Return home and tell the story

After the first few verses that tell which ladies were traveling alongside Jesus, Luke 8 becomes a kind of greatest hits mash-up of things we can find in Mark and some in Matthew, and the chapter feels less, well, Luke-ish to me.

But here we are (Luke 8:4-56), with the parable of the soils (or the sower), and its explanation, the light that should not go under the bowl, the arrival of Jesus’ family, the calming of the sea, the Gerasene demoniac, and the healing of a hemorrhaging woman paired with the raising of a 12-year-old girl.

And the thing I find fascinating about this combination is the contrast between the last two. A man who has been living with a legion of evil spirits disrupting his life is healed, the demons cast out from him (and sent off to a herd of pigs), and after being naked and bound and pitiful, now he is sane and dressed and sitting around with Jesus. Unsurprisingly,

The man from whom the demons had gone begged to come along with Jesus as one of his disciples. Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you.” So he went throughout the city proclaiming what Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38-39, CEB)

The woman who is bleeding tells what happened in front of everyone, and Jesus tells her to go in peace. Then he goes to the house of the sick young girl, and takes only his three most trusted wingmen inside, and he raises her from the dead.

Her parents were beside themselves with joy, but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened. (Luke 8:56)

So which is it to be? Do we tell the story, or do we keep it a secret? How can we tell the difference?

Maybe the trouble is that so many Christians tell the story of what God has done as their personal victories in the face of the storms and tragedies that are simply part of human life.

Your house didn’t fall down and your neighbor’s did? Praise the Lord! Your cancer disappeared, but your co-worker’s was terminal? Good thing God was on your side. Your child is on the honor roll, while your cousin’s kid dropped out and ended up in jail? Run tell the town how blessed you are!

No. No, no, no.

Today in the middle of so much bad news about the federal budget proposals, which will eliminate funds being used for those in need, we need the real Good News, which is not merely personal. It is for all of us. We need it as emotional and spiritual encouragement, we need it as a reminder of what Jesus was about in the world, and we need it as a spur to our own action.

Here it is in my words.

I believe that God loves us so much that in the person of Jesus, God became human. I believe that God cares *especially* for the poor and the hurting, the homeless and the hungry, the lost and the last and the least. I believe that although we are all sinners, that human beings brought about the death of the one who came to show us God’s love through his life, that despite the worst the world could do God shows us mercy, and that in Christ’s death and resurrection we are all covered by grace.

I believe that in response to that grace, I am called to “bear fruit worthy of repentance,” and what that looks like is serving the ones for whom God showed and shows special care and concern.

I believe this is no time to keep any of it a secret.

“Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you.”

Really. We have no time to waste.

Holy One, in the face of unholy cruelty to the poor and those in all kinds of need, give me the wherewithal to serve you in a way that is fruitful and effective, to share the Good News wherever it is needed, and to confess when I fail you. You have redeemed me and all people. This is the story of what you have done and are doing and, I pray, will continue to do. Thank you, thank you. In Christ’s name. Amen. 

I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? The full schedule can be found here.

1 thought on “Return home and tell the story”

  1. I am no Bible scholar, but I am a lover of Jesus and the Gospels – a student all the same.

    I too have looked at that moment where a man affected by the power of God, transformed at the hands of Jesus, begs to join him, but is sent away.

    Now of course he is not merely sent away – like as if to say, “I don’t want you… go away…” He is sent away to tell his own people what happened. But he is sent AWAY all the same, and this happens when he asks to stay at Jesus’s side. And that hurts my heart to read that. I want to stay with him too.

    I should be clear with you, I am a Mark guy. I dig into Mark far more than the others. The story is there too, and not changed by Luke very much. And in fact I believe Luke had a copy of Mark and used it as somewhat of a templet to rework the story around. So, I am cool with glancing at Mark when looking at Luke (but not the otherway round). But the underlying point is that I am MORE deeply familiar with Mark, though I have a lot of love and respect for Luke too. I know a few things about Luke as well, but not as much.

    Here are a couple features about Luke I know that I think are relevant. One, Luke appears to have an extra special regard for the poor and socially downtrodden. (Women would have been second-class citizens to the larger world, but not to Luke. And the poor are favored OVER the rich. and so on…) Two, Luke is writing the first half (in the Gospel) of the tale of Jesus with an eye toward far more which he writes about in Acts. AND there is a strong geographical (thus socio/political and cultural component (hate to call it component)) that runs through both.

