They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but 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.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. Mark 5:1-20 (NIV)
What does this one of Jesus’ works of healing have to do with loving Jesus? Who seriously believes in demon possession today?
We can say that we are more enlightened today. Today we know that mental illness can be caused by chemical malfunctions in the brain. While in most instances mental illness can explain what used to be referred to as demon possession, the fact remains that there is a spiritual world. There are powers and principalities that we learn about throughout Scripture that are not easily explained by science. We have an Adversary. Not everything that lives in the spiritual world has our best interest at heart.
In the Lutheran tradition we aren’t much to focus upon the dark side, and we don’t talk much about demons or possession or bizarre supernatural happenings, because we know who wins- but it is important to know that we do have an adversary, and that we know Who to run to when the adversary comes knocking. Evil has a lot harder time getting to us if we spend our lives being immersed in what is good. The apostle Paul told us to put on the full armor of Christ (Ephesians 6:11) for good reason.
It was curious that the demons knew Who Jesus was. The demons knew their enemy and they knew that ultimately they were subject to His power. Why do we doubt the sovereignty and final authority of Jesus when demons, who are evil, get it?
The demons begged to be released into pigs. To Midwestern Americans the pigs drowning themselves in the sea might come across as a really sad waste of a LOT of bacon. Yet to Jews in first century Palestine, pigs were the most unclean of unclean animals. It was fitting, at least to first century Jews, that the demons met their demise in the unclean bodies of pigs.
More important than the final disposition of the demons, or even how the demons got in the man to begin with, is the final authority and sovereignty of Jesus.
Jesus had mercy on the man. Everyone else wanted to restrain the man, and when that didn’t work, they simply pushed him out of society. He was living in the tombs- basically written off as dead.
Jesus got the unclean spirits to move on out of the man and gave him his life back. Sound like a familiar theme?
We all have our stories to tell about what Jesus has done for us, just like the formerly demon possessed man. Jesus has set us free from the powers of sin and death, as well as for many of us, Jesus has set us free of earthly afflictions also. We return love to Jesus when we show it to people around us. God is real. He loved us first. He sent Jesus to show us what love is, to love the unlovable, and to set captives free from the things that bind them (Isaiah 61:1-3.) Who can we draw to Jesus by sharing our stories? By showing them kindness?
If we claim to love Jesus, we are called to do as He did. Go out. Share the love. To whom can we bring a bit of mercy and care today?