News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
Jesus has left Israel – the land of God’s people – to cross the sea of Galilee into Pagan or Gentile land (everyone besides the Jews). They were thought to be less righteous, possibly even less important as they hadn’t been chosen by God. The Jews diverged on their approach to contact with Gentiles: they avoided them, seeking to be among their own “righteous” kind; they interacted with them in the diversity of daily life, but kept apart (the word “holy” means “to be set apart”); or they interacted with them without any care. Here we see that the people in this town make their living off of herding swine. Pigs were unclean animals according to the Torah, and so offensive for believing and practicing Jewish people. The man is described as demon-possessed, literally the text says that he has an “unclean” or “unholy,” “unrighteous” or “un-God-like” spirit or breath. He is unlike the image that God made people in according to the story of Creation in Genesis 1:27.
He’s as good as dead. Forsaken by his people, he’s forgotten and placed among the place of the dead: a cemetery. Jesus restores him to life: chasing out the legion of demons, restoring the clean breath and/or holy spirit to this man. In doing so Jesus conquers death, destruction and division. The man is ready to go anywhere with Jesus, but he’s instructed to stay and testify to his people of God’s good news.
Jesus is forced to leave, to return to Israel. The people are terrified. How is this that can do such a thing? How has such authority? And who asked him to do it?; for he’s most likely destroyed their local economy through the death of the herd of swine. Why couldn’t he just leave things the way they were? The ways things were working just fine? Quite possibly the life he gives and offers is to pricey and costly for the people of this village.
Jesus cannot stay, but this man restored to life can. Jesus defeats the unclean spirits in this battle-like encounter. Remember that in the ancient world knowing someone’s name was thought to give you a certain power and authority over them. The legion tries to get the last word by asking to go into the swine. Did they hope and plan to terrify the people and purportedly to impeded Jesus in his work? Yet the resurrected one, the man who lived among the dead and is now returned to life stays as a beacon, a light in the darkness, salt of the earth, a mustard seed. He becomes an unintended missionary to the Gentiles.
Questions for going deeper: