Mark 5:14-20

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’

And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. Mark 5:14-20

More surprises surface as we come to the end of the story of the Gerasene demoniac. The last scene featured thousands of pigs running off the cliff to drown in the sea. It is hard to top that. It is funny to imagine all of those pigs running one way while their swineherds run the opposite way back to town to tell on Jesus. After all, they were supposed to protect those pigs.

And, of course, what are the people in the village going to do? They listen to the breathless swineherds’ story and they just have to see it for themselves. Like rubber-neckers at a freeway crash. But instead of a flotilla of dead pigs they see the town crazy sitting quietly by a Galilean. They didn’t know what to make of that…but now they were afraid of the guy because he was quiet rather than fearing his next outburst.

They don’t understand what is going on so they react by wanting the whole scene to end. They would rather Jesus just leave, and leave them alone, instead of finding out what happened. Sometimes we really do think ignorance is bliss. We would rather just not know. We prefer the peace of denial rather than the possibility of the truth upsetting our lives.

It is interesting again to remember that, when Jesus asked the demon its name, the demon replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” The word pops up again here as the townspeople recognize the man sitting with Jesus. Everyone then would have known that a “legion” was a unit of the Roman army consisting of about 5000 soldiers. Given that all of this happened in Roman occupied territory – and that the Decapolis was a group of ten Roman villages on the frontier of that Roman occupied territory – soldiers would have been a part of daily life.

Is there are link here? Is this whole story just a subtle dig? That Jesus, armed with nothing but his voice and the truth, could defeat the thousands of Roman soldiers (the pigs rushing to the sea) who made life so miserable for those they dominated? Here we do well once again to remember the opening verses of Mark. Who IS the Son of God and what good news does he bring? Is it Jesus or the Emperor?

What a story that demoniac had to tell!

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, the message of your love, and the power of your presence, has turned countless lives from despair to joy, from sickness to health, from grief to gratitude. You have given us all many stories to tell. Give us the courage to tell them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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