Twelve guys got out of a boat and kissed the ground. They had just gone through one of the scariest nights of their lives. Many of them used to be commercial fisherman who spent careers on the giant lake, and yet even they had never seen a storm like the one they had just come through. Minutes earlier, all twelve men thought they were dead. Minutes earlier, waves were crashing over the side of the boat so that it nearly sunk. They were wet, tired and overjoyed that they had survived.

A few men grabbed each other and hugged. A man named Peter gave his buddy John a pat on the back and smiled. And then all of them turned and looked at the man who had saved them. Their loud celebration turned to quiet amazement.

Normally, a rescuer would bring a rescue boat. Jesus didn’t need one. Instead of throwing flotation devices, or braving the swells as a rescuer diver, Jesus used his authority to instantly bring stillness and peace to a furious storm.

“Who is this man?” The disciples asked one another. No one answered.

Suddenly, a naked man came running toward the disciples shouting. The closer he got the more they noticed cuts on his wrists, arms and face. The peace they had been feeling quickly eroded into fear, and several of them hid behind Jesus. The rest of the disciples were too shocked to move. All of them turned pale. All of them except for Jesus.

Unmoved, Jesus stood still and smiled at the man running toward him. It was as if Jesus knew the man—as if they were good friends. Peter looked at John and whispered, “Who is this guy? Is he a friend of Jesus?”

Before John could guess at an answer, the man fell at Jesus’ feet in agony and fear, “What do you want, Son of the Most High God? Please don’t hurt me. Please!”

“What is your name?” Jesus asked.

“Legion, because there are a whole bunch of us in here.” The man said.

The disciples watched Jesus look around for a moment and then he spoke, “Go into that herd of pigs, and leave this man alone.”

Immediately, the man’s face changed from fear to peace, and in that same moment the herd of pigs went crazy and dove off a nearby cliff into the now peaceful lake. The man sat up, and Jesus took off his outer-robe and gave it to the man. The disciples sat amazed as Jesus and the man talked. It seemed that with every word Jesus spoke, the man became more and more, well, normal.

About an hour or so later, all of the people from the nearby town—people who had attempted to keep the crazy man locked up with chains—approached the scene with obvious looks of awe and fear. They looked at the formally crazy man—the man who had broken chains, screamed while walking through the cemetery and cut himself with stones day and night—now sitting and talking with Jesus. He was clothed. He looked somewhat normal. The longer the people watched, the more they looked on with fear and trembling—just like the disciples had done earlier when Jesus calmed the storm. “Who is this man?” The people whispered.

The people began begging Jesus and the disciples to leave immediately. They could not understand or comprehend what they were witnessing, and the amazing display of power and mystery scared them beyond reason. Jesus honored their request, and the disciples began preparing the boat to set back out on the lake. The formally crazy man looked at Jesus and began pleading with him, “Please Jesus, let me follow you. Please let me go with you.” Jesus smiled at the man, and said, “I have a different job for you. I want you to go and tell people about all that God has done for you. Specifically, tell people about the mercy that you experienced.” The man jumped up and hugged Jesus, holding him as if he would never let him go. But eventually his grip loosened, and his arms came back to his own sides.

As they pushed off from shore, Jesus looked back at the formally crazy man and nodded. The man smiled, and nodded back. Even if they didn’t meet again on Earth, this would not be the last time that they saw each other.

Romans 10:14 and 15 reads: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

Oftentimes, pastors use this passage to prove to the church why it’s so important to have, well, pastors. But if we think that Romans 10:14-15 is an argument for preaching in the formal sense of church, we are missing an important common calling for all believers.[1]

When Jesus told the formally crazy man to go “tell” his story of mercy to everyone he met (Mark 5), Jesus was using the same word that shows up in Romans 10:14-15 as “preaching” and “preach.” The story doesn’t indicate—in fact it would be silly to assume—that Jesus was specifically calling the formally crazy man to become a pastor. Jesus was telling the man that he now has a story of God’s faithfulness that he must share with all with whom he comes into contact. In other words, this passage is not a description of the specific calling of pastors, it is instead a description of the common calling for all of us to share our stories.

Today is a great day to live out God’s call to share your story—to tell others about the ways in which God has shown up in your life. Who in your life—Christian or non-Christian—needs to be encouraged by your story today?

 

[1] Originally heard this point made on the following sermon by Anglican Bishop Ken Ross: http://www.springsiac.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/SpecialAndSent.mp3

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