    Let me expand a bit on the second one. In the Gospel, Jesus moves toward Jerusalem where he will be crowned King. Notice in 9:51 when he sets his face toward Jerusalem. He is working his way there. That is where his showdown at the OK Coral (so to speak) will happen and where he will take the crown. Like any revolutionary force, he has to gather up a following and spring in to action when the time is right. Like most revolutions, he gets his following from the peasants and down trodden. But once he is crowned King in Jerusalem, then part two, ACTS, comes into play. His rule must now spread throughout the world. And it is no mistake that it reaches ROME where it confronts Caesar’s house and is there UNLEASHED.

    These are two independent strands – favor of the poor and geography… but they work together to enhance Mark’s message. And the part where we meet the man with the Legion of demons is in the ground swell of following while Jesus is still below the radar of the authorities, somewhat. He may have made a stir, but this time, but he has not become a significant threat in their eyes, yet. And during that part of the mission, you really must control information tightly. So Jesus heals people (it turns out this is quite subversive and could be a way of challenging that other King – Herod) and then tells them NOT to tell.

    But the demoniac at Gennesaret with a demon called “Legion” is not a Jew among Jews. He is a foreigner – likely a Roman from the Decapolis area of that region. He is an outsider of the People of God that Jesus took pity on. Jesus takes pity on and favors the downtrodden, and this guy seems to be in sad shape alright. But he is a weakling from a powerful nation, one that occupies Israel. And Jesus is still WAAAAAAY below Rome’s radar until, probably, St. Peter arrives in Rome with the Gospel many years later. For Jesus to send this guy “home”, he is planting a secret cell of, not terrorist but, healed love behind enemy lines. A cell that will go off like an imagination bomb. At first he will just be an odd ball to his own people. But perhaps 30, 40, 50 years later, when this “Christian movement” sweeps the empire, this man and his story from all those years ago will have primed the pump of imagination.

    Now, having said all of that is still just a bit FUNCTIONAL (and its hypothesis on my part, really). But it still does not DEAL with the heart ache I know I feel, and I think he felt, and I think you feel, when Jesus tells him, “No. Don’t follow me. Go home to your people. Tell them what happened here.” I mean, assuming my hypothesis is pointing in the right direction, it does explain socially, politically, even theologically, why Jesus might direct the man this way. But Jesus surely is all about the heart, no? And this is a heart breaking moment!

    Who knows? The text does not dwell there or come back to revisit this man later. So we can only guess. And that means it is beside Luke’s point, but worthy of consideration all the same. But I just imagine that the man can’t contain himself. That despite his pain of being sent away by Jesus (the next chapter he sends out his missionaries on covert ops around Israel, so he is on a parallel mission after a fashion) that this man finds his new life in a healed/free of demons state to be such a tremendous relief! His friends and family would all plainly see a difference!

    He would return to his people, who are the powerful Romans occupying this strange land called Israel. People who mostly look down their noses at Jews. People who have a sense of smugness around Jews. But this one who was weak and sick and crazy (I don’t know how THEY characterized his affliction) is now sitting, talking, in his right mind! He is a testimony to another power they don’t know. And all he can do is tell what happened, which will be such an anomaly for them for the next 30, 40, or 50 years.

    But a day comes when this Christ is making headlines in papers all over the empire. And some of the folk around Gennesaret will read it in the Gennesaret Gazette and say, “Hey… could this be any connection with what happened to Mack??? all those years ago?” And this would provide a deeply subversive connection to happen between that hidden cell placed behind enemy lines to come to fruition. The pump has been primed. The witness of Jesus now makes more sense of life for these folks… at least the ones who knew the guy best and any his story might ever have influenced.

    And I am thinking that whenever the day came that all this dawned on ol Mack and friends, he, and they, might well look back at that heartbreaking day when Jesus said, “No. Go home and tell…” and they might think he had given him/them a greater gift that was born out of a little more suffering for his Glory.

    And that makes my heart swell. That makes sense of counting my trials as joy. That makes sense of a call to suffer. That is a heart thing. And it has Jesus’s fingerprints all over it.

    (Thanx for letting me ramble… The baby woke me up, and couldn’t go back to sleep. Found your post, and it got me thinking….)

    Agent X
    Fat Beggars School of Prophets
    Lubbock, Texas (USA)

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