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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 5:1–20

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “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 had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

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. (NRSV)

This may be one of the wildest stories about Jesus you’re ever going to read.

Jesus and the guys are crossing the Sea of Galilee. They get off the boat and a crazy guy—let’s call him Crazy Bob—runs out from the tombstones. He runs up and says, “Hey, Jesus, what are you doing here? Please don’t hurt me!” After Jesus does the come-out-you-unclean-spirit thing and they exchange pleasantries, the demon “beg[s] him earnestly not to send them out of the country,” the country apparently being well suited to the crazy demon lifestyle, kind of like Florida during spring break. They suggest being sent into a herd of pigs, and Jesus says, “That’s weird, but OK, go ahead.” Then they all run into the water, forgetting that pigs aren’t the strongest swimmers, and drown.

The swineherds run into town, yelling “It wasn’t our fault! There was this guy, and the pigs were possessed by demons!” Naturally—since you don’t hear the phrase “demon-possessed pigs” every day—the people come and see, sitting next to Jesus, none other than Crazy Bob, only he’s not crazy anymore, so now he’s just Bob. And they freak out. “Bob is sane and the pigs are possessed? You’re turning the world upside down! Please leave!” And when Bob wants to come along, Jesus says “No, you go tell this story. People will be amazed.”

I can see Peter, James, and John looking at each other, saying “You think?”

Follow Jesus, you’re going to see some wild stuff. The thing is, I don’t think we’re spectators here. I think that we’re all Crazy Bob—unrestrained, doing what we want, even though it hurts us—fearing that when Jesus shows up, somehow that’s when it’s going to get uncomfortable. We don’t want to give up stuff. But in the end, what’s the option? To be indulged, gorged, and in over our heads.

In the end, it’s better to be Bob than the pigs.

Lord, keep reminding us that to be free we need to release things that we have become attached to, that indulgence is a path to suffering. Help us to set aside those things and find our minds and hearts clear to serve you. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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