The story of Jesus and his disciples encounter with the Gadarene demoniac is a story that is familiar to most of us. After being prompted by a friend to re-read it very carefully, I became aware of something that I had never noticed before. The disciples never even got out of the boat! Both Mark and Luke record it the same way. There is no written indication that they even stepped one foot on the land. Jesus got out of the boat and did all the talking and was involved by himself in all the action. What is the lesson here?
First of all, you have to know something about the land of the Gerasenes. “Gerasene” means,”the kicked out ones”, and refers to the seven tribes that were expelled from the Land of Canaan when the Israelites began to conquer the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. The land on the “other side” of the Sea of Galilee is where tradition held that these seven expelled pagan nations went to live after they were defeated and kicked out of the Promised Land. To a Jew, it was the land of the devil, an evil place that you would certainly not want to visit. A righteous Jew would not even set foot in this pagan land. This is also most likely the “far country” that the prodigal son went to when he ran away from his father’s house (if you will remember there were pigs in both stories).
When Jesus announced to his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side”, he was saying, “let’s go meet the enemy head on!” The disciples, I am sure, were terrified at the prospect of going to the devil’s country and their fears were quickly confirmed when a huge storm came up on the lake and almost sunk the boat. Then, the minute that they got to the shore, a crazy guy comes running at them, screaming and cutting himself! I’m sure the disciples thought, “What in the world are we doing here? We could get killed!”
The faith lesson here is huge. We’ve got to get out of the boat (our comfort zone) and get into the battle with the enemy! Jesus did a lot of training with his disciples, but he also expected them to put their training into use. He confronted the forces of evil head on as they watched.
My tendency is to keep going to church and fellowshipping with my Christian friends. I use up all my “Christian time” in an inward manner and don’t even look towards the “other side”, much less take on the evil that is present there. Working with the “other side” is dirty and messy and makes you get involved in tough situations and I’m not anxious to get involved. (We might get killed!) I’ve got to get out of the boat and start putting my training to use! May God help us all as we attempt to be his witnesses to a world that is dirty and messy, but desperately in need of His message! Get out of the boat this week!