DayBreaks for 2/20/20: The Other Side – Part 1
From the DayBreaks archive, February 2010:
After preaching in Galilee, Jesus told his disciples he wanted them all to go to the “other side”. We read that as simply referring to the other side of the lake, and at one level, that is true. But it was also a technical term that describes the area of the Decapolis – a heathen, pagan, non-God honoring region populated by the 7 tribes that God had driven out of Israel when the Hebrews took the Promised Land. It would be like saying, “I’m going over to the Dark Side” in Star Wars terminology – to a place where evil and pride and badness rules, led by Darth Vader and the evil Emperor. The disciples knew well what it meant.
As they cross the lake, a storm comes up – a bad one. What made it worse for the disciples is that the people of the Decapolis worshipped a pagan god that they believed ruled over the weather and the sea. It’s a bad omen – to those who believe in such things. Jesus, however, is fast asleep. When awakened, he calms the storm and they land near Bethsaida in the Decapolis. Their greeting party is huge, consisting of one man and an entire legion of demons that possess him. Other than that, they were apparently alone.
This poor man had been cast out by his people because of his possession. Jesus heals the man and sends the evil spirits into a swine of 2000 pigs who commit mass suicide by running over a cliff into the water. (By the say, the pig was part of their pagan worship, too!) When the townsfolk hear about these going’s on, they ask Jesus and his disciples to get back in the boat they came in on and go back to the “other side” (isn’t it interesting how both sides think the “other side” is whatever side they’re not on?) When Jesus humbly turns to get back into the boat, the Man Formerly Known As Legion begs to follow Jesus as his disciple. To my knowledge, this is the only time in Scripture where Jesus tells someone, “No.” Always, it’s been Jesus extending the invitation: “Come! Follow me!”, but not now. Though the man begs, Jesus stands steadfast: No. You must go tell your story to your people. Go.
A couple of chapters later (Mark 8), Jesus returns again with his disciples to “the other side.” Only this time, a great crowd is present. Why? Apparently because one man, formerly possessed, went and told his people what Jesus had done for him and what mercy he had received from the Christ. All because, it appears, of one man telling his story.
Couldn’t Jesus have been more effective if he’d stayed and preached after casting Legion out? I don’t know. All I know is that Jesus, filled with Divine wisdom, knew it wasn’t the best way. The people of the Decapolis wouldn’t have been ready to hear Jesus if not for the story of Legion. They knew this man and even though they’d thrust him out of their communities – he was still “one of us” to these Decapolis dwellers. He didn’t make them suspicious. Jesus and his disciples may have had the opposite result.
So, we see the power of telling the story of what Jesus has done for us and of the mercy we found at his outstretched hand.
Who is on “the other side” from you? Who is it that you alone, of all God’s many peoples, may be able to reach for Jesus?
Wouldn’t it be great if when Jesus arrives on the shores of Planet Earth this next time he is greeted by you and by a great crowd to whom you’ve told your story and they’ve become his followers, too?
PRAYER: Help us to not think in terms of “our side” or the “other side”, but to focus on telling the story of the love of Jesus! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2020 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>