"But Jesus refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the LORD has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.'"
He was one of "those guys." You know what I'm talking about, right? Those guys you see from time to time. Those "weirdos." The crazy ones. The ones you'd never be caught hanging around - because they're so unstable and usually out of control. This particular guy live in the cemetery ("among the tombs"). He used to be chained & shackled, but had broken free from that bondage (ouch!) and no one could restrain him anymore (nor wanted to try!). Plus, he was always howling and hurting himself with stones. What a wacko!
But then he met Jesus. Jesus cast out the demons who were possessing him (another amazing story - see verses 9-13!). That was great for "the guy," for he was restored to his right mind. But it freaked out the townsfolk... and they begged Jesus to leave (go figure!). So as Jesus was leaving, "the guy" came back to him and begged Jesus to allow him to come with. A new recruit! The 13th disciple? Which makes sense, considering how "his people" had treated him in the past. I can almost hear him tell Jesus, "There's nothing left for me here" (ala Luke Skywalker speaking to Obi Wan Kenobi on Tatooine).
But Jesus refused. Flat out. Which sounds kinda harsh, doesn't it? Until we read Jesus' reasoning: "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the LORD has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you." So evidently, even "those guys" have a few friends. Instead of embarking on a whirlwind missionary tour with Jesus, he's told to go home and tell others what happened to him.
We're in the early stages of preparing to launch a new ministry at Aiea UMC. It's going to be a house church program... specifically designed for people who'd probably never set foot in an "established" church (whether it be a traditional church building or even a cafeteria-turned-worship-center). But they have friends. And they'd probably be okay with going over to that friends' house to share a meal and talk about "stuff that matters." "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the LORD has done for you," Jesus said.
Authentic relationships lead to authentic community... which (by the grace of God) leads to authentic faith. Hey, maybe Jesus was on to something here! I wonder what we could share with our friends about what God has done for us...