as i re-read the gospel of mark a few days ago, i wondered about the decapolis, the region in which the man, legion, from whom Jesus cast out a number of demons, lived. i discovered as i researched that these ten cities comprising the "decapolis" were quite different from other areas of palestine. they were, in fact, more greek than jewish or roman, city-states very much on the greek model. this accounts for the raising of pigs like the herd into which Jesus sent the demons that He cast out of legion. it also explains the reaction of the inhabitants of the region, who, unlike the common folk of galilee, feared Jesus and wanted Him to leave.
this discovery that Jesus had gone to an area that was not just hellenistic in culture, but truly an extension of greek ethnicity in the midst of the predominately jewish population led me to think of a part of Jesus' ministry to which i had given little consideration. Jesus later travels to tyre, where he heals the daughter of a woman who lives there. He goes on to sidon, then comes back into the region of the decapolis, where He continues His healing ministry. he travels, too, among the samaritans. Jesus' ministry was not just a ministry to the jewish people, but He reaches out to other ethnic groups and adherents of other religions who live in the same part of the world.
while we think of Jesus as a reformer of jewish religious practice, His ministry to the people of the decapolis, in what we now think of as lebanon, and to the samaritans demonstrates that Jesus' view was broader than that of a jewish reformer or revolutionary. the true religion that Jesus taught was broader than the religion advocated by the religious elite in roman-occupied galilee and judea. though rooted in judaism, the religion of Jesus was based on human need and the love of God for all people.
my prayer today is that we, like Jesus, reach out to those who are different from us, to those who practice other religions, who are unlike us culturally, and that our love is based on the needs of others. may we have a love that encompasses those of every ethnicity and religion, truly being a neighbor to all.