Today’s reading is Mark 5:1-20:
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
What do you think the “moral of the story” is?
I think the clear, if unintuitive, takeaway is that you should be more like the demon-possessed man. He does everything right in this passage, and you should emulate him. To wit:
1) Run to Jesus. Take your problems, your mental illness(es), your busyness, your social alienation, your anxiety, your demons (metaphorical and real)–your crazy–and run to the feet of Jesus. Do not walk. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And PLEASE do not retreat to your cave, to the tombs, to your natural habitat. Some of you are actually enjoying cutting yourself with your own version of sharp stones. (You know, that boy or girl or website or food or obsession or overloaded schedule or substance that makes you hurt just enough to feel really alive). You like being unrestrained, and you like the attention of people trying to restrain you. You like listening to your demons, because they keep you company and help you feel like you’re someone worth talking to, and some of them are even functional (like perfectionism). That’s OK. I’m not saying it’s your fault. But you need to stop listening to them, and put down your stones, and go to Jesus. Run. Fall down at his feet.
2) Ask Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, what he has to do with you. Don’t ask what you have to do with you. Especially don’t ask what your demons have to do with you. (Aren’t you tired of talking to them anyway?) Instead, ask Jesus what he wants from you, and what he is going to do to you. (N.B.: It’s OK to be afraid. A lot of the people who meet Jesus are afraid. He is the Son of the Most High God after all, and he has the power to make you unrecognizably different.)
3) Tell Jesus the truth about what is going on with you. He already knows anyway. Especially don’t try to pretend like you’re a one-demon show. If your total number of problems, habits, sins, and sorrows is one (or less), then either you’re outrageously lucky or you’re not paying attention. Most of us have an itty bitty committee in our heads. Our poor Gerasene friend can’t even figure out whether to use the plural pronoun. Breaking news: life is complicated! In other words, your name is Legion. Fortunately, the solution is relatively simple: go to the Great Physician.
4) Ask Jesus for his Mercy. If you have done the first three things so far, you might be surprised about what happens next. Fortunately, taking care of what happens next is Jesus’ problem, and his forte. The key here is to let him actually do the work. Don’t try to help. Your little mental committee isn’t going to vote themselves off the island, and you can’t fix your broken brain with your broken brain. You need outside help. (N.B.: If and when Jesus starts doing his healing stuff to you, it might kinda freak out your friends who are used to the old game. That’s a good sign!)
5) Beg Jesus that you might stay with him. Sitting at his feet, clothed and in your right mind, is a good place to be. I promise you don’t have anywhere better to be.
6) Go where he sends you. Go tell your friends how much Jesus has done for you. Be public about it. Make Jesus look good for doing the good stuff that he’s done. It might disturb some people, but most people are already pretty disturbed anyway! That’s precisely why they need to encounter Jesus for themselves.
Nathan Otey usually thinks about philosophy whenever he concentrates. He sleeps in Pforzheimer House.