Today’s story is disturbing. Maybe you’re bothered by the loss of life and income in the 2,000 pigs that hurl themselves off the cliff (Today the going rate for a harvest pig is $3.50-4/lb. The average weight of a pig at harvest is 150 lbs. So the cost per pig is $525-$600. 2,000 pigs would be worth at least $1,050,000-$1,200,000) Or maybe you’re disturbed by Jesus seemingly not caring about the environmental impact of all those carcasses in the clean lake. He seems to be most concerned about this man living among the dead because of his impossible bondage.
Jesus has gone to the edge of the known, or acceptable world of his people. To the East of the Sea of Galilee is major Gentile country, who else would live with 2,000 pigs (considered verboten for Jews). He begins his time there, as he did in Jewish lands (Mark 1:21-28 in Capernaum), with the exorcism of an unclean spirit and the liberation of a man who was formerly as good as dead. The demoniac man is forced to live not just separate from his family and community, but among the dead. His spirit is so far from what God intends that he has to be bound to protect others and himself from his possessed derangement.
He recognizes Jesus upon his landing. Jesus recognizes him. We see the belief that naming the power you face gives you power over it.
Jesus ends the impossible bondage of this man by chasing out and off the force that is opposed to the will and good creation of God. His freedom both terrifies and inspires the local folks. They’re afraid of what they’ve lost and what else they could lose. And in awe at this liberating power that restores of their sons back to their community. In their discomfort of losing the status quo normality of life they ask him to leave. Jesus then asks the newly free – resurrected – man to tell all of what God has done for him. He becomes the first “missionary” through his public testimony of how he has experienced the purpose, passion and presence of God in Jesus the Christ.
2019 is the third consecutive year of decreased life expectancy in our country. It’s a figure that had been rising for over 70 consecutive years. It’s due in large part to the opioid and suicide epidemics we face. Hopeless, destructive isolation, and the impossible bondage to a possession-like drug addiction. Maybe we shouldn’t question or struggle with the idea of possession. We see the forces opposed to God’s good will, imprisoning us in an impossible bondage throughout our society in addictions, obsessions, and financial inequalities.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What part of today’s passage disturbs or bothers you?
- How does Jesus liberate this man, giving him a new name, resurrecting him to a new life?
- Why would the neighbors not show more appreciation?
- Why wouldn’t Jesus allow the man to come with him?
- How do you hear an invitation from the Spirit of God for you – or us – to speak, be, act or become free in Christ from those forces that control us through this passage?
Download the PDF textual study guide we use in our Vocabulary of Faith Class at @CAPCOakland HERE.