It wasn't long ago that we had this exact reading as part of the lectionary. In this story we read of Jesus healing a man who was ostracised from his community, and we get this story of Jesus encountering the inner ‘legion’ holding this man captive. I know that the last time I shared this passage with you we looked at this story from the larger context — understanding that Jesus came to dismantle the systemic structures of oppression. There is something deeply political about this story, but we can also uncover something personal, too. This story tells us of a man who had found himself so overwhelmed by the weight of his inner voices. So much so that we read of him never being able to settle his mind or body. When he saw Jesus from a distance, we read that he fell on his knees in front of him (v.6). The weight of the inner voices were able to ease; to find a place to unravel. Jesus was there to listen and restore.
With everything happening around COVID, the ‘inner self’ has become very loud for some people. This story is one that helps us to break open what it means to unravel our minds and find rest. What would it mean if we read ourselves into this story in Mark? Do we see Jesus as being one who listens and brings restoration?
Kelly Skilton Begged to Leave (Jesus Heals Legion, A Man Possessed by Demons) by Hannah Garrity inspired by mark 5:1-20 | acrylic & ink on canvas Have you ever seen the illustration of equity vs. equality? There is a young child standing next to a young teenager and an adult. They all wish to see over a fence. In the description of equality, they each get a box that is the same size. The adult now towers over the fence, the teenager can see, but the child is still unable to see what’s on the other side. In the depiction of equity, they each get a different sized box. Now, all of their heads are peering comfortably over the fence. Why are we afraid of equity?
In the land of the Gerasenes, Jesus shows us what it looks like. He provides healing for an outcast of society, the man shows gratitude, and he evangelizes. This sounds like a moment we would rejoice in. Instead the townspeople beg Jesus to leave. Do they fear scarcity? But we know that God provides in abundance. Do they fear grace? But we yearn for God’s grace. Do they fear for their safety?
Why do humans fear the radical grace of God? Why did the people of Gerasene fear Jesus? We laud Jesus’ work in the gospel as the work we must replicate. We teach our children to think of what Jesus would do. However, time and again history shows us that when we truly work toward the embodiment of the gospel, humans interrupt the work. Humans killed Jesus.