The Wild Places Bible Guide – 24
April 11, 2019
Thursday, April 11
Mark 5:1-20 (CEB)
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out of the tombs. 3 This man lived among the tombs, and no one was ever strong enough to restrain him, even with a chain. 4 He had been secured many times with leg irons and chains, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one was tough enough to control him. 5 Night and day in the tombs and the hills, he would howl and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from far away, he ran and knelt before him, 7 shouting, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”
8 He said this because Jesus had already commanded him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”
9 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He responded, “Legion is my name, because we are many.” 10 They pleaded with Jesus not to send them out of that region.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside. 12 “Send us into the pigs!” they begged. “Let us go into the pigs!” 13 Jesus gave them permission, so the unclean spirits left the man and went into the pigs. Then the herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.
14 Those who tended the pigs ran away and told the story in the city and in the countryside. People came to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who used to be demon-possessed. They saw the very man who had been filled with many demons sitting there fully dressed and completely sane, and they were filled with awe.16 Those who had actually seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man told the others about the pigs. 17 Then they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.
18 While he was climbing into the boat, the one who had been demon-possessed pleaded with Jesus to let him come along as one of his disciples. 19 But Jesus wouldn’t allow it. “Go home to your own people,” Jesus said, “and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.” 20 The man went away and began to proclaim in the Ten Cities all that Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.
Points of Interest
- In this section of Mark, Jesus is moving into an escalation of wild places, encountering increasingly fearsome powers – bad weather and forces of nature, then spiritual and mental health trauma, and in tomorrow’s passages, long term illness and death.
- I’ve taught three ways of understanding what’s going on with this troubled, self-injurious, alienated man who calls himself Legion. The most traditional understanding is demon possession – that harmful spiritual forces are turning this person’s agency against his own welfare. The most modern understanding would be of extreme mental illness – deep depression and schizophrenia, accompanied by suicidal ideation. The most culturally and literarily sensitive reading would be to see this man as carrying and embodying the trauma of his culture and times. He is identified by the very Roman military forces that have ravaged this community with terror and death and will soon do so again.
- Jesus brings clarity to this person’s troubled condition and – in allowing the spirits to enter into the pigs – clarity to the devastating forces involved in his pain.
- There’s something about corruption, evil, and death that can’t help be what it is. It wants to escape the abyss (where first century Palestinians would have thought evil spirits lived) but ends up going there anyway.
- There’s also something about humanity that, even trapped in enormous trauma, illness, and pain, we have so much resilience that with the help of God and friends, we can in time be restored and be well.
- Jesus wants better than for him to leave his culture and join his rabbinic school. He wants to restore him to his own community, and invites him to tell his story there.
- Jesus never asks people to argue for him or convince people of anything. He does invite people to tell their stories freely and gladly, practicing gratitude and wonder, and gently inviting others into the same.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your city, that people in the greatest trauma, greatest mental illness, and even greatest spiritual distress would encounter people through whom Jesus can love them and help them be restored.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
God with Me Mediation – We take a few minutes of quiet and welcome Jesus to be God with us. Ask Jesus, how are you with me right now? How do you see and know me? How are you present with me in all my strengths and weaknesses, in all my joys and stresses and sorrows? After a few moments of imaginative prayer, welcoming Jesus’ presence with you, close by praying this excerpt from the ancient prayer, The Breastplate of Saint Patrick:
Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.