35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 He was already in the boat, so they started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm arose. High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water. 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. Frantically they woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” 39 When he woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 And he asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?” 41 And they were filled with awe and said among themselves, “Who is this man, that even the wind and waves obey him?” 5:1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the land of the Gerasenes. 2 Just as Jesus was climbing from the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit ran out from a cemetery to meet him. 3 This man lived among the tombs and could not be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to control him. 5 All day long and throughout the night, he would wander among the tombs and in the hills, screaming and hitting himself with stones. 6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him. He ran to meet Jesus and fell down before him. 7 He gave a terrible scream, shrieking, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” 9 Then Jesus asked, “What is your name?” And the spirit replied, “Legion, because there are many of us here inside this man.” 10 Then the spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place. 11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. 12 “Send us into those pigs,” the evil spirits begged. 13 Jesus gave them permission. So the evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of two thousand pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake, where they drowned. 14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby city and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. Everyone rushed out to see for themselves. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, but they were frightened when they saw the man who had been demon possessed, for he was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane. 16 Those who had seen what happened to the man and to the pigs told everyone about it, 17 and the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. 18 When Jesus got back into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go, too. 19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to tell everyone about the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.
Points of Interest:
- In this passage, we have two parallel stories. Both passages introduce us to a chaotic situation: in one, it is the storm at sea; in the other, it is the life and emotions of the demoniac. In both situations, people are afraid: the disciples of the storm; and the townsfolk of the demoniac. In both, Jesus speaks a word and brings calm: the sea goes absolutely quiet; and the demoniac sits down with him, clothed and in his right mind. In both, the people end up more afraid of Jesus than they were of the previous frightening experience (Awe is literally ‘great fear.’).
- ‘Why are you so afraid?’—Fear is one of the big themes of both of these stories. Jesus enters into a fearful situation. He takes away the source of fear, but ironically it leads to an even greater fear of Jesus. To a certain extent, that greater fear is appropriate. The disciples and the townspeople are getting a glimpse of just how powerful this man is. The disciples are afraid of the storm raging outside their boat, and then they discover that the man they are sitting with in their boat is so much more powerful than the storm that he can calm it with a word. If they were afraid of the storm, how much more should they be afraid of Jesus! It is appropriate to recognize just how powerful Jesus is, but Jesus seems to indicate that there is another option: faith. It’s incredibly good news to have Jesus in your boat if you have faith in two things: he is more powerful than the storm; and he cares about you. In that case, there’s no place safer to be than in that boat with Jesus. Faith in Jesus’ power and in his care are the things that keep us from fear. And, conversely, fear keeps us from faith: even after Jesus demonstrates both his power and his care, the disciples are afraid.
- ‘a large herd of pigs’—the presence of a herd of pigs indicates that these people are non-Jews. Since pigs are not kosher, Jews would have no need of large herds of them. This is the first time Jesus has interacted with non-Jews.
- ‘Send us into those pigs’—The demons actually beg Jesus to go into the pigs, and—more incredibly—Jesus listens to their begging. Apparently, the demons do not want to report to their superiors empty-handed; they figure that bothering a herd of pigs is better than nothing. Why wouldn’t Jesus make it as hard as possible on the demons? And why would he let these poor pigs suffer? I think Jesus is making a very strong statement about the value of this man. This demon-possessed man, who is treated like a chained animal, is worth more than 2000 animals to Jesus.
- ‘Go home to your friends’—The man asks if he can go with Jesus, but Jesus sends him ‘home to his friends’ instead. Most recently, his home was the tombs and he had no friends. He must have had a life, family, and friends before his demon-possession. It would be understandable if he would rather go with Jesus than return to that previous life: what he has found in Jesus is pretty great; and it might be painful, shameful, or embarrassing to go back to his friends after the demon-possession episode. Who knows what terrible things he has done to them, or embarrassing things he’s done in front of them? Jesus thinks it is pretty important for him to return to that life, though. It is important for the man: he will be able to see just how much has been restored to him. He’s been given a home in exchange for the tombs. It’s also important for the man’s friends: they will be able to hear about Jesus from this man. The man wants to be a follower of Jesus. In one way, Jesus says no—he doesn’t let him in the boat with him. In another way, Jesus really honors the man: he makes him a ‘sent one,’ an apostle, to his friends. This demoniac is the first messenger to non-Jews, and really the first person sent out to tell the message in his entire ministry. The 12 apostles, though appointed, haven’t gone out yet.
Taking it Home:
- For you: You’ve been asking Jesus for big things during Leap of Faith. Have you experienced moments of fear about those things? Is it his power or his care in which it is more difficult to believe? Ask Jesus to demonstrate his goodness and his power to you in some way today.
- For your 6: The message with which Jesus commissioned the demoniac is ‘Tell what wonderful things the Lord has done for you.’ That’s really the message Jesus has given to all of us: tell your friends what I have done for you. What has Jesus done for you lately? Share the story with one of your 6.
- For our church: In this story, Jesus frees someone who is homeless, poor, and mentally unstable. He reaches a person from whom everyone else shrinks. The townspeople, on the other hand, had been content to just keep him locked away from them. Pray that our church would grow in our willingness and ability to reach those others aren’t willing or able to. Pray that we won’t hide from such people.