by Werner Mischke
(Editor’s note: With this blog post we begin a new series, “The Stories within the Story.” Each article will include how to use specific passages and stories in scripture in gospel witness.”
Most Jews in Jesus’ day were extremely concerned about maintaining their ritual purity and cleanness. They observed the purity laws of Moses to maintain a relationship with God and keep their “insider status.”
Jesus ignored these purity laws when he got into a boat, crossed the Sea of Galilee, and visited an area known for its profound uncleanness and defilement. Jesus did this for just one reason: To visit a demon-possessed man in order to set him free from defilement and oppression.
This demon-possessed man was unclean in at least four ways.
- He was a Gentile. That he was a Gentile is understood because he lived in an area where pigs were raised. He was therefore ethnically unclean.
- He was possessed by an unclean spirit (Mark 5:2) comprising a Legion of demons (Mark 5:9). This made him spiritually unclean.
- “For a long time he had worn no clothes” (Luke 8:27; Lev. 18:6–25). Plus, he was cutting himself (Luke 8:27), something forbidden in Leviticus 19:8. His nakedness and open wounds made him physically unclean.
- He lived among the tombs of the dead (Luke 8:27; see also Lev.11:31–32; 19:28; 22:4). To live where dead bodies were disposed not only rendered him homeless, but the very land on which his feet trod was considered unclean.
Any one of these features of uncleanness made this man someone to avoid. Any one of these features would have been enough to prevent the average Jew from going to “the other side.”
But what we see is a man with multiple levels of uncleanness. It is this synergy of defilement that made him an outcast at the lowest level of uncleanness and shame. He was downright creepy. To the average Jew, this man was in the category of abomination.
What did Jesus do? Jesus ordered the demons to come out of the man (Luke 8:31). The demons entered a herd of pigs, which in turn, “rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned” (v. 33).
Jesus told the man to “Return to your home” (Luke 8:39)—and Mark adds, “to your friends” (Mark 5:19)—“and declare how much God has done for you.” The man was even restored to his community! The Bible says, “And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”
Jesus came to this man who was horribly enslaved by demons, filthy and ugly in order to set him free and make him clean—to restore him to his community so that he would be productive for the kingdom.
Jesus entered a domain of profound uncleanness—the tombs of the dead. He confronted an unclothed man of ultimate defilement possessed by demons, “an unclean spirit.” Despite the supernatural power of the Legion, along with the filth, violence, and shame imposed on the man, Jesus interacted with the Legion without fear. Jesus was in complete control. Mark’s account says Jesus rebuked the legion, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” (Mark 5:8). Jesus demonstrated his mighty power over every degree of uncleanness, every evil spirit, every darkness.
Who Is “On the Other Side?”
We are all in need of a Savior. We all need the One who left the holiness of heaven and came to earth to live among us. We were all once outcasts; we all were on the wrong side of God because of sin (Eph. 2:1–3). We were all people “on the other side.”
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Is Jesus sending me to someone “on the other side?”
Is that “someone” living in a more dangerous land or neighborhood?
Someone unreached or untouched by the gospel?
A would-be terrorist?
Someone suffering from addiction?
Someone jobless or under-employed?
A foreigner or “illegal alien?”
What about the one you used to know who is the “black sheep” of the family?
Jesus inspires us with his fearless, powerful love. Since we are his hands and feet, Jesus is still going “to the other side.”
 Matthew’s account says, “When he came to the other side” (Matt. 8:28).The ESV Study Bible says of this verse: “‘Other side’ often marks the movement from a Jewish to a Gentile territory and vice versa.” The fact that there were pigs nearby also strongly suggests this was a Gentile area that Jews avoided.
Werner Mischke is the author of THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World. He is the director of training ministries for Mission ONE. He is passionate about helping believers know and share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the “language of honor and shame.” Learn more: http://wernermischke.org