The Country of the Gadarenes

The text comes from the Gospel of Mark and is inside of a known account of Jesus healing a man filled with demons. The small part I want to deal with is from Mark 5:14-20 (that is, the Gospel of Mark, the fifth chapter and the verses starting at fourteen and ending at twenty).

To prepare these seven verses it is important to know what happened before in verses 1-13. Jesus the Christ came by boat to the country of the Gadarenes. When he stepped onto the land a man sprung forth from the tombs. This man was known to be possessed and though people tried to chain him, he could not be fettered. Christ cures him and sends the tar-dark demons into a large company of swine.

verse 14: So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what that had happened. verse 15: Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.

To better grasp the situation consider the small parts of the account. The foggy sea-side country of the Gadarenes is visited by a cluster of men. One of the men, who looks no different than those he came with, is approached by a common freak. The common freak, known as Legion, talks with familiarity towards this one man from the company. Keep in mind that Legion is naked and was keeping residence in a simple (and foul) graveyard. This eccentric sinner speaks at this man knowing his name, and he speaks in fear. The man who looks like everyone else suddenly shouts spiritual words, like a magician. but this is all happening outside, on the ground, near a cemetery. The demons leap from him, are gone. The magical words work. Immediately following a flock of dark pigs squirm and fall into a body of water. Because they lost their flock and because of how they lost their flock the persons who were feeding the swine bolt towards the city, towards sanity and a crowd. The crowd comes to see this ambiguous miracle and tremble. It is here that my comment is to be made.

I am a skeptical man and I have always shook at the idea of miracles. They are the moments in history when God breaks through and changes something superaturally. It is a rough and complex issue and there is little speculation that can be done about it. But I for one was the type to raise my hand high when I said, "show me a miracle and I will believe" (it should be noted that I have converted without any such miracle nonetheless). I am still, despite my Christianity, nervous about miracles because should I see one then I am less able to perch my Christianity in the metaphysical world. In the country of the Gadarenes a miracle occured. When I first read this my genuine expectation was for the meek sea-side folk of two-thoudsand years ago to repent mightily, praise the spiritual man and hug the one who was previously possessed. Should I have been there then I know I would have liked to have been one to act in this way. But this was not, at all, what happened.

verse 16: And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. verse 17: Then they began to plead with him to depart from their region. verse 18: And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. verse 19: However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you". verse 20: And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.

Consider verse 17. Consider that they did not demand him to leave, because they knew he was Christ (or at least that they knew he was holy). Instead they pleaded with him that he would leave. This is the reaction to a miracle that I did not expect but have come to recognize as the more common reaction to a genuine miracle. I used to think miracles to be objective certainties that could never be undone. And I still believe that. But I have stopped believing that a miracle will, necessarily, cause a repentant heart. Miracles are wrinkles in existence and how could a bitter heart correctly discern between reality and super-reality if it is poised to tell all that there is no super-reality? There must, somehow be an internal mutiny done by one's self. Consider the country of the Gadarenes and not what they saw but how they acted. The same normal looking man who obediently left their shore returned to other shores, healed dead bodies, died with the reputation as God (the unkillable).

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