Demons? A mad man haunting tombs? One of those casual-conversation type exorcisms? (The sort with neither ectoplasm nor spinning heads of any kind?) Well, I couldn’t resist the urge to blog this one.
This is all an excerpt from this week’s Exegete.
So, here is my somewhat liberal retelling of a certain story about Jesus that comes from the gospel of Luke, specifically chapter eight.
Jesus and his disciples went across the lake and entered the Wild West, the country of the Gerasenes. As Jesus stepped out on land, he encountered a man from those people who was possessed by demons. The man in question had been naked for some long time and he lived among the cave tombs. When Jesus saw him thusly he said, “Get out of him.”
The man threw himself down prostrate and shrieked at the top of his lungs, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please don’t f#&k with me!”
(Demons, you see, are not well known for their manners, and this was not the first time the demon had seized the man – you could tell the townspeople knew about it, because there were broken shackles and ropes around the man’s wrists and ankles. Wherever they tried to bind him, he always made his mad way back to the tombs, which he haunted.)
Jesus asked him, “What’s your name?”
The man replied, “Crowd.” You see, there were many demons co-habitating and they begged Jesus not to order them back into the abyss.
Meanwhile, out on the hillside, there was a large herd of swine feeding (you see, it really was the Wild West – they ate unclean pigs here). The demons begged Jesus to allow them to enter the herd instead of going back to the abyss, and Jesus allowed it. Pigs, not known for their spiritual fortitude, couldn’t take it and in a mad rush drowned themselves in the lake.
The swineherds, not amused, ran back to town and spread the word far and wide. The town came out en masse to see what on earth was going on, and what they saw totally freaked them out. They saw the mad man tamed and a clear student of Jesus! He was clothed! He was normal! He was very clearly healed! Rather than see the bright side of this situation, they were simply terrified and asked Jesus to leave.
Jesus got into the boat with his friends and returned to civilization (where no pigs live), but not before the oddest thing happened. The man who was healed begged Jesus to go with him and Jesus refused.
“Return to your own home and tell people what the Most High God has done for you.”
So he did.
When God changes your life, stay exactly where you are and be different, there. That is the moral of this rather complex story that also has undertones of political resistance (that’s Luke, for you) and no small dash of metaphysical mayhem. (If your’e going to have mayhem, it might as well be metaphysical, that’s what I say.)
But when God changes your life, the point isn’t to then go away and be a guru on a mountain, or follow a teacher somewhere else. The point is to live out your changed life right where you are, which is guaranteed to be difficult to the people who think they know exactly what your problems are, and in fact, exactly who you are and what you’re capable of. But that’s the point. God has changed your life and now you have an opportunity, simply by being changed, to help foster the same intensity of change in others. This isn’t done by actively trying to change them, mind you. It’s done simply by be changed and standing next to them. This is the crux of Family Systems Theory as developed in the 20th century, and Jesus understood it intuitively in the first century.
Jesus. He’s cool like that.