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The First Apostle to the Gentiles

It was NOT Paul of Tarsus!

In our Narrative Lectionary Reading for this upcoming Sunday we are focusing on Mark 5:14-20.

Jesus traveled into the "Ten Cities" a gentile hub of pagan worship.  When he asked to cross the waters his disciples must have asked: "Here?" in shock.  Once on the other side they encountered a man who was possessed by many demons.  He wandered around the graveyard screaming and cutting himself.  He was ridiculously strong and when the locals tried to chain and shackle him he broke the chains and smashed the shackles.  It sounds like they tried this several times. 

What a life!  Rene Girard observed that the locals did not believe in the death penalty, so they tried to show their love to this man by protecting him from himself and others.  They locked him up, but "the chains were never strong enough to convince their victim of their good intentions towards him".  Our prison system suffers the same plight, we want to reform our fellow humans, but the indignity of the chains never feels like love from the inside.  I'm not advocating death instead, but simply pointing out the failure in our system.  Jesus shows us a third way...

Jesus dismisses the many demons of legion.  They go into a flock of pigs and the pigs charge off the cliff to their death.  The oppressed man is set free.  People talk, a crowd forms, and people get upset.  Remember that the pigs that went off the cliff would cost around $225,000 today.  This was a big expense to the owner of the pigs.  The power dynamics of their world had just shifted too.  What do they do with this man who is now well, but had been unsafe before?  What do we do with our prisoners who are now reformed, but hours before were dangerous criminals?  Not to mention, what do you do with the person with the power to do all this?  Could he turn more of your world upside down?  They asked him to leave.

Jesus complied, but as he was leaving the man who had been set free asked to go with Jesus.  Jesus declined and instead told him to go home and tell everyone what the Master had done for him.  The man had been set free and he immediately tried to place himself in servitude for Jesus, Jesus declines and forces him to face his freedom.  We are often told that we slaves to Christ, that we are to take on the easy yoke of Christ, and that we are to carry our cross daily, but do we remember that we are free?  Do we face our freedom and look it in the eyes?  Maybe we should start there.  What did this man do with his freedom?

As the only known believer in the "Ten Cities" this man shared his story as Jesus told him to.  He did it in love and freedom, with nobody there to enforce it, and his healing a gift that he had received without strings attached.  In absolute gratitude he shared his story.  The next time Jesus came to the Ten Cities crowds gathered.  CROWDS, because the first apostle to the gentiles had done his work.  We don't know the name of the first apostle, the gospels never tell us. 


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