Mark 5:1-20 (New Living Translation)
So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.
When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”
Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.
There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”
So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.
This past week during my daily morning reading of Scripture I once again read the above story about the man who was demon-possessed and lived in a cemetery. Whenever I’ve read this story before I’ve occasionally thought about this man’s physical, mental and emotional condition. I’ve also thought about the deplorable living conditions that have him “living” among the dead since no living soul could even dare live near him. His only contact with people is the rare occasion when he is “visited” by some strong but likely uncaring men that attempt to restrain him with shackles and chains…not to protect him from himself, but to make the people in town feel safer. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for him to be so “out of control”…tormented day and night without experiencing a gentle touch or a loving voice of anyone who cared.
I’m so thankful that there is no condition of mankind that is beyond the loving and healing touch of Jesus. This story ends so beautifully with the man healed and wanting to go with Jesus but told to return to his family and “proclaim the great things Jesus has done.”
So, this is where I usually stop in my meditations on this Scripture. I am filled with praise that God is so good and then move on to the next story in my Bible…. but not this time. This time I was stuck wondering about the herdsmen, and the owner of the 2,000 pigs, and what is with those townspeople? I mean, why did the townspeople want Jesus to “go away and leave them alone.”? I began to consider some possible reasons why…
When Jesus gave permission for the demons to enter the entire herd of 2,000 pigs...Wow…I wonder, if after the initial shock of seeing the entire herd of pigs (which were their responsibility to protect and care for, by the way), disappear over the steep hillside and drown in a lake… maybe the herdsmen realized they just saw there job security plunge off a cliff!
Explaining this to their boss was not going to be pleasant. The fact that some local demon-possessed guy who has been that way for years is now free from torment and completely restored may not have held such greater value in these men’s eyes when compared to their jobs and the income they would now surely lose. I’d like to think the miracle they witnessed had some positive effect on them…seeing the power of God personally…but, than maybe they didn’t see the miracle because their eyes were not on what Jesus had done for the demon-possessed man…they were on themselves.
And then I thought about the guy who owned the pigs…Yikes! How long did it take him to acquire 2,000 pigs? We don’t know if he owned other herd of animals or if this was all he had. Regardless, losing a portion of his herd would be considered bad enough…but losing his entire herd of pigs…well…I have a feeling since he wasn’t the one offering the pigs to Jesus to help this demon-possessed guy out, that he also might not be too “happy” with this turn of events.
So, I began to see how the owner, his wife and family might not be too excited about Jesus calling the demons out of some guy they can’t even relate to… by allowing the demons' request to enter his valuable herd of 2,000 pigs, which resulted in all of them being killed! How did this miracle benefit them? But than again I realized, they didn’t see the good that came from what Jesus did…they missed seeing the miracle and only saw the cost.
The news of what happen traveled fast… and the townspeople had to be amazed to see what was once the demon-possessed man now fully clothed and “in his right mind”! Surely, they had spent many fearful and possibly sleepless nights listening to the frightening sounds of his howling and prowling…the very sight of this man strong enough to snap chains and smash shackles. You would think they would be amazed at the power of Jesus to remove completely the demons that caused even them to live with fear each day and night. I couldn’t help but wonder why their response to this healing by Jesus was full of rejection. Why did these townspeople fear Jesus more than they did a demon-possessed man?
The townspeople reaction in wanting Jesus to leave had me stumped until I began to wonder if they feared what it might “cost them” if Jesus stayed. Had they become so accustom and even comfortable in the way they lived their lives with demons so near, that they missed seeing the miracle?
I think the townspeople only glanced at the healing of the demon-possessed man…I think their eyes were fixed on 2,000 dead pigs! Is it possible that they also feared that Jesus would “take” something from them in order to help or heal a person they don’t even know? Is this why they were so fearful and "pleaded with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.” ? Did they also only see with eyes on themselves and what it might cost them if they dared to care?
I don’t know… maybe there is another reason why these people were afraid and wanted Jesus to leave, but all this has caused me to wonder; “Am I willing to give Jesus whatever He requires of me to help someone who needs Him?” Do I dare to care about others as Jesus cares? I pray I do. I don’t want to miss out on witnessing a miracle of God because I had my eyes fixed on what God “took” from me or from someone I love. I want to see the blessings. I want to see the miracles.
All I have and all I am has come from God’s gracious and loving Hand. What an amazing honor that God would want something from me so that His Glory may be seen by a world that needs Jesus. I have learned that God doesn’t ask for anything He has not already prepared us to do and provided us to give.
It is sometimes said that we should give until it hurts. But Jesus teaches that it should hurt when we cease to give.
Dare to Care…and you will see and experience a blessing that only can come from the Hand of God’s abundance!