Sunday Night Musings: Demon-Possession and Pigs

One of today's lectionary texts is Luke 8:26-39. You may remember this crazy story (if not you can read it on the link) about a demon-possessed man who lives naked in a cemetery. Jesus sails across Galilee and finds him. The demons acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and beg for mercy. They don't want to be tortured or thrown into the Abyss. So in an act of mercy(?) Jesus sends them into a herd of pigs who then run off a cliff into the water and drown. The man becomes himself again, but the townsfolk are afraid and ask Jesus to leave.

There's a lot of peculiarities to this story--which is part of the beauty of the gospel. Here's a man who has been chained up and given a guard by the villagers. But he keeps breaking out of his chains. Apparently the demon who possesses him prefers that he lives in solitude (you'd think the demons would want to raise a ruckus in the town, but maybe that's just in the movies--maybe real demons prefer to go unnoticed). And apparently the demon drives him to live naked amongst the graves. We're chock full of crazy here.

(personally, I think the pigs should have glowing red eyes)
Then the demon (which is referred to in the singular up to this point), tells Jesus that his name is "Legion" because there are so many of him. Even though few humans do, the demons recognize Jesus. The know who He is and the authority He has. So they beg for mercy. I don't know much about the theology of demons and their "hell" but apparently they can be tortured which they're not too fond of, and they don't want to go to the Abyss (because as we all know thanks to James Cameron, there are aliens down there). So for whatever reason, Jesus allows them to be cast into a herd of swine which promptly goes and drowns itself (who knows what happens to demons after pigs die?).

Then the swineherds tell the townspeople who come back to check things out. They find the formerly possessed man sitting at Jesus' feet, returned to normal. Their reaction? Fear. No one seems to be angry that their valuable livestock died. No one celebrates the restoration of the man. No one asks questions or brings him some clothing or sees if Jesus can cure their acne. They are afraid, so fearfully they ask Jesus to remove Himself from their vicinity. The restored man asks to go with, but Jesus encourages him to stay and tell people what God has done for him, which he does.

Like I said--it's kind of a crazy story. It leaves me asking a lot of "why" questions. Here's one of mine: Why does Jesus sail across this lake to heal just one man when He's going to be asked to leave right after He does it? Why doesn't He go into the village and restore everyone? Surely all the townsfolk were in need of some healing, some restoration, some salvation? Why doesn't Jesus do something a little "bigger" if He's not going to be in the area for long?

Here's my thought: in the Kingdom of God, one person makes all the difference. Yes, Jesus came to save all humanity, but His restorative interactions are almost always with individuals. Each individual matters.

But each individual is part of a community. Jesus asks this restored man to go back home and tell his family what God has done for him. So because of one changed individual, a whole community gets to hear about Jesus.

Still, I wonder what's up with the pigs? That one I don't have an answer to. But I kind of like the image of the ungodly stuff in my life going running down a steep slope and drowning in the sea, never to be seen again.

So maybe for me that pig--that delicious source of bacon--is a reminder of what God has done in my life, of the crap He has helped me get rid of, and of all the things I have to share about what God has done for me. And that list is much longer than I'm even aware.

No comments: