Mark 5:1-20- “Go home to your friends.”
After Jesus calmed the tempest, he and the disciples arrived at the Gerasenes (also called Gadarenes) and again faced the work of Satan. Evil forces so controlled this man that he was almost unhuman. The people kept him in chains so he would not hurt himself, but he even broke the chains. Still a far distance from him, Jesus began to rebuke the evil. The demons revealed themselves, threw the man to the ground and begged for mercy. So Jesus sent the demons to a herd of 2000 pigs that immediately rushed down to the sea and drowned.
Some interesting things jump out about this story. One is that the demons recognized Jesus, and even fell down before him. Satan CAN NOT and WILL NOT ever stand up to Jesus. He is a coward in every way, yet he can convince, bluff, manipulate and tempt his way into our lives to destroy God’s creation. He causes us to be less human. Some are like the poor man from Gerasenes; some are like you and me. All are tempted and all fall to temptation. The difference is in whom we have put our trust. Whom do we seek for help? Who can save us and give us a new life?
The second interesting thing is that the demons requested to possess the pigs. PIGS! From my research, it seems there is no clear knowledge about whether the population of the area was Jewish or Gentile. There may have been both Jewish and Gentile settlements in the area, but it was illegal for Jews to keep pigs, and Jesus probably thought it fitting for evil demons to enter pigs. However, one thing is clear: Jesus can contain and destroy evil forces, no matter who, what, or how many there are.
Then, when people from the area came to check out the commotion, they found the insane man with Jesus, dressed and in his right mind. Imagine—they were more afraid when they found this man was different, than they were when he had been a raving lunatic. And that may be the most revealing element of the story. Often, we are comfortable with our own dysfunction, and with the lack of humanity around us. We are becoming so hardened that we almost accept violence and discord as a normal.
When we lived in Mexico and worked with orphaned and abandoned children, it was sad to see that some of them could not adjust to a safe place, nor to the order of a healthy environment. They were so accustomed to chaos, and even violence, that they found their new life unbearable. We are in a month when many celebrate evil and death. We live in a culture that is used to dysfunction, violence and discord, and some would like to keep it that way. They are so broken that healing hurts.
However, the best thing that happened to this man was when, in his right mind, he met Jesus. With Jesus, he found comfort and healing, and he wanted to stay with his savior. Instead, Jesus gave him a job to do. “Go home to your friends.” He was to tell everyone in that land what happened. Give them good news. There is new life. There is a new normal after our sin is washed away. I imagine and hope that God watched over this man, protecting his soul and the new life he had received. However, I know that he watches over us when we are baptized into Christ, and we receive his spirit to dwell in us. Like the man from Geresenes, we want to stay close to our healer. The great good news is that he wants to stay close to us! His spirit lives within us, and I pray that we will be touched and tender toward those who are caught up in Satan’s evil gaming. May we go out in joy, sharing the Good News that Jesus saves.