Why was he there in the first place?
I’m intrigued by several aspects of one of our weekly readings from Luke 8; this story of demons and chains and pigs. But of all the questions that arise, this is the most interesting to me.
In the preceding chapters we see Jesus teaching and healing, choosing disciples and spreading the word about the kingdom of God. He was beginning to garner a following and cause a stir among the religious establishment.
And then suddenly in chapter 8, Jesus wants to cross the lake. Which seems like a normal idea until you realize that across the lake, the region known as the Gerasenes, was not a Jewish area. The group of cities on that side of the Sea of Galilee were known to be largely inhabited by Gentiles.
Why, in the midst of a growing movement, would Jesus take a sharp turn into an area that was not his primary focus? What’s the point of this little detour?
Take a look at what Jesus had been teaching before this little divergence across the lake: a parable about casting seed among different soils, another about being light for everyone to see and a story about true family being not about blood relation, but listening and obeying God’s word. Jesus was trying to communicate something important.
So he heads across the lake to a largely Gentile area where he meets a man tortured by demons. This man is an outcast – forced to live in a graveyard because of the hold his demons had over him. Jesus sees his problem and casts the demons into some pigs.
Everyone looked at that poor guy and saw a crazy man. They chained and ostracized him. Jesus looked and saw the enemy, but it was not the man. Maybe this was the point of Jesus crossing the lake.
Our job is not to look at people and see the enemy, no matter how evil they appear. Our job is to spread seed, to shine light and to bring others into our family.
But how many times do we do the exact opposite? We encounter others whose opinion is different from us and we build a wall. Or we see someone make a mistake and write them off as evil. We set up camps and fight among ourselves.
We have enough of our own demons to fight without demonizing each other.
This weekend, my preacher spoke on Ephesians 6, that famous passage about putting on the full armor of God. There’s so much richness in that passage to explore, but it’s the statement right at the beginning in verse 12 that seems to get lost in the talk of helmets and shields and breastplates:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powersof this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
We cannot forget that our battle is not against other people. We all have our demons to fight. We’re all in a battle and are taking on damage. Maybe if I can understand that better, I can treat others the way they should be treated. Perhaps that was Jesus’ point in taking the little trip to the Gerasenes.
So today, may we truly see each other. Instead of demonizing others, may we see the demons we’re all fighting. May we have compassion for one another as we all fight this battle. May we spread the seed of good news, shine our light to others and call one another family.
Because that’s where the true battle lies.