“Go home to your friends and family and tell them all the things the Lord has done for you, and that he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
The man who had had many demons wanted to be part of Jesus’s wandering community of disciples.
He begged to be allowed to follow Jesus.
There were no other believers among the Gerasenes to have fellowship with. For Jesus to leave him in that country was to strand him apart from the life that had restored him to sanity.
Jesus told him, “No, don’t follow me. Go home. But tell your people what God has done for you.”
Why would Jesus set such an ardent and grateful believer adrift?
No doubt, Jesus did what was best for the man and what would best serve God.
By telling the man to go back to his family, Jesus was following through with the healing work of the exorcism by restoring what the possession had destroyed, namely the man’s relationship with his own community.
But I suspect there is another reason for Jesus’s refusal.
I think Jesus foresaw that the man wouldn’t fit in with his community of disciples.
The man was a gentile who lived among herders who raised pigs for meat.
The man would have had different customs, different values, a different way of speaking, and a very different religious background.
The church needed more time before it could accommodate such differences.
In addition to all this, there was the man’s history of demon-possession.
Would he have been welcomed with open arms by the other disciples?
Jesus knew this wouldn’t happen.
No, Jesus did not invite everyone who believed in him to be part of his main body of followers.
He gave the church time to mature so that it might eventually be able to integrate legitimate differences.
Many of us are still waiting for that to happen.
Meanwhile, solitary Christians belong as much to Jesus as anyone does.