19. Mark 5:14-20: The Rest of the Story
Flight and alarm accompany Jesus’ exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac. This is the rest of the story. The swine herders race everywhere, probably to the herd’s owners, to tell them this incredible news. Not surprisingly, inquiring minds want to know so “people” (v.14) come to see for themselves. When they saw the former demoniac sitting with Jesus, cleaned, clothed, and in right mind, “they were afraid” (v.15). Eyewitnesses give them the gory details about the demoniac and the pigs.
And they want Jesus gone! Elsewhere in Mark so far people have clamored to get to Jesus. But not here. And if we remember the demoniac story’s coded significance as prefiguring Jesus’ victory over the pagan oppressors, the Romans, it’s not hard to figure why. Messing with the Romans, tweaking their symbolic noses, does not generally end well for those who do it. This area’s residents did not want to be on the Roman’s radar for that sort of thing. Thus Jesus, with power over the infamous demoniac, terrified them. They wanted him gone. Placher’s comment is right on target:
“The Gerasenes clearly want Jesus to get out of town, not only because he is killing off their pigs but also just because of the sheer power he manifests. We modern readers are fooling ourselves if we think that we, by contrast, would have liked having Jesus around. We do not understand Mark’s picture of him unless we recognize that he is terrifying.” (Placher, Mark:1635-1640)
The demoniac, for his turn, begs to go with Jesus on his continuing mission. But Jesus “refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’” Jesus needs witnesses in every place. Some he calls to travel with him. Others he has remain where they are. It’s fruitless to ask why: the story doesn’t tell us. All we can say is that that is Jesus’ sovereign will for him.