Text: Mark 5:1-20
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.
I love the pathos of this story. The whole scene stirs up a deep sense of fear, of chaos, of compassion. The man that Jesus encounters in the land of the Gerasenes is desperate. He has been so completely affected and taken over by demons that he can’t even live in his community anymore. He’s been driven out of town and his only neighbors are tombstones. And yet, even though he’s utterly alone, his life is anything but quiet and peaceful. His demons torment him day and night. He can’t even really remember who he is or what is happening. He just knows that he is suffering. Yet, even as the demons continue to fight for control, somewhere, deep inside of all of the turmoil and pain, the man sees Jesus and realizes he is his only hope.
I can picture this man. I see his matted hair, his bloody hands, his dirt-covered face, his emaciated body. I see a man who has been so overtaken by forces that are greater than him. No one, and I mean no one, up until this point has any clue what to do with him. He’s a danger to himself and he’s a danger to others. He is one who everybody saw as a completely hopeless case.
And I can also picture Jesus. Rather than standing back in uncertainty, or keeping his distance out of fear or disgust, he sees the man as he runs up. Truly sees. I imagine him locking eyes with the man as he asks him his name. The demons respond, but Jesus is not deterred. Jesus, full of compassion, does not write this man off. Jesus knows who this man is and who he can be. He sends the demons out of the man and into a herd of pigs. Just like that. It’s done.
Notice the response of those who come to see what all of the hubbub was. They see the man who had formerly been possessed, clothed and in his right man. They came right up and started to celebrate, right?
The answer, of course, is, no, they didn’t. In fact, they still kept their distance. The text says it was because they were afraid. What were they afraid of exactly? Perhaps they were afraid that he hadn’t really changed. Maybe they were afraid to look him in the eye or talk to him after all of the things that had conspired between him and his community. Possibly they were afraid that Jesus might intrude on their lives in the same way, or that he might see the other demons that they wrestled with in less obvious ways. In any case, their response was not one of celebration, it was one of distance.
I think the man who had been healed noticed this, and it may have been part of the reason he asked to go with Jesus. It certainly would have been easier for everyone if he had done so. Instead, Jesus commands him to return home. In doing so, Jesus taught the man and his community, and he teaches us, that true healing often includes the restoration of relationship.
Two healings occurred that day in the graveyard – the man was delivered from his demons, and then he was restored to his community. As we contemplate this encounter between Jesus, the Gerasene demoniac, and the surrounding crowds, Jesus reminds us that there are many ways in which he can bring healing.
o What words, phrases, or images from the text speak to you? What thoughts or feelings do they evoke?
o Where do you see yourself in this story? With the man among the tombs? With the crowds? Tending the pigs that come to an abrupt end? Somewhere else?
o Where in your life do you need to find restoration or reconnection with another?
Consider a relationship in your life that might need some healing. How might you reach out to encourage reconnection? Pray about it. If you feel ready to act, do so.
Think of a time when God healed you or someone you love. Remember, healing doesn’t always mean physical healing. It can be emotional, spiritual, or relational as well. Write a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has done.
God, you are always ready to see me, and to heal me. May I fall down at your feet like the man among the tombs, recognizing that you are my hope and my healer. Restore me, reconnect me, reveal to me the ways that you are working. Free me from the demons I wrestle with. Give me clarity of mind and peace in chaos. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.