A Man with Evil Spirits
(Matthew 8.28-34; Luke 8.26-39)
1Jesus and his disciples crossed Lake Galilee and came to shore near the town of Gerasa. 2When he was getting out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit quickly ran to him 3from the graveyard where he had been living. No one was able to tie the man up anymore, not even with a chain. 4He had often been put in chains and leg irons, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one could control him. 5Night and day he was in the graveyard or on the hills, yelling and cutting himself with stones.
6When the man saw Jesus in the distance, he ran up to him and knelt down. 7He shouted, “Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me? Promise me in God's name that you won't torture me!” 8The man said this because Jesus had already told the evil spirit to come out of him.
9Jesus asked, “What is your name?”
The man answered, “My name is Lots, because I have ‘lots’ of evil spirits.” 10He then begged Jesus not to send them away.
11Over on the hillside a large herd of pigs was feeding. 12So the evil spirits begged Jesus, “Send us into those pigs! Let us go into them.” 13Jesus let them go, and they went out of the man and into the pigs. The whole herd of about 2,000 pigs rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
14The men taking care of the pigs ran to the town and the farms to spread the news. Then the people came out to see what had happened. 15When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had once been full of demons. He was sitting there with his clothes on and in his right mind, and they were terrified.
16Everyone who had seen what had happened told about the man and the pigs. 17Then the people started begging Jesus to leave their part of the country.
18When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man begged to go with him. 19But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how good he has been to you.”
20The man went away into the region near the ten cities known as Decapolis and began telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him. Everyone who heard what had happened was amazed.
In Mark’s telling of this story of Jesus casting out demons from a man into a herd of pigs, we see details about what happened after the townspeople begged Jesus to leave their part of the country.
The people beg him to go. The man begs Jesus to take him along. What dramatically different responses to Jesus’ demonstration of power over evil.
However, the man who begs to go with Jesus does not get his wish. Jesus had a different task for him to do. The man is to go home to his family and tell them how much the Lord has done for him, and how good he has been to him.
I wonder if he was disappointed?
I think I would have been.
I wonder if the man even felt twinges of envy toward the followers in the boat who did get to accompany Jesus in person?
This interaction between the healed, freed man and Jesus reminds me how I can sometimes feel that the Christian life of others, perhaps lived out on the mission field overseas, or even in inner-city Canada where the needs seem so obvious—is somehow more valuable or effective than my life here in nice-ville, raising my family and quietly doing my work.
It can seem like a living out of the Christian life that appears to be – on the surface at least – more colourful and dramatic is also more fruitful.
This passage hits to the heart of that misconception.
The man went away and did exactly as Jesus told him to do, which was no more and no less than sharing with his circle of influence what the Lord had done for him and how good Jesus had been to him. And what happened? Everyone who heard was amazed. Amen.
Father God, thank you for your demonstration of amazing power in this story. Thank you for what Jesus did for this man. Thank you for the man’s faithfulness in sharing with his family and friends what you did for him. Now, centuries later, this nameless man’s story is still having an impact. Help me to remember that you can make even the most ordinary of lives an extraordinary witness for you. Amen.