“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the demon-delivered man begged to go along, but he wouldn’t let him. Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.”” (Mark 5:18–19, The Message)
In response to the request of the once demonized man that he be allowed to go a with Jesus, our Lord denies his request. Instead, Jesus tells him to do two things:
- Tell them what the Master did [“How much the Lord has done for you” ESV]
- Tell them how he had mercy on you.
Think about it for a moment, what had the Master done for this man? Jesus had stepped out of a boat, the man/demons had come running and Jesus had freed this man from terrible bondage and certain destruction. Did the man request that Jesus do this? Did he have to beg Jesus to set him free? No. It was a free gift and that is the nature of grace. What Jesus had done for this man was free him from spiritual bondage at Jesus’ own initiative. “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” writes Paul, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2.8-9, KJV)
Derek Webb captures this truth beautifully in his song, “Awake My Soul:”
And I trust no other source or name
Nowhere else can I hide
‘Cause this grace gives me fear
And this grace draws me near
And all that it asks it provides
So very true. Grace is given freely and this man freely received it and was set free. In essence, Jesus tells this now truly free man to go tell his family and everyone he knows about the free grace he received from this Man, Jesus.
The second thing he should do is tell his friends how Jesus had mercy on him. Mercy means “to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need.” [Louw-Nida] In this case the serious need was a sin problem, complicated by a “Legion” of demons. Jesus offered free grace and he offered free compassion and kindness. Remember that this man did nothing to deserve Jesus’ kindness, he was a passive player in the whole episode. This is the nature of Jesus’ mercy, it seeks out and finds and saves and pays no attention as to the “worthiness” of the sinner; indeed, Jesus seems to delight in saving those who are least worthy of it. All of which reminds me of the words to the old hymn, “Rock of Ages:”
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
Oh, here is Chris Rice singing it: