Today’s gospel follows the story of Jesus demonstrating his cosmic powers and ability by calming the stormy waters. The disciples are left questioning who this man really is. Who is he that can command the waters and wind to obey him? The passage that follows today’s gospel has Jesus heal a very sick woman and raise a girl from the dead. The momentum and energy that Jesus has is gaining ground and momentum. People are talking and wondering who is this man? Who is this person who seems to have control over the forces of evil, people and the created order? Who is this man indeed, is the question that brings us to today’s Gospel. Today; located between these other two great stories, we hear again of how Jesus frees a man possessed by demonic forces.
At face value this is another healing narrative of Jesus. A man is overcome by demons. Jesus casts out the demons. The man is well and restored to his right mind. The crowd are left wondering who Jesus is and the man goes and rejoices, telling all of what has happened to him. Just another day in the office for Jesus.
But it is so easy to overlook just how much power Jesus has in this story. As soon as Jesus arrives on the scene; the man - or is it the demons that are talking - demands to know what Jesus wants. It is difficult to determine who is talking at this point. The man is speaking, but it is also clear that the demons recognize him as well. Jesus does not need to introduce himself to the man or the demons, they already know.
The name used for the demon is also significant in this passage. Legion had only one meaning in ancient Israel and Palestine. Legion is a unit of about 6000 soldiers used by the Roman Empire when occupying a territory. This means that this poor man is possessed by a lot of demons. No wonder it is hard for us to determine who is doing most of the talking from the man. The man himself is probably not sure exactly of the line between his true self and the demons. So, all-consuming they must have been that the man has lost control over the functioning of his body and mind where he sees no way out – at least, not by himself. Jesus, without delaying the inevitable has the demons leave the man and go into a herd of pigs who are then cast off into the abyss. This is a passage that signals to those who witnessed and heard about this event for the first time and to those of us down the ages to today that Jesus is more than your average prophet, sage and healer. This is a man that has cosmic authority and power of the demonic forces of the world as well.
Jesus is more than our brother and friend. Jesus is someone who can liberate us and all of us from all that holds us back from being fully alive. So, who is this man Jesus? Who is this man who has power over good and evil and that these forces ultimately recognize and obey him? While we love to relate to the human side of Jesus. The man who lived and breathed as one of us, is also the very Son of God. It is in Jesus where we find our salvation. It is in Jesus where we find healing, restoration and wholeness. It is in Jesus where we find life and a life worth living. It is in Jesus where we find liberation from our demons and all that prevents us from being our true selves.
As we prepare ourselves for the season of Pentecost. A season that so often can feel long and monotonous we do well to remember why it is we practice our faith. We often need to remind ourselves of who Jesus is in our lives and world. It is easy to forget and lose the significance of Jesus amid the daily struggles and challenges that await us each day. We live in a world where life throws us many challenges. There are many times when we feel burdened and consumed by forces and events that hold us back from being fully alive in God. If we ourselves are not weighed down by the burdens of our life, we know that many people are. We only need to look on our phones, turn on the news, open a newspaper to hear how all-consuming some of these forces can be.
What sustains us in our faith, what keeps us focused on the belief that tomorrow always brings new hope, is that we have a God, we have Jesus who is Sovereign over any and all forces and elements that hold us back and prevent us from being more fully who we are meant to be; beloved Children of God.
So, when the going gets tough; when we are weighed down and see no way out, remember that the Christ who suffered and died for you and me reigns over the cosmic and demonic forces of our lives and world. There is no army or legion that is too big for Christ to overcome. With Christ and through Christ we too will find ourselves sitting once more in our right mind sitting at Jesus’s feet. Our responsibility to this Grace is that we too, like the man healed of from a legion of demons is to go out, leave the sanctuary of our comfortable places and tell all those who find themselves consumed by fear, loss or forgotten that they too will be free.
This is not about running down the street and knocking on doors and handing out pamphlets of how good Jesus is. This is not all about stuffing mailboxes with flyers of the next fundraising event in the parish (but that too is a good thing). This is about living a life that proclaims in action what we believe to be true. It is about the decisions we make each day in the grocery store, on the playground and around the kitchen table. Our responsibility is about patterning our lives after Jesus and living the values of justice, peace, hope and love that Jesus first taught us all those years ago. It is not an easy life. But it is a life worth living.