evil within the man and he confronts it.

What strikes me first about this passage; our calling in our generation and what ever aspect we find ourselves in, we are to go out, find evil and confront it.  We don’t wait to let it come to use.  This is part of what we are called to do as Christians.  So we are not to wait, we move into the world arena front and center and let evil come with its challenges.  When evil is removed, and the power of God brings evil into the abyss, what is left is a right minded and clear thinking man.  The swine, the symbol of fertility in the cult worship of this region are all dead.   So in Mark 5: 14 – 17 the people of the region were afraid and wanted Jesus to leave.  This God/man has more power then their gods and they cannot handle the result.

Second, when we come forward to live out our faith, we can expect people to resist and to resent and not to have anything to do with us.  And so the people pleaded with Jesus to leave.  The cult of evil cannot coexist together with the right minded.

Mar 5:18  As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.

Mar 5:19  And He did not let him, but He *said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.

Mar 5:20  And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

In Mark 5: 18 – 20 the man says please, take me with you.  I don’t want to live here anymore.  I’m different now, I’ve been changed.  Jesus tells him to go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.

So the man went away and began to tell the people in the Decapolis how much Jesus has done for him and all the people were amazed with the story and the testimony as evidence.  You talk about a tough mission field.  People are afraid of the power that removed one of the symbols of their religion.  Here’s a guy who was not long ago possessed by a legion of demons.  Now all of a sudden he’s the only missionary in the area that to the Jew was the most pagan place you could possibly be in.  This is a pretty incredible calling!  This missionary calling may well be one of a gentile.  It wouldn’t surprise me.

What I like about this is Jesus says to him, you have a simple message.  You don’t have to go to school.  You don’t have to go to Seminary and get a seminary degree.  Just tell the people what happened to your life.  The key to success with a confrontation of evil is to be able to simply tell what God and His power has done in your life.

Let me just pick up one passage that comes after the story of the demon possessed man and I should make clear that Jesus is in the Decapolis again.

Mat 15:29  Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there.

Mat 15:30  And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them.

Mat 15:31  So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Apparently that man possessed by a legion of demons was a pretty good missionary because when Jesus came back there, here is a whole crowd of people that are coming to find out who this Jesus was.  I find that pretty incredible that all those people apparently listened to this one man and his story of what the power of God did, and that made a difference in their lives.

God calls us to be his people in a culture that does not hold His values.  This area of the Decapolis later on became the strongest part or hub of early Christian community in that part of the world.  In fact in all the major Church councils where decisions were made that established our creeds, where decisions were made that even put our bible together, decisions where made that help put our theology together at it’s earliest point, in every one there is a Bishop mentioned that comes from Garasa to those councils.  It’s really fascinating to me that through the ministry of one person in the area of the Decapolis it became a central focus of the mission, the work, the life of Jesus Christ living in this one man.

The people who made the greatest impact for Christ are those who are the most impassioned about their mission.  They are not necessarily the most knowledgeable.  They seem to be the ones who have the greatest impact because of their own passionate story of their conversion (this is called a testimony).  What I also like about this life story is when true testimonies are told; they bring about the most impact and the greatest results.  And so the pursuit for truth goes on!

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