Daily Devotion for Saturday 3rd February 2024

Saturday, 3 February 2024
St Mark 5: 1 – 20

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.  When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him.  This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.  For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”  For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”  And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.  The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”  He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.  Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.  Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Reflection

This is the longest exorcism story told in the Gospels. We are told that Jesus went to the other side of the lake to the country of the Gerasenes. It is unclear where this country is, the city of Gerasa is over thirty miles from any water, others suggest that it is really Kherasa, closer to the lake. Wherever it is Mark sets the incident in the Decapolis, literally ten cities, a federation founded by Alexander the Great in predominantly Gentile territory.
 
The man recognises Jesus, and Jesus goes on to ask the man his own name. The man has no name, or at least he does not remember the name he was given. The man has no name, merely a label representing the way the man is filled with demons. He is Legion. In Jesus’ time the word legion would be understood as referring to a unit in the Roman army.
 
In a bizarre scene Jesus sends the demons among the pigs, who rush down into the lake and are drowned.
 
The people who come and observe the scene, see the man who had been possessed, dressed and in his right mind. They are afraid. Afraid about what? Afraid of the power of Jesus to bring healing. Afraid that their lives and ways of living were being turned upside down. The man had been just where they wanted him living among the tombs, now he was healed and had come to Jesus.
 
Maybe it says something to us today and the way we view mental illness. It wasn’t so long ago that those suffering mental illness were sent to psychiatric hospitals on the edges of towns and cities. Today we know that one in three people suffer from mental health problems. There is the campaign ‘Rethink Mental Illness’. The people who have seen this healing by Jesus don’t really want to rethink things. Because of their great fear they just want Jesus to go away.
 
Prayer
 
Gracious God,
Jesus brought healing and liberation to those he encountered.
May we who are his people today,
Be agents of health and wholeness,
Liberating people from those things
That bind them,
And hold them in thrall.
Amen.

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Retired Minister living in Sunderland

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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