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He came running from the cemetery screaming…dried blood still all over his arms and legs from where it appeared he had been intentionally cutting himself with sharp rocks-maybe hoping to ease some of the emotional pain that he was enduring.
Upon seeing the boat from the hillside, he ran to Jesus from the tombs because that was his home — his residency since being banished there-banished from cookouts, family get-togethers and all other functions of society.
Chains still dangling from his ankles where he was once restrained and confined to the rocky ledge like an aging, forgotten household pet; but now physically free due to his brute strength and yet still held captive because of what lingered within him.
In Mark 5 we read that Jesus asks the man for his name and that he responds with…”Legion-because we are many.” The man was referring to the many demons inside of his human shell.
The Bible later tells us that “Legion” realizes the power that the son of God has over all creation and he assumes that Jesus is about to cast them out and banish them from the region.
Upon sensing this, Legion asks of Jesus to send him and his entourage of demons into a grazing herd of pigs nearby. Jesus obliges and as a result, 2,000 “now possessed” pigs stampede down an embankment, leave their caretakers and tumble over each other into the water, eventually leading to a mass drowning of swine.
The 2,000 floating pigs now litter the beach, the coves and the crashing waves. The men tending the herd of pork run back and tell the community everything they had witnessed: Jesus…the now healed man…the floating pigs.
Verses 15-17 are troubling to read but ring so true of human nature and our perspective of what matters most to us. Mark records that the people come to Jesus, assess the situation and see the healed man now clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
The witnesses again described everything to the towns folk that had happened to the demon-possessed man and then told them about the pigs.
Verse 17 states that after they heard the stories and witnessed the aftermath, “They began to beg Him (Jesus) to leave their region.”
How many times can we find ourselves in that story, worrying more about the financial cost of 2,000 dead pigs than embracing a newly transformed life? Despite the fact that Jesus alone was able to heal and bring about a peace on this man that he had not yet found, the people wanted Jesus to leave the region because of what it costs them.
Despite the fact that the formerly possessed man was now fully clothed and in his right mind, the local community was afraid.
For the mother of this man that only Jesus could heal, it would have probably been worth the death of thousands of pigs to have her son back. Maybe even for his wife if he were married or his children if he had them…is there ever too big a price tag, or ever too big of an inconvenience for the restoration of a life to happen? For family we say no. For those gathering in a community…they say yes.
It is often easier to isolate, remove or confine a troubled life than it is to pay the price of the road that leads to restoration. Unfortunately, most of us have that herd of pigs that we don’t want to let go of in order for someone else to experience the love of God. For some it’s a time commitment that’s too costly, for some it’s the loss of a social status that we don’t want to give up, for others it is simply troubling to think about the inconvenience a troubled life could bring to the table.
Some lives do need deeper conversations. Some people require longer phone calls and a few more cups of coffee. Some lives need a deeper forgiveness than the human heart can provide. Some lives need to bathe in the grace of Jesus that our empty well can no longer provide.
May God open our eyes to see when we begin to value the pigs more than the people.
The Rev. Jay Montgomery is youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Carrollton, Ky.