Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
When we consider our Gospel reading in Luke 8:26-39, if we consider it at all, it’s easy to redirect our attention from the main point. We get excited about the fact that there are herds of pigs there (apparently not very observant Jewish people). We get excited about the number of demons. We get excited about the fact that the demons recognize Jesus. We really think it’s interesting that the demons kill the herd of pigs so as to be released from the bodies they are sent into. Maybe we pause to think about the economic loss caused to the farmers by the demons.
Did you notice there’s a guy sitting there? He’s in torment. He’s been a social outcast for years. People have chained him up to keep him from hurting himself and them, but he has pulled the chains apart. Remember that people in antiquity weren’t stupid. They knew how to make chains that could hold things. There was some supernatural power going on in this guy. He was tormented. He lived among the tombs. He had ripped his clothes up and off. He had nothing but his demonic torment. He’s got to be one of the most pitiable figures in Scripture, but we walked right by him, just like we probably walk right by the person lying sprawled in the doorway of a closed business, mumbling to himself and twitching at random.
What is Jesus’ response to the man? He treats him like a man. This may be the first time in many years that’s happened. The man, in his torment, finds that Jesus even asks him, not the demons, but him, a question. “What’s your name?” Really? This person has a name! We have to wonder if he remembers it. He might be afraid to try answering. Maybe he’s in trouble again.
Jesus treats this dangerous outcast like the human he is. He commands the demons to go away from him. In comparison, a dozen herds of pigs aren’t worth what this tormented man is. The sin and oppression that torments him needs to be taken care of. After all, the man has a name, a background, a future.
By the time the bystanders are done watching what they thought was the big miracle, the demons going into the herd of pigs, then the herd running off and drowning, the man has clothes. He’s sitting up. He’s in his right mind, talking with Jesus. The other people missed the whole point of the encounter. Likewise, when Christians are engaged with this hurting world, our world often misses the point. The message of the Gospel is forgiveness and life for all who believe. This is the most precious miracle we can bring to anyone. “But there are hungry people in the world!” Yes, that’s true. And there are lots groups, including Christian groups, that are focused on providing food, shelter, employment, and education to those who are in need, helping those who are able to stand on their own feet and get what they need, as well as helping some of them become providers for people in more grave need. We can help with that and direct people to the organizations that meet the physical needs. But the Christian message is forgiveness and life for all who believe. We take the person wo is tormented and, by the power of Christ’s forgiveness, restore him so he can be sitting up, clothed and in his right mind. Given some time in that condition, he’ll probably be bringing God’s grace to others, and helping them up as well.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.