No sooner had Jesus’s disciples survived a storm of the wind and rain, Jesus led them into a storm of a different kind. On the other side (ministry is often on the other side of our comfort zone) of the lake, the less hospitable side, lived a tormented human among the graves. He was unbelievably strong, so strong was he that he scared people. Because people saw him as a threat, they had often attempted to shackled him hand and foot. It never worked. Against their every measure to gain control, he continually shouted to everyone and to nothing—all the time. The man’s self-hatred was slashed into his self-mutilation.
One day, unannounced, Jesus arrived with his drenched disciples to the other side. When the man saw Jesus, he ran toward him as if he knew him. He fell on his knees. He screamed, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name, don’t torture me.” So much for introductions. Somehow, he knows Jesus’s power and he begs Jesus not to torture him (or is it them?) as so many others have done before.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Legion because we are many.” He begged Jesus repeatedly not to banish them.
Jesus sent the legion of demons into the pigs; only the man remained, but now different.
He sat calmly, in his right mind. The locals were afraid—again. So afraid, they begged Jesus to leave their region. They begged Jesus—the same way the formerly demon-possessed one begged Jesus not to make the demons leave him; in the same way, the demons begged to be sent into the pigs—the good citizens begged Jesus to leave them alone. They feared the man in his right mind more than the one formerly screaming and cutting and they asked Jesus to leave. When we refuse to accept those that God is welcoming, we are asking Jesus to leave.
When the man in his right mind now begged Jesus to go with him and the other disciples, Jesus refused. What an odd story this one is. In the way Mark tells the story, Jesus is recruiting disciples to follow him, but not here.
Instead, Jesus sends the man home to tell his people what the Lord had done for him. The man goes home for the first time in a long time, to the region known as the Decapolis. When he arrived, he told everyone what Jesus had done for him.
And in that subtle shift from Jesus’s “what the Lord had done” to the man’s “what Jesus had done” we see that he knew exactly who Jesus was. This formerly-demon-possessed-now-in-his-right-mind human becomes the only person in the Gospel of Mark Jesus encouraged to go and tell about Jesus.
Here, again, is a story about Jesus receiving those other people would either control or avoid. But that is who our God is, the one who welcomes others from the other side.