Friday, September 18, 2015
The Scary Story of a Man Possessed
He was a legend. He lived in a graveyard and everyone knew he lived out there. It had become a rite of passage for many teen-aged boys in this town to row their boats out to the abandoned graveyard. They had to step foot on the island where this wild man lived and touch a grave before they could leave. Other boys would be in their boats watching to see if their comrade chickened out or if the crazy man did something. He'd been known to charge those who were brave enough to enter his domain--it was as if he could smell their fear! Grown men had gone to the graveyard together many times and tried to subdue him with chains--they feared for the safety of their families. But he pulled those chains off as easily as if they'd been made out of wet moss. And he would become enraged and scream and wildly chase grown men off the island in terror. People feared him--plain and simple. Of course, with someone as crazy as the Wild Man, rumors grew. It was said he'd eat small animals while they were still alive. No one had seen him do that, but what else did he eat out there on that small island? And there was that tale that he had children chained up inside a cave-like tomb. In fact, parents used the Wild Man to threaten their children into submission, "If you don't clean your room, I'm going to take you to live with the Wild Man!" Lately, it had been reported by the boys being initiated into manhood that the Wild Man no longer had clothes and that he was sleeping among the dead. Either his clothes had become so old they'd fallen off of him or he'd torn them off in one of his rages. The island graveyard was no place to be.
But that's exactly where Jesus and his disciples ended up after being out in a boat in that terrible storm--which Jesus had calmed. When they landed, they were met at the boat by the Wild Man. Jesus immediately knew what was wrong. The man was demon possessed. So Jesus addressed the demons living inside of him. He asked, "What's your name?" and was told, "Legion, Battalion, Army" because an army of demons was living inside of him. The demons knew Jesus had authority over them and knew their habitation in Wild Man was over. They begged him to send them into a herd of pigs instead of sending them to the bottomless pit. No one wants to go to the bottomless pit. And that's what Jesus did. Those demons entered the pigs and sent them over the cliff to their deaths...and at the same moment, Wild Man was set free! Jesus and his disciples dressed this newly liberated man and began teaching him on the spot. The owners of the pigs (which Jews weren't allowed to own) went into the village and began telling everyone what had happened. People came to the island and found Wild Man sitting at the feet of Jesus in his right mind and fully clothed.
Guess what happened next? The people were fearful! They were more fearful of Wild Man being in his right mind and completely set free than they were of him when he was crazy. They begged Jesus to leave. The Voice version of the Bible says, "The people are scared to death, and they don't want this scary abnormality happening in their territory. They ask Jesus to leave immediately. Jesus doesn't argue." So Jesus leaves. But before he does, Wild Man asks to go with him. Jesus replied, "No. Go home. Tell your people this amazing story about how much God has done for you."
I read this story this morning and it startled me to realize that the people were more fearful of the miraculous than they were of the demonic. Isn't that interesting? I really don't think that has changed. People gravitate towards the demonic and "play" with it. But even people in the church veer away from the miraculous and are skeptical, suspicious and scoffing.
But Jesus left that unbelieving, fear-bound town with a witness. What could they do with a Wild Man who'd become civilized? How could they dispute his testimony, his restored life, his new reputation? I think it's amazing that Jesus could only have had a few hours with him...but it was enough. Enough to set his feet on a new path and to transform him into a new man. Enough to be a testimony to an unbelieving, fearful community. Jesus still has a witness, a testimony, to change the hearts of unbelievers...everywhere.