Reflections on the Gospel from Luke 8, or, how one might begin to think about proclaiming the Gospel, or, smelling the burning of the midnight oil…
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. So, it’s on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, among a population more Greek and Roman than Jewish, so much so that they might even eat pork, or raise it for the Roman soldiers, for the Roman Legions. Oh, see below…
As [Jesus] stepped out on land… (on the other side of the lake!) Jesus is willing to go where good, moral folks don’t go, you know, among those kind of people, foreigners, strangers, followers of strange gods…
A man of the city who had demons met him. Not just anyone, a really nasty guy met him!
For a long time he had worn no clothes. Oh, the shame, the shame… Why, he was just as naked as Jesus on the cross, humiliated, disgraced. Why did Jesus pay him any attention at all?
And he did not live in a house but in the tombs. So unclean! Among the dead, not fit to be with good, moral folks, breaking THE LAW with every breath in that place! Don’t let him in the church… uh, the synagogue, door; he’s UNCLEAN!
When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him. You fall down before God, the almighty, the all-holy, the all-glorious; maybe the power of evil is not supreme after all… Could there be a word of hope here?
And shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Here’s an interesting place for a very early creed! Not only rocks and stones declare the glory of God Most High (Encountered most clearly in the presence and power of Christ!), but the very forces of hell – enslaving, humiliating, stripping, shaming, excluding, dehumanizing evil – have to recognize the power of life and love, the power of… [TBA].
I beg you, do not torment me” — for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. No negotiation. No mediation. A command. Authority. Final authority. God’s authority.
(For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bund with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) More bondage and shame and humiliation, none of it God’s will or desire.
Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. Many demons? Perhaps as many as six thousand? This account was written down after the Romans had totally crushed the Jews in the First Revolt, including the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple itself. Many demons entered the Holy Land.
They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. More begging. See above. They BEGGED HIM. Those in power do not beg. This is the power of evil, of death, before the power of love and life. More hope, more good news.
Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these.
So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. Ah, now we come to the poor pigs. I love pigs as much as they next person, but if I had to choose a life in the open fields of the then greener hills of the Trans-Jordan, and a quick end in the lake, over misery in a factory farm, the torment of the ride to slaughter, and then the slaughterhouse itself… Well, I know which I would choose. Still, the story comes from a very different culture, from a Jewish perspective (It’s also found in Mark and Matthew), which sees swine, pigs, pork, as unclean, unholy before God, with power to defile people and thus to break relationship with the Holy One.
When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid? WHAT? What’s that about? Weren’t they like us? Wanting all people to be healed, to be whole, to be cared for, to be loved? Oh, well, maybe they were like us. Things are now out of control, their control, and back where they belong. But that’s not always so comfortable. Even then.
Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. The power of healing! [See above] The man was healed! The Greek word which is often translated as ‘saved’ can also be translated as ‘healed’. Maybe it’s God’s will and desire to heal everyone who’s broken, everything that neads healing. Jesus makes that pretty clear.
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. FEAR. Again. Fear. It’s so strong. They surrendered to it. Whenever we do, whenever anyone does, darkness falls.
So he got into the boat and returned. And Jesus went away. They asked him to go away. They were afraid, afraid of love, of life, of healing. How is it with us?
The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. The man who had been healed longed to go with Jesus, to follow, like those other first disciples. Jesus told him to stay home, to make a difference there, to share the good news there. He did.
Thanks be to God!