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The Gadarene Formula

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“Let me go with you.” Those words from the lips of the newly cleansed demoniac of Gadera (Mark 5) must have seemed entirely reasonable to the disciples of Jesus. His reasons for wanting to go away with the apostolic band were both numerous and strong. First, there was the gratitude of a man whose life had been a living hell. In the grip of a legion of demons, for years his only conscious thought had been to destroy himself through suicide. That was a desperate desire to which the demons would not consent. Now, if possible, he would devote what life and energy he had to the man of God who had freed him.

Then, there was the understandable fear. The seemingly unchallengeable power of the demons had been broken by the word and authority of Jesus. But, if Jesus was leaving, would the demons return? Even in the face of Jesus’ assurance that it need not be so, the man from Gadera would have wondered.

Beyond that, he must have had a great, insatiable desire to know and to learn more about the mysterious stranger who had with such incredible ease transformed his nightmare and given him a life that was worth living once again. The demons had called Jesus the Son of God. What did that really mean?

Finally, he wanted a fresh start—to go to a place where no one knew his sordid and humiliating history. So it was that he made his very reasonable request: “Jesus, let me go with you!”

The disciples were expecting a positive response from the Master. After all, hadn’t His invitation to them been “Come”? What Jesus actually said must have surprised them. Rejected by the people of the Decapolis, who wanted no more of His miracles and who would hear no sermons from this disturbing itinerant, Jesus said, “No, you cannot come with me, but go and tell your household how the Lord has had mercy upon you.”

The cleansed demoniac could not have told his “household” very much. He was no expert in the Messianic teachings of the Old Testament. His knowledge of the Scripture was probably extremely limited. He was not a trained evangelist. His “message” was necessarily very simple: “You saw what I was. You see what I am. Jesus made the difference. Are you interested?” That was his sermon. I call it the “Gadarene Formula” because it is an amazingly effective message.

Several weeks later, Jesus returned to the people who had so rudely dismissed him, and the Gospel writer records that they brought him the lame, the blind, the sick and the demon possessed. Thousands with no disability or physical need came as well with an overpowering desire to hear His words and witness His works. They stayed for three days, and at the end, Jesus fed a crowd of four thousand men plus women and children with just a few fish and loaves.

What made this group of people, who had previously rejected Him, change their minds so completely about Jesus? The answer is immediately obvious. It was the power of one dramatically transformed life.

The work of evangelism has become for most Christians an exceedingly threatening thing. We have been deceived into believing that we need to be trained biblical scholars or apologists able to answer all of the “hard” questions that an unbelieving world is sure to ask. We have been duped into believing that we cannot participate in the “mission” until we have become well-trained “missionaries.”

I am not opposed to training; indeed that has been the preoccupation of my life. And I hold in the highest esteem those who have the specialized education that prepares them to cross the barriers of languages and oceans to take the good news to the ends of the earth. However, the most effective “missionaries” I have ever known are those new believers with the simplest of all messages—one life that has been totally transformed by the touch of the Master. They use the Gadarene Formula: “You saw what I was. You see what I am. Jesus made the difference. Are you interested?”

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