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 about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
When I read this passage, and look at this piece of art, I stop to think about the things in life that torment and bind each and every one of us. Whether it’s visible or not, many of us struggle with things that keep us retreated back away from others, much like the man in this passage. He could not be held by manmade chains or bonds anymore. The pain of what tormented him was so great that he’d retreated to a life of solitude and agony within the burial caves outside of the village. People knew him not as himself, but rather as a reflection of the daemons that tormented his life.
As I continue reading, however, there is a part of this story that pops out at me. Jesus, still some distance away, evokes a response from both the tormented man, and the hoard of spirits within him. The spirits immediately recognize and know who Jesus is, and furthermore, they know that he will interfere with the work of evil that they are conducting inside their host. They resort to begging Jesus not to send them away. They know he has the power to rebuke them and send them away. They’d rather be able to continue tormenting something, even a herd of pigs than to be sent away all together.
What sticks to my mind and heart the most is that the things that torment us, no matter how terrible or painful they are, are subject to the authority and power of Jesus. The spirits and the man knew that he had the power to get rid of the pain and torment. The man knew Jesus had the answer to his problem, and Legion knew that Jesus was the source of their demise. What we need to do is just be willing to let Jesus get close enough to us, in the midst of our pain, and to allow him to call out the pain and draw it out of us like we know he can.
The passage tells us that the man was left “sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane”, and that people were afraid when they saw this. The man wasn’t just better he was completely sane, restored, and made new. May we all rely on Jesus’ power to heal the things that hold us in bondage and cause us pain. May we rest on the truth that he makes all things new, and not just better.
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