26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
So I want to start by reminding you that to Jewish people of the time, pigs were unclean, as was this man, thus they were out with the dead (who are also unclean) away from everyone else.. There are so many questions here, where to begin? Questions about mental illness, about healing, about demons and about why the demons wanted to go into the pigs only to have them die? Did this mean they were then free to wonder the world and attack the next unsuspecting victim? What about the swine herders what now for them? I am sure at the time people made a lot more sense of this story than what we can now..
As I was drawing this I (obviously was thinking about the pigs.. I was imaging a herd of pigs heading straight towards you.. Pigs are alot bigger than you would think and a huge herd of them running for a cliff would be pretty unstoppable.. I was thinking how often our problems can often feel like a herd of pigs running towards us.. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do, we want to sit in the corner and hide, but often that is not an option we need to get up and get on with the life in front of us.. We can’t hide in the tombs forever..
Often when people are going through a hard time, we would like them to be like the man and leave, hide out somewhere away from us so that thier sadness, grief and struggle won’t effect us. I like how Jesus gave the demons permission to leave the way they needed to and wondered about helping people deal with the issues they are working through..
None of us are immune from struggle and what I have learnt about struggle is the most powerful thing against it is companionship, people who give us space to sort things out the way they need to. Sometimes there is nothing to say.. Just being there and seeing them, loving them as God loves them..
We can’t do this in our own strength if we do it is like standing in front of the racing swine in the hope to stop them, it will knock you down.. It is only with God’s help, the Spirit’s protection and guidance can we be present.. Jesus shows us how to love all, he does it not in his own strength but through God’s, in doing so he is no longer afraid of what is unclean or how it can impact on him.. He places things where they need to be and eventually they sink down to the bottom of the lake and life in a new way starts to grow.. That of hope..