Lewis and Rich were fifteen when we began to meet twice a week at 6:30am for Bible study. It sounds hardcore, but that time-slot was not only good for conversation, but also for getting them fed, ready for the day, and to school on time!
One morning, we read about Jesus and his friends on a boat when Jesus calmed a storm. “It’s a good story.” Rich said. I nodded and asked, “It’s cool that Jesus can do that to a storm, isn’t it?” Lewis was measured with his response, “Yeah, it was cool, but you don’t always want to be around the guy who can do all that. It’d get awkward around him if you didn’t know what he would do in a situation.”
I’m reminds me of this week’s text. As Jesus stepped ashore the region of the Gerasenese, a demon possessed man from the town approached Jesus, falling at the Lord’s feet. Jesus called out the impure spirit and asked, “What is your name?” The man replied, “Legion” as by that time, there were many demons that had gone into the man.
Legion knew Jesus had power over them so they begged that he not send them into the Abyss. Jesus allowed them to go into the herd of pigs that was feeding on the hillside. When the demons entered the pigs, the herd rushed down the hill, fell into the lake and drowned. Word got around and people went to see for themselves. They found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. Their response? “They were afraid.” Their fear drove them to ask Jesus to leave. So, Jesus left!
Evict the Troublemaker
What makes us afraid of Jesus? What or whom are we protecting?
For Lewis, his reticence seemed to be about control. He was used to being the leader in his group of friends so the idea of someone changing that chemistry was intimidating. Even though Jesus’ power was impressive, it would remain a party trick to Lewis until his trust grew beyond his fear of losing control.
For the people in the Gerasenes, it was probably the same fear but on a grander scale. Maybe they thought, “That casting out demons thing was cool, but we can’t have this guy messing with our livelihood.” Apparently, the man the community regained was not worth a herd of pigs.
The perceived price for an individual’s liberation was too high for the community to pay. So without much deliberation or reflection, they decided that Jesus needed to go.
At What Cost?
We see people in our cities struggling everyday with their own demons: mental health, substance abuse, homelessness and more. We know, however, that their healing and restoration will require some sort of sacrifice on the part of the community and of the individual. We wonder if liberation for all will require society to consider a major economic overhaul, the drowning of our own pig herds. Sheepishly, we then conclude that living with a few demons might not be too terrible and decide that Jesus needs to go! We cling to scarcity because we forget that there is nothing scarce about God’s character.
God holds back no good thing from us yet our fears would have us believe that there is not enough. We act like we can only be free if others are not free when the truth is that we can’t be free until everyone is free.