Jesus and his friends got in a boat and sailed to a place called Gadarenes. As soon as they got out of the boat, a local freak walked up and started shouting at them. This guy was naked and he was some sub-breed of homeless because he lived in tombs with dead bodies. Oh, and he was dragging broken chains around on his hands and feet (I imagine some kind of Barney Fife tried to lock him up at some point).
So anyway, he sees Jesus, comes up to him, collapses on the ground, and screams: “What have I to do with you? You’re the son of the Most High God. Please don’t hurt me!”
The deal was that this guy had demons harassing him and taking control of him and making him do things he didn’t want to do, like sleep with dead bodies and break the law. So I don’t think it was the man yelling, I think it was the demon inside him who was communicating with Jesus.
Then Jesus asks the man his name, and he says it is Legion, because there are lots of demons inside him.
Then the demons keep begging for mercy from Jesus, because he had commanded them to leave Legion’s body. They didn’t want to go back to hell and asked Jesus if they could go take over some pigs instead, and Jesus said fine. So the demons left Legion and went into this herd of pigs, who immediately stampeded down a hill, into a lake, and drowned.
This whole pig spectacle drew some attention and the guys who were keeping the pigs ran over to where Jesus was to figure out why their pigs suddenly got so suicidal. When they got to Jesus, they found Legion; fully clothed, sitting down, talking to Jesus, in his right mind.
This scene freaked them out more than the pig incident, and since Jesus seemed to be the common denominator with all the commotion, they asked him to leave, assuming life would get back to normal then. So he did. He got back in his boat with his friends and went to leave. But Legion asked to stay with Jesus and Jesus said no, that he had to go and Legion had to stay behind and tell his family and friends about what happened. So Legion did tell everyone because he was so excited to be free. I bet he probably got a new name too, because the old one didn’t seem to apply anymore.
Ok, now, this is what I notice about this story.
Let’s start with Legion: Legion is gross.
He does stuff that is socially unacceptable. He is scary. No one wants to get close to him. I’m sure his family disowned him and I’ll bet he had totally given up on himself. He probably wanted to die really badly but couldn’t, so he just hung out with dead people to try and feel dead, but he still had all these demons messing with him and he couldn’t get rid of them on his own.
We know that Jesus is a popular fellow because he’s already healed some people and told some good stories, but we also know that he was just a poor, ordinary-looking guy with no paparazzi or limo following him around, just his 12 bumbling buddies.
I don’t know if Legion had heard about Jesus before, but I’m guessing he hadn’t, because no one wants to sit at the lunch table and have a conversation with Legion. He might break you, or share his demons with you, or smell like dead people. So Legion probably didn't know about Jesus' reputation.
Something about Jesus makes Legion come running, and then the demons inside him start freaking out and begging for mercy and admitting out loud how important and glorious Jesus is and how they are no match for him.
Then Jesus asks Legion what his name is. And since Jesus is Jesus, he already knows what Legion’s name is. Actually, he knows what Legion’s real name is, before he became stinky-scary-Legion-who-sleeps-with-dead-bodies, back when Legion was a fun little kid. But Jesus asks Legion to identify himself out loud, and Legion says that he’s the guy everyone tells him he is: screwed up and demon-possessed.
The next thing that happens is that Jesus has mercy on the demons. The evil spirits who used to be angels in heaven but who decided to partner with Satan against God and work to mess up the earth by screwing with people like Legion and making right things wrong. Keep in mind that Jesus had just finished a forty-day fast ending with Satan tempting Him in the desert. And since Jesus is fully God, he knows for sure how bad these demons are, and since he is fully man, he’s got some fresh negative memory association with Satan and how he worked him over in the desert.
Jesus has mercy on the demons, because he remembers who they used to be too, before they were demons, when he created them at the beginning of time, and he understands why they don’t want to go back to hell to where Satan is, so Jesus feels sorry for them and lets them go into those pigs instead. His goal is to set Legion free from the evil that is in him because he asked Jesus for mercy.
Oh wait, was that Legion talking or the demon inside him? I’m not sure now, it was Legion’s lips moving, but who was inspiring the content? Legion or the demons? I don’t think it matters to Jesus. He gave mercy to everyone involved in asking the question.
It seems to me that Jesus’ priority here is justice for Legion (the oppressed), so he has to make the demons go. But he does it in a way that he accomplishes his will with the least possible amount of pain even for the demons. Crazy.
Next? The locals show up and want an explanation. Instead they find Legion, whom they’ve always known as the unpredictable freak who lives in the cemetery, dressed and calm and sitting quietly with Jesus.
Looking at it from my perspective, it’s a great happy ending. A wrong thing made right. But from their perspective, it was something that was completely out of their normality. Legion had apparently been possessed for quite a while and everyone had gotten used to him being the way he always was. Maybe they liked him hanging out in the tombs. Maybe Legion was like some kind of dangerous watchdog for the edge of their town. I don’t know.
But they didn’t like the change, and they figured it was Jesus’ fault, so they asked him to leave.
And, ever the gentleman, Jesus does leave, because He never stays where he is not wanted.
And Legion begs his only friend to stay, and Jesus says no, that Legion’s job is to tell everyone what happened.
And so Legion does go and cry freedom to his town, with all the enthusiasm of someone who just got out of jail, and just got healed, and just got saved.
And a lot of times, I feel like Legion after he was set free.
And I act like the locals when something comes up that I don’t understand.
And Jesus is ever-patient with me.
And always a gentleman.