* * * * * * *
He terrified them.
They were all relieved when he “relocated” from town to live in his own personal ghetto – the graveyard just outside the city limits. The only time they had to deal with him was when they went to bury one of their own out there and his violent, naked screams tore into their grief like a knife. He saw the terror in their eyes, but he was powerless to calm them. Or to calm himself.
There was a rasping soundtrack blaring inside his head day and night: “You’re worthless…useless…beyond redemption.” Couldn’t anyone hear the noise?
There was a tiny corner of his tormented soul that had once tried firing flares to God: Help me. All he ever heard in response was “God doesn’t hear you, fool!”
But that was a lie. Years after everyone else had abandoned him, fled from him in fear – Jesus came. To him. As Jesus approached him in that desolate field of tombs, the man’s tormented screams became louder and louder. Without fear, Jesus said firmly: “Come out of him.”
The response? “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!”
Jesus looked at him, pure, fierce love. “What is your name?”
The man didn’t answer. The demons did. “Legion.” The Roman army’s legions numbered 3000-6000 men. The anarchy of the legion of demons tormenting the man ceased – with military obedience, the demons spoke as one.
Those who’d followed Jesus to the graveyard heard the voice, a ragged dark scream begging Jesus to command the legion of demons anywhere but back to the abyss from where they’d come.
“Send us into the pigs over there,” Legion begged. Whimpered. Demanded.
Jesus anticipated exactly what the maddened pigs would do next. And for the sake of those present – and for our sake as well – he permitted the legion of demons to enter the pigs. The quiet milling herd became a swirling fury. The swine were suddenly hearing and feeling what the man had experienced for years. They thundered down a hillside and into a lake…a watery abyss…and drowned. Every last one of them.
The pig herders ran shrieking into town.
“…Then the man…”
“…and the pigs…”
“…like an avalanche…”
“…It was Jesus….”
The people from the town came thundering like a herd to the graveyard. And stopped, as one, by the sight of the man.
Someone had given the man a cloak and the man was wearing it! And he was sitting and listening to Jesus…smiling and laughing.
The townspeople were terrified. More terrified than they’d been when the man was running naked among the tombs, screaming and swearing. What kind of power had made the madman whole? As one, a legion of sorts, they begged Jesus to leave their town. To stop disrupting the “normal” order of things.
Jesus’ answer? OK.
As Jesus stepped into the boat to leave, the man who’d lived among the dead approached him. He wasn’t laughing now. His eyes filled with tears. “Please, Jesus. Take me with you,” the man begged. “Please.”
Jesus was moved with compassion for the man…and for the cowering crowd beyond them. Jesus told the man he needed to go back to the town…back home…and live among all the people who’d been terrified of him before, and were even more terrified of him now.
The man’s heart generated a thousand questions in a fraction of a second. All he wanted to do was serve this One who’d set him free. And as the man looked into the eyes of his deliverer, he knew that Jesus understood that. Loved him. And wanted to do the same for each one of them. Jesus nodded toward the murmuring, tense group behind them and said, “Tell them.”
The man nodded his yes, turned and walked toward the terrified crowd.