Read Luke 8:26-39
The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38, 39 NLT)
This is one of those wild and wonderful stories in scripture. Demon possessed pigs drowning themselves ! It doesn’t get better than that. With all the bizarre details of this story, one of the strangest details, in my opinion, is how the story ends. The man who had been demon possessed was healed. The demons were at the bottom of a lake with all the pigs and the man was ready to go with Jesus, wherever he went. Jesus’ response, however, is strange… or at least different from what we might expect. Instead of signing the man up, Jesus sends him home. Jesus could have put a great show on with this guy. “Come and see the man set free from a legion of demons!” They could have re-enacted the scene every night. It would have certainly drawn attention and drawn a crowd. But that’s not what he did. He sent him home.
First of all, this guy lived in a cemetery… in exile on the outskirts of town… and sending him home paints a wonderful picture of Jesus’ power of reconciliation. But I also think that Jesus knew that home was the place where his this man’s healing could gain the most traction in further advancing God’s mission in the world. The NLT version doesn’t fully capture it, but the word here that gets translated as family is the greek word oikos… which literally means, “household.” Households then were much more than just the nuclear family that many of us know and experience today. Oikos was the basic unit of society. It typically included the head of the oikos (usually the oldest male), his extended family (wife and children), and slaves living together in one domestic setting. A large oikois also had farms that were usually tended by the slaves, which were also the basic agricultural unit of the ancient economy. So, returning home for this man meant returning to a wide network of people… people who knew him, and knew his prior suffering. He returned to a network of people who would see the authenticity of his transformation and my guess is it didn’t take long for them to join him in proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him. (v. 39). See, I think Jesus knew that he could transform a family — a household — then the town could be transformed through that family. Before the man returned home, remember, they sent Jesus away in fear.
“…all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them.” (v. 37)
But listen to what happens when Jesus returns to the region (from Mark 6)
53 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore54 and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once,55 and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was.56 Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.
These were the same people who had previously sent him away. Their openness to Jesus was significantly altered by the power of one man’s transformation.
Never underestimate the power of your story. Sometimes we make all this stuff too complicated. What would happen if we were to simply learn to tell the story of how God is transforming our lives… both by our words and our actions? What might happen if our oikos — our households — began to move and operate together in telling this story with our lives? I wonder what our surrounding communities might begin to look like.