Amidst all the beautiful tales of the teachings and healings of Jesus stands this rather eerie and scary story of the healing of the man with a multitude of evil spirits. Why is it here? We may ask ourselves and it will be helpful to read between the lines to understand what it would have meant to a first century Jew and what it may mean to us in the West in the twenty first century. Firstly, Mark is not haphazardly throwing these stories into his Gospel, there is a connection between what he wrote previously and what is to be read ahead. This event must have occurred late in the evening or at night- read 4 v 35- making it all the more frightening. The disciples and Jesus had made the journey across the sea of Galilee, which was five miles wide at this part-encountering a storm along the way. They must have felt exhausted when they reached land and this was part of the lakeside which contained many tombs. Wandering in the midst of these was the demon-possessed man, a very dangerous man. He appears to have had many personalities within him, sometimes speaking as 'I' and sometimes 'we'. He was a very troubled soul. Like many such troubled souls today, the man would have certainly endured some kind of trauma in his background. It is clear that Jesus made more than one attempt to exorcise him. He was remarkably unsuccessful when He commanded the demon to come out from the man and then He had demanded to know the name of the demon-to know someone's name is to have power over them. Whatever we may make of demons, the poor man believed in them and so Jesus demonstrated His power and the new freedom of the man through a visible exercise, casting them out into pigs. The man was restored to sanity and Jesus showed by His actions that His supreme love was for broken, diseased humanity. For us, we can note that nothing is impossible for God; that Jesus has power of even the greatest of evil things; and that, if we trust in Him, He can bring healings- both physical issues and mental health issues- through us. This terrifying incident is played out complete under Jesus' control, there is no sense of desperation in the way He acts, and the man is free to follow Him or to witness to His saving power in the surrounding area. The temptation for us is to put God in a box, to think of Jesus as gentle, meek and mild, whereas C S Lewis put it in his description of Aslan, the lion: "Course he isn't safe, but he is good. He is not a tame lion."
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