Jesus restores a demon-possessed man
26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[a] which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.
28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!’ 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
30 Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.
33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.
When I was a cross country coach, I often tell runners that they have voices that they can listen to when they run.
When the race or practice gets hard, or it’s snowing and cold, or hot and humid, they may hear voices in their head that say you can’t do this, you aren’t tough enough, you could quit, or go home, sit on the coach in air conditioning, or play video games. Or, they can learn to listen to the voices that tell them that they can do this, that it is worth the work and even the pain at times, that it is producing character, that they can overcome. We call this the “moment of truth”, when you listen to the good voices that will push you through and don’t give in to the voices that leave you in a state that keeps you in a place and not growing.
Jesus encounters a man who’s been inflicted with thousands of voices that have actually taken control of his life.
He had so many voices, or personal demons, that when Jesus asked him his name, he said that his name was “legion” meaning “many”, even thousands. I’m not sure how one gets into this state, but it’s safe to say that this man was affected to the point of madness, so much so that his community shunned him and even chained him up.
Yet, Jesus goes up to him, has compassion on him. It’s also interesting to note that this man was not part of Jesus’ faith or lifestyle. The region where Jesus found this man was a Gentile region and Gentiles were non-believers. It was a foreign land, yet Jesus and his disciples felt compelled to travel there, outside of their comfort zone.
When Jesus confronts the man, the man has lost his mind, his sense of identity so much, that he doesn’t personally answer, but the demons give voice to Jesus…they know that Jesus is the Son of God…when darkness is confronted, it knows it can’t hide from the light, and it knows that it cannot overcome light. I believe that Jesus was so perfectly human, so aware of himself as God’s son, as the representation of God to humanity and humanity to God, that the darkness was revealed in this possessed man so openly that it could not help but to retreat.
It’s also important to realize that this man wanted to be healed. As conflicted as he was, as possessed as he was, he knew that he needed to change. It seems like Jesus’ power was best on display when others found within themselves a sense of agency. In other words, Jesus was a co-healer.
The demons plead with Jesus to be sent into a herd of pigs. Which, is another indicator that Jesus is in a foreign country as pigs were considered unclean by Jewish custom. So, Jesus sends them into the pigs and the pigs go mad and drive themselves off of a cliff.
This man regains his sense of self, his dignity and senses, and is restored into community. But, the townsfolk are afraid of Jesus, they don’t know how to respond to this amazing act of love and power over the darkness of the possessed man’s life. Or, maybe they are afraid that this Jesus and his presence will cost them more economically, as the herd of pigs was an economic loss. Faced with fear, economic instability, and the presence of a change agent like Jesus, they plead for Jesus to leave. Which, Jesus does. As he’s leaving, the formerly possessed man asks to go with Jesus, yet Jesus tells him to stay, to find his voice more clearly now that all of the other voices are gone, and to love his neighbors and proclaim to them what God has done.
We don’t know this man’s name, it’s not in this passage, and we don’t know what happens. But, my bet is that this region saw and experienced this Jesus and continued to see evidence of this man’s growth and release from what enslaved him.
The power of a changed life can change the world!
I know that’s true in my life, your life, and our lives together. What voices are we listening to? What fears do we have that prevent us from following Jesus or keeps us away from walking with Jesus? How do we ask Jesus to leave us alone when faced with change in our lives, even if we know we need it or we see others’ lives changed through their awareness of God, self, and others through Jesus?
What would it take for us to let go of the voices that keep us enslaved to the way we’ve always done things or lived…voices that are keeping us from living the way that we’ve always wanted to live and growing in new ways as humans made in God’s image, infused with God’s dynamic spirit that moves us towards the kind of lives that bring adventure, meaning, purpose, and growth?
A few years ago, I had coffee with my good friend Peter Block as I often do…even just a few weeks ago. Peter is a voice that I love to listen to…he speaks into my life and allows me to speak into his. We are in community together, we practice “church” if you will in many ways. As we were talking, he began to encourage me, as he does so often. One of the things that he spoke into my life this week was reminding me that I have a powerful voice and finding that voice consistently is good work…it’s good work for all of us. Not only finding our particular voice, but how it fits into community and being in a community that can find its collective voice. That voice can shape mountains, experience and share love. Voice is powerful when there is no agenda other than seeing relationships and community restored or created.
God’s voice, God’s word, brought forth creation.
God’s voice or God’s word, became flesh and gave us Jesus.
God’s voice, God’s word, is carried to us through the flow of God’s spirit all around us, in us, through us, to us.
I have not given out homework much lately, but here’s homework this week, take inventory daily. Listen to yourself, others, and the messages being sent to you through social media, news media, or whatever. What voices are you hearing or listening to. Write them down. Then ask yourself, where are you hearing God’s voice.
Are we willing to listen to God’s voice as it pushes through all of the other voices in our lives, leading us to freedom and reminding us that we have a powerful voice, that we are loved, that we are made for each other and to be a part of a community together proclaiming to each other God’s love? Not petty issues or pride or insecurities that keep us away from each other, but living together listening to God’s voice emerge within us and through us together? May it be so!