Gospel: Mark 5:1-20* (…)
No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than he was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. The man lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains; but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters; and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at his feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg you, do not torment me!”
He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Evil spirit, come out of the man!” When Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” it replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging, the herd rushed down the cliff; and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and in the countryside. So all the people came to see what had happened.They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind; the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood. When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (…)
“Evil spirit, come out of the man!”
This gospel story overflows with vivid, symbolically charged details. A man possessed by an evil spirit now lives among the tombs. It suggests a man afflicted by his own consciousness of sin, living as one already dead. Though he punishes himself with stones, his own deep seated sins recoil in terror in the presence of Jesus; from the point of view of this “old man,” the call to conversion, though it is offering a passage back to life, is also the summons to a kind of death. The story takes another turn, when the evil spirits call themselves “Legion”—the name for a large unit of Roman soldiers. In the context of first century Palestine, this allusion to Roman occupation adds an element of subversion. Altogether it is a story of disruption and conflict—a confrontation between the power of Jesus and the forces of captivity, whether in the life of one sinner, or in the wider society. In either case, Jesus takes on the forces of death and deadness, drives them out, and leaves behind a man brought to new life, “clothed and in his right mind,” charged to proclaim the terrifying mercy of the Lord.
© Copyright Bible Diary 2019