Some military veterans survive the horrors of war only to come home to find captivity. Some are hounded by memories of atrocities they’ve experienced; others feel adrift without purpose in daily life apart from the battlefield. Veterans say no one understands their struggles except others who have been there.
The demoniac in our passage had been held captive for years, tortured by invisible enemies who had infiltrated his body and his mind. Instead of standing by him, his family and friends identified him with the evil spirits tormenting him.
Even after the man was free from the demons’ control, he was still bound by the stigma of what they had done to him. His community expressed more concern over their economic loss than in the gain of their friend. Rather than thank his Rescuer, they tried to drive Him out.
No wonder the man wanted to go with Jesus. Only Jesus had looked beyond his bizarre behavior and dealt with the cause of his trauma. Where else could he go for refuge?
At first glance, Jesus’ refusal seems insensitive. Why shouldn’t the man come along as a disciple? This was not rejection. Jesus’ refusal to grant his request was a mark of acceptance. He sent this man back as a disciple. No longer an outcast, he had been welcomed by Jesus and restored to his family. His mission? To tell others how much the Lord had done for him.
Jesus commissioned him as the first evangelist to the region, giving him a significant role that would connect his former experience to his current context. Every time the man repeated what God had done for him, he would testify not only to Jesus’ power but also to his worth in God’s eyes.