The Demoniac, Part 6—Two Responses to Christ’s Work | Mark 5:16–20
16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
The townsfolk come to see what happened to the herd, and they’re stricken with fear. Even though the “fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Pv 1:7), unfortunately, they didn’t move forward in knowledge. On the other hand, the demoniac, now set free, develops an instant affection for the Lord. We see both begging Jesus in these verses, and we note in them two different responses to His work.
Note the people who begged Jesus to leave. Those who were feeding the pigs explained everything, including that Jesus had been involved in the loss of the herd. They came to where the demoniac dwelt, but oddly, they’re now more afraid of Jesus. Perhaps they also feared what else they may lose. A similar situation occurred years later in Philippi—Paul commanded the demon out of the slave girl, and her owners sought to silence their message because of their loss of profit (Acts 16:16–24). Fear at the work of God is not a sign of true faith.
Note the person who begged to leave with Jesus. He wanted to stay with the Lord. When Jesus instead gives him a task, he spreads the truth about the work and mercy of the Lord. This complements the healing of the leper in the chapter one; the leper was to announce his cleansing to the priests, and this man is to go and announce his cleansing from the demons to the people.
He had information the leper didn’t. Jesus refers to His work as the work of the Lord. In case there’s any doubt as to what He means by “Lord” here, the parallel account reads “God” here (Lk 8:39), and in both places, the work of God is understood to be the work of Jesus. How fully he understood this is debatable, but his obedience meant that Jesus’s next journey into Decapolis was welcome (7:31ff).
How have you responded to the Lord? Do you fear the Lord, having also a genuine admiration for Him and a desire to follow His commands?