Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of Jesus casting a legion of demons out of an untamable man in the region of Gerasa/Gadara (parallel accounts are found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Luke 8:27-39). Jesus evidently took this man, and the demons which controlled him, by surprise when he crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat and landed right where this man was to be found. This man lived in a graveyard, refused to wear clothes, and would break chains and fetters whenever soldiers attempted to take him into custody. Seeing the man’s plight, and wishing to demonstrate His power over Satan, Jesus commanded the demons to leave him. The demons made the man run to Jesus and beg Him for mercy, since they did not want to be sent to the abyss (a temporary place of confinement for certain demons before the final judgment; cf. Rev 9:1-11). Jesus responded by asking the demon for his name. This may have been because Jesus wanted to know who He was dealing with before deciding whether to grant the request not to be sent to the abyss.
The demons’ response to Jesus’ inquiry about their name was shocking: “My name is Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9). A fully manned Roman legion contained 6,000 soldiers, so this man was possessed by thousands of demons. The demons saw a herd of about 2,000 pigs feeding on a nearby hill, and they requested that Jesus allow them to go into the pigs, rather than the abyss, after leaving the demoniac. Jesus granted their request—not out of any compassion for the demons, but in order to show people how many demons were in the man, and to prove that they had gone out. In addition, pigs were not to be kept under the Mosaic Law, so there was nothing unjust about allowing a herd of pigs to be ruined. As soon as Jesus spoke the word, the demons left the man and went into the pigs, and they did what Satan always seeks to do—they destroyed their lives, causing the pigs to run furiously into the Sea of Galilee and drown.
The herdsman, fearing that they would be blamed for the loss of the pigs, immediately went to the Gentile city of Gadara and other surrounding regions to tell people what happened, so witnesses could verify their story. Unwittingly, these herdsmen were doing pre-evangelism. Many people went to see the sight for themselves. They were amazed by what had happened, as they saw the notorious demoniac clothed and in his right mind. However, their reaction was not to repent of their sins and to trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Gadarenes were people who loved their sin and hated God. They did not want their pigs and demons removed. They therefore begged Jesus to leave their territory. Apparently Jesus honored their wish, and never returned to that region.
There was one more matter to be dealt with, however, before Jesus got back into the boat and departed for Jewish Galilee: what would be the fate of the man who had been cleansed of the demons? He himself earnestly desired to stay with Jesus, knowing that Jesus had saved him an otherwise completely hopeless and unremediable condition. But Jesus had other plans. One problem was this man’s race—he was a Gentile, whereas Jesus had been sent to the nation of Israel (cf. Matt 10:5-6; 15:24). No one with the time and space limitations of a man, not even Jesus, can do everything; we need to focus on the ministry that we are called to accomplish, even if that means neglecting other pressing needs that we might well be able to meet. Yet Jesus still had compassion on Gentiles, and He saw in this man a natural evangelist to the people who had just rejected Him. This man was one of them; he could find a natural acceptance among them that Jesus could not. He also had a personality and background which made him unafraid to speak boldly in public.
And so it was that Jesus gave the command to the cured demoniac to go evangelize his home territory, which was the Gentile region of Decapolis: “Go to your house, to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). The man did as he was told: “He went his way, and began to publish in the Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him” (Mark 5:20; note the implication that Jesus is Lord). Mark tells us that all who heard this man’s preaching “marveled”; whether they believed in Jesus or not, they at least heard and understood the message about Him.
Jesus’ instructions to the demoniac contain a lesson for us on evangelism. This man was a brand new convert, saved out of a horrendous past. In fact, rough backgrounds do not get any rougher than this man’s background—he was extremely lewd, violent, obsessed with death, defiant of all authority, and possessed by thousands of demons. As a Gentile from a Gentile city, he was probably raised as a pagan, with little or no knowledge of the Bible or theology. He had not been trained in effective methods of evangelism. He only knew one thing: he knew what Jesus did for him. So Jesus told him, “Go home and tell your friends and family what I did for you.” He did, and they were amazed. This guy was a hopeless case! Now he is well! What happened? He said, “Jesus saved me.” See, you don’t have to be an expert in evangelism or apologetics to share the gospel. You just need to be saved. If you are saved, then you can tell people what Jesus did for you. It is that simple.
Evangelism is not as complicated as we make it out to be. Jesus did not tell this man, “You need some training before you can start evangelizing.” He did not say, “You need some time to make sure that you don’t go back to your old habits.” He said, “Go and tell the people you know what the Lord has done for you.” This is something that any genuine Christian can do. Evangelism is more than just asking strangers a clever lead-in question, quoting Bible verses from memory, and presenting a multi-step plan. The simplest way to evangelize is to just tell people what God has done for us, and specifically how He transformed our life by saving us from our sin and from Satan’s oppression. If people want God to do for them what He has done for us, it will be easy to explain to them how they can be saved; if not, we are still doing evangelism. Let’s stop scaring people away from evangelism by demanding they follow a professional method and use the extroverted, confrontational techniques of a professional evangelist. Telling the people we interact with about the things Jesus has done for us is something that even a new Christian can do, and simply talking about God and church is another thing that any Christian can do.