This week’s scripture is… well… a little bit creepy. In a way it’s something akin to a horror movie.
Imagine that you are living in Gergesa, a little town on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s 2:00 am and it’s dark, really dark, outside. There are no streetlights. You and your family and the animals that are part of your household have been in bed for several hours now. and you hear it again.
It’s a sound you’ve heard for years. It begins as a low moan and builds to a wail — and then a howl. And it’s coming from the cemetery. You know what it is, of course. Everyone knows about the strange, scary man who lives among the tombs.
This is not just a story — although there are many stories about him. He’s real. People avoid the area. The children scare one another with tall tales about this man that has grown taller and taller with each passing year.
He lives among the tombs. People have tried to restrain him, but no one is strong enough to subdue him. He’s broken all the chains and leg irons anyone has ever put on him in an attempt to contain him. And night after night, he howls and wails and cuts himself with sharp stones. Oh, he has a name. And once he had a family. But now no one knows his name — and his family no longer acknowledges him. Everyone agrees — he’s a lost cause. He’s too far gone. No one can possibly help him.
So you lie awake for 30 minutes or so until the howling dies down and you can finally go back to sleep.
The next afternoon, there’s a commotion in town and you make your way toward the hubbub to see what’s going on. There’s an itinerant teacher named Jesus standing there. He’s from the other side of the sea. You stand there for a moment, still wondering what’s going on that has everyone so stirred up.
And there you see it. You cannot believe your eyes.
Standing next to Jesus is the man who lives among the tombs. Not naked, but fully dressed. Not wild-eyed, but perfectly calm. Not covered with filth, but clean, standing peacefully right there in the marketplace.
What do you do with that? In this close-knit community this man had always had his place. He was the stuff of stories — and scary ones at that. Suddenly he was… normal. Now no one knows what to say or how to relate to him.
How did this happen? How are we supposed to act? What will his place be now?
Sometimes these are the questions people ask in the face of a life completely transformed. Such transformation is sometimes nearly as dramatic as the Gerasene demoniac’s experience, but the transforming work of Christ comes in many forms. The story of the Gerasene demoniac is yet another example of dawn following darkness.
I look forward to exploring this story of transformation — and the people’s reaction — this Sunday in our Sanctuary worship.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Mark 5:1-20 Common English Bible (CEB)
1 Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out of the tombs. 3 This man lived among the tombs, and no one was ever strong enough to restrain him, even with a chain. 4 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. 5 Night and day in the tombs and the hills, he would howl and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from far away, he ran and knelt before him, 7 shouting, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”
8 He said this because Jesus had already commanded him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”
9 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He responded, “Legion is my name, because we are many.”
10 They pleaded with Jesus not to send them out of that region.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside. 12 “Send us into the pigs!” they begged. “Let us go into the pigs!” 13 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.
14 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. 15 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. 16 Those who had actually seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man told the others about the pigs. 17 Then they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.
18 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. 19 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.” 20 The man went away and began to proclaim in the Ten Cities all that Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.