One of the more extraordinary stories in Mark’s Gospel, a demon possessed man, notorious for his unsocial and presumably dangerous behavior, is dramatically healed. But the details are initially strange, unusual, and for some a little disturbing. Why should it be that Jesus would allow the demons to go into a herd of pigs? There is symbolism at work. The man is possessed by a large number of demons who call themselves “legion.” Note the detail: the Roman military power was notorious for its military “legions.” And these pagan, military conquering, definition of unclean, “legions” are thrown into pigs—the very definition of unclean animals to the Jewish religion. Mark is showing us how Jesus had come to expel the real spiritual uncleanness from Israel, not by military conquest (in that way to throw out the military legions), but by spiritual conquest—through the power of the gospel he preached, and the paradox of the cross on which he died.
Two responses are possible. One group begs Jesus to depart (5:17). His radical gospel presence was too much for them. They desired peace; they desired quiet; they desired a different kind of solution—a political one, a military one (not a spiritual one). The other response is typified by the man who had been healed. He begged that he could be with Jesus (5:19).
Of course, the second response is far better. Yet there is a part in it that needs to be corrected. The man’s role is now not simply to enjoy Jesus’ presence, but to tell his neighbors and people with whom he lived “how much Jesus had done for him” (5:20).
That is to be our response too. Witness is not difficult in terms of its basic instructions and actions. It begins with telling people what Jesus has done for you.
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