Photo by Michelle Scaperlanda McWay
Today we traveled north from Amman, Jordan to Umm Quais, known as the city of Gadara in the New Testament. Garda was one of ten cities in the Decapolis, a group of ten cities where Jesus and his disciples traveled to preach the Good News. Seven of these cities are in Jordan, one is in Syria and two are in Israel. To reach Gadara, we drove along the Gilead mountains, the hill country where Jacob fled with Rachel, Leah and his children from his father-in-law, Laban. There Laban overtook Jacob but the two made peace as Laban heeded God’s warning to “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” (Genesis 31:24)
I looked out of the window on our journey towards Gadara and took in the low ranges of the Gilead hill country. Save the occasional tree or rock, mostly these mountains looked barren, covered with a tan-colored dirt and no water in sight. I wondered what it was like for Rachel and Leah to pack up everything and leave their family, to travel with their children across these mountains fleeing from their father. And what about Jacob? God had told him “Go back to the land of your father and to your relatives and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3) Was Jacob excited to see his family back home? Was he fearful of Laban tracking him down even though God had promised to be with him? He may have been afraid, but Jacob obeyed God. He trusted God and God was faithful to him.
I suspect my experience is similar to many American Christians. We have heard the stories from the Holy Scriptures many times – from our early years in Sunday School, from our pastors in Sunday service, from our own personal study of the Bible. With this has come a comfortable familiarity with the stories. I am a visual person and being here in the Holy Land of Jordan, seeing where the stories unfolded… it is surreal. I can now put real images of the setting with the words on the pages of the Bible.
Before our trip to Gadara, I read the three accounts of the miracle Jesus performed at Gadara (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39). I prayed the Lord would show me what He would have me to learn about Him. When we arrived at Gadara, we walked through the remains of the city, down an ancient road paved with smooth, rectangular tiles. At the road’s end was a spectacular overlook with a view Israel, Syria and the Sea of Galilee below. Also in view was the cliff that scholars believe to be where Jesus cast out a legion of demons from a man notorious for being violently tormented by demons for years. The man lived among the tombs and had been bound hand and foot with chains but even the chains could not bind him. Jesus cast the demons into a herd of pigs that ran off the cliff into the Sea of Galilee below. Afterwards, the man, dressed and in his right mind, pleaded to go with Jesus. But Jesus said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” The man obeyed and “all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:19-20) Perhaps the testimony of this man had something to do with the formation of the ancient Christian church we walked through, near the cliff where the miracle occured. There is power in our testimonies. Jesus knew this when he told the man to stay and share his story.
On the way back to Amman, I thought of my own demons…. shame and anxiety chief among them. Christ has delivered me from these ruthless tormentors, exchanging unexplainable peace for relentless angst and undeserved grace for my shame. Like the man at Gadara, the Lord has had mercy on me and done much for me. I am made new because of Him.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.