Scripture: Luke 8:26-39
Key verse: (37) Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.
Reflection: This is a rich story that is full of so many details and so many layers of meaning. Jesus and his disciples crossed the sea to the other side, opposite of Galilee. There they encounter a man who was possessed by demons. This man wore no clothes and lived outside the town, in the cemetery. He fell at Jesus’ feet and cried out. Jesus asked the man’s name and he replied “Legion.” Then Jesus cast the demons out of the man and they went into a herd of swine nearby. Those pigs ran down the steep bank and into the sea where they drowned. Bizarre!
So much to notice:
- Likely the man was mentally ill and his community had rejected him.
- The man or his demons claim the name “legion” which would have been a joke to any original listeners who knew a legion was the title of a grouping of soldiers in the Roman army. It would be like answering “Platoon” or “Regiment.”
- The demons enter a herd of pigs, animals viewed as unclean by faithful Jews. So Jews didn’t raise them or slaughter them. We are in foreign territory here!
- Did the crowd laugh when the pigs drown in the sea? That is surely what they hoped would happen to a group of occupying Roman soldiers. And besides, they’re dirty pigs so who cares?!
When the people of the community saw the man sitting calmly, clothed and “in his right mind,” they were afraid. They were so afraid that they asked Jesus to leave.
It can be hard to accept transformation. It can be scary. We like life to be predictable, even predictably bad. So crazy people should stay crazy. And addicts should stay addicts. And criminals should stay criminals. And liars should keep lying and cheats should keep cheating. When someone is given new life, we aren’t sure what to do with them. We might find it hard to trust them. We might fall into old patterns of relating to them. Every transformation to new life means an old life has to die. Every act of God’s power means letting go of an old way of being. We might be “seized with great fear” but let’s not ask Jesus to get back into the boat. Let’s invite him to stay and keep doing miraculous things. Jesus can transform us with that power too and we can be set free from the demons of fear that keep us shackled.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, heal my wounds, mend my brokenness, set me free from what traps me. Give me grace to accept your transforming power in my life and in the world around me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].