Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out of the tombs.This man lived among the tombs, and no one was ever strong enough to restrain him, even with a chain. He had been secured many times with leg irons and chains, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one was tough enough to control him. Night and day in the tombs and the hills, he would howl and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from far away, he ran and knelt before him, shouting, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”
He said this because Jesus had already commanded him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He responded, “Legion is my name, because we are many.”
They pleaded with Jesus not to send them out of that region.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside. “Send us into the pigs!” they begged. “Let us go into the pigs!” Jesus gave them permission, so the unclean spirits left the man and went into the pigs. Then the herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.
Those who tended the pigs ran away and told the story in the city and in the countryside. People came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who used to be demon-possessed. They saw the very man who had been filled with many demons sitting there fully dressed and completely sane, and they were filled with awe. Those who had actually seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man told the others about the pigs. Then they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.
While he was climbing into the boat, the one who had been demon-possessed pleaded with Jesus to let him come along as one of his disciples. But Jesus wouldn’t allow it. “Go home to your own people,” Jesus said, “and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.” The man went away and began to proclaim in the Ten Cities all that Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.
Today’s reading reminds me of something I would see in an episode of Doctor Who!
The T.A.R.D.I.S. lands on a distant world. As the Doctor and his companions step out of the ship, a local inhabitant approaches them and falls at their feet. The Doctor recognizes right away that this poor creature is possessed by a hostile entity. With the flick of his Sonic Screwdriver, the entity is forced from its victim and possesses a small herd of passing animals. The creatures run terrified off the cliffs to be dashed to bits on the rocks below. The Doctor helps the native person to her feet and tells her to go home and make the proper sacrifices to her gods to allow entrance back into society and familial life.
See? I told you.
Okay, okay. All kidding aside, Jesus does bring that type of new beginning that the Doctor does (or maybe it’s the Doctor who brings the type of new beginning that Jesus does). Jesus gives people second chances in life -- not by removing the things that make them who they are but by making them who they truly are.
There’s a great Celtic Christian feel to this passage. That is, if we see this story as poetic imagery about the plight of humanity, we see a very different view of people than what has been beat into our heads since the fourth century.
Notice that, when faced with the possessed person, Jesus didn’t count the man as the problem. He recognized the man was enslaved by several demons who went by the name “Legion.” The problem was not the man but what the man had become because of his slavery. And, instead of giving the man a new nature, he removed that which was false from the man, thus rescuing the man and setting him free.
That is the picture of what has happened to everyone since the resurrection of Jesus. The entire cosmos, Paul wrote, has been reconciled back to G-d. It has been rescued and set free. But, like the man, we now have a choice to make. Once we know we’ve been rescued, the question is -- will we remain in our cell or will we move on into the New Creation that awaits us? Will we continue to be our “old” selves -- the selves that have been enslaved in our addiction -- or will we be our “new” selves, our true selves?
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC