“Y ou shall be my witnesses.” As followers of Christ, this is the task to which you and I are called. And more than anything, I think, we want to be witnesses. But so often we simply don’t know how. The Gospel of Mark gives us the key.
In the fifth chapter we are told how Jesus and his disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee and had come into the region of the Decapolis to the village of Gerasa. Getting out of the boat, Jesus was met by an insane man. They called him a demoniac; we would call him severely dysfunctional.
Jesus cast the demons out of the man and into 2,000 pigs nearby. The pigs rushed down the steep bank, were drowned in the sea, and the man was healed. It is an ancient story of an unusual psychiatric method.
At the end of the story the herdsmen fled, told the villagers what had happened and they came rushing out. They were scared—you don’t often see demons cast out of someone and thrown into pigs. And they were angry—2,000 pigs is a lot of money and that was their livelihood. Little wonder they said, “Get out of town!”
But the next time you read that story, turn over to chapter seven. You will notice that Jesus comes back to the Decapolis, the same region where they wanted to run him out of town. He has had no contact with them in the meantime. But this time they welcome him with open arms. What’s the difference? What happened between Mark 5 and Mark 7?
At the close of chapter five that healed man, freed of the demons and made whole, wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus refused. He said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”
Apparently he did exactly what he was told, and as those people saw the difference in his life, heard his story of what Jesus had done for him, they were moved from resisting Christ to inviting Christ into their homes. And we can be assured a number welcomed him into their hearts.
That is what being a witness is all about—interacting with people in such a way that they are moved from resisting Christ to inviting Christ. Christ does the converting; the Holy Spirit unites them with God; but it is your role and mine to share our faith in such a way that they are open to Christ and what Christ offers.
Mark is simply assuring us that it can be done. It was done by this man with no Bible training, no schooling, no theological education, no expertise in public speaking. He moved a whole region from resisting Christ to welcoming Christ. And it can be done by you and me. Simply tell your story, my friends. Tell your story.
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.