You know, that little body of water, Galilee, Genessaret, Chinneroth, saw way more than its share of ministry and miracles. Whether on the sea itself or on one of its banks, Jesus did a lot of work that changed history. Consider Peter walking on the water, a fish with a coin in its mouth, the great catch of fish that almost sank the boats, The Lord’s prayer (version II), the Sermon on the Mount, “Peace, be still!”
In this account, Jesus compels His minyan to sail to the other side of the sea to a place where Jews didn't often go – Gadara. It was a short-term mission trip.
I find a poignant missionary truth in this story:
What's on the other side of the sea?
1. Foreigners! (vs 1) Culture, language, tradition, heritage, religion – everything is unfamiliar on the other side. What the disciples ran into when they ran aground was eye-opening and jaw-dropping. One of them might have said, “Dorothy, we ain’t in Kansas no more!” Indeed, crossing the lake put them a world apart from the usual fare. Here, there are no Pharisees badgering them, no tax collectors harassing them, no temple tops gleaming in the sun. Just raw difference. God never called His servants to living lives of comfort, but He does call them/us carrying crude crosses. It may not be Club Med awaiting you when you dock.
2. Men (and Women) in need. The first man to greet them was the man most needy. This particular one is demonized.
*He lived among the tombs (he was spiritually dead, what better place to haunt?)
*He was possessed with an unclean spirit (it happens here too. The demons of drugs, lust, etc.)
BTW: The demons within were called Legion, that is, there were many spirits.
*He was bound with fetters (that is, he was chained to his sin)
*He was exceedingly wild (no man could tame him)
Every lost person you encounter is no better or worse off than this man. The demons which keep them from the cross may be more subtle, but they are every bit as insidious and effective as this maniac.
But, Praise the Lord, Jesus came! Someone cared enough to go to the other side where a great need existed among many people in great need.
*This man saw Jesus (as opposed to what he had been seeing – darkness of the worst kind)
*This man ran to Him. He ran away from everything else – this is repentance. The demons urged him away from Jesus, away from deliverance, but he was compelled toward salvation.
*This man worshiped Him – to his knees and to his face he dropped before the only One Who had the power to save him from his misery.
3. Demons on a Mission. Remember the ministry that Satan has! To steal, kill and destroy. In the 3rd world his work often looks much different than its manifestations here in “Christianized” America. But the end goal is the same. Abbaddon/Apollyon, the Destroyer has one set of goals, destroy lives, damn souls to hell and get back at God for expelling him from heaven.
Note: We must be very careful to separate the demons from the demonized. On demons, we must have no mercy. On the victim, we must have compassion. Jesus went out of His way for the man, not the devils.
Consider this, who was really speaking, the man or the devils? Who was really acting bizarre? It was the demons within using the man without. We wrestle not with flesh and blood.
4. Swine Feeding! On the other side of the sea, we will find disgusting, cannibalistic, suicidal pigs. There is nothing kosher on the other side. All of our societal taboos are turned on their heads in Gadara. You will not be comfortable when you cruise to the other side. There, they may speak Pig Latin, and you don’t even eat bacon!
5. Fear! (vs 15) Why were people afraid? As a result of Christ’s power, the man was now sitting, clothed and in his right mind (possibly now he was left handed? I’m just sayin’).
*They were afraid of change. Can you imagine? Their comfort zone included a demon possessed, naked, uncontrollable mad man who lived in the grave yard!!! They'd rather have the familiar with its discomfort than a Savior that will change everything.
*They were afraid of the unknown. Never had this kind of power been displayed. Exorcism, deviled ham, changed life, a new normal. No possessed men terrorizing the graveyard, no swine feeding on a hillside. "Demons? We know. Salvation? Not so sure about that!"
Men are gripped by, yea, frozen by fear. “What if I do get saved? Will I be ostracized by my peeps? Will I ever get to have fun again? Will I have to learn Christianese? Will the church demand all my money?”
As they say, you don't know what you don't know!
6. On the Other Side - A New Missionary (18-19)
Goodness! Without a day of discipleship, this man went from demoniac to so soul-winner, from crazed loony to being in his right mind. Hopefully, on the other side of the sea, we will find some lives so transformed that the mission target becomes the missionary.
Perhaps today, you will feel a heavenly nudge to go across the sea, or across the street, out of your “normal” and into some foreign, demonized, needy and fearful part of the world to find the next target of God's grace, and possibly, the next missionary. If so, go! You have been given the promise of His presence and power to present His message.