What a ridiculous tale of demons asking to be thrust into pigs? How can we possibly relate to this scripture in modern times? I am not as quick to doubt the existance of demons as I once was because of people whom I respect reporting interactions and exorcisms. However, I do remain skeptical. This is not something that I have any experience with in my world today. What in the world can I pick up and carry as the lesson learned from this scripture?
I start by backing up and looking at where this lesson fits in the overall gospel of Luke. Luke had very definitive things to say about the authority and power of Jesus. At a quick glimpse, the hint of Legion as a name seems to imply that even the all-powerful Romans weren't enough to overcome Jesus. Perhaps a little tongue-in-check political commentary that they are pigs? But setting that aside, the most pressing issue for me here is the value of the individual. Jesus doesn't turn aside from this man who has been left naked and chained in the tombs.
He had basically been left for dead by the community. If that doesn't define unclean and misunderstood, I don't know what does. Look at Chapter 8. It begins with the parable of the sower. What is fertile ground for the seeds - for the Word of God? After the telling of this parable, Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are looking for him. Instead of going to see them, he re-defines family as those who hear and obey. He turns toward followers and away from biological family. Jesus nexts gets into a boat with the disciples. They fear for their life and ask him to save them from the storm. He calms the winds and waters but chastises these his closest followers for not having faith. These two groups are what we would expect to be those closest to Jesus!
We then have the demon possession story of this scripture selection. It concludes with the exorcized man wanting to follow and spread the word but the others are afraid. In the very next story, Jesus heals a woman of faith who touches his hem, and then he resurrects a little girl. Whew - what a loaded chapter. What is the thread through these stories? It seems to be emphasizing Jesus' power to heal and resurrect, but it also seems to point out that these miracles are not with the persons one would expect.
The fertile ground is not Jesus' mother and brothers, nor is it his disciples. The most faithful and those who receive attention here are the possessed man forgotten by others, the hemhorraging woman and a child. Luke seems to be pointing out yet again that the Messiah is not what we expect - not someone who rubs elbows with the powerful, not someone who shouts his accomplishments from the mountaintops, certainly not someone who gives any special privilege to those who are related to him.
Jesus is a messiah who did not leave even the least of these behind. He sought out those forgotten and overlooked by society. Those on whom the rest of us had given up. This chapter is chock full of hard-to-believe stories, but the point is clear. Jesus does not give up on us even when the world has long since passed us by as a lost cause. This should give each of us pause should we ever begin to point a finger in judgement. Or ever look at someone as a lost cause. Jesus does not give up on anyone. Jesus can overcome our demons, our illnesses, social stigma and even death. Following Him means seeing through a different lense and seeing the true worth and value of all as our brothers and sisters. Nobody Left Behind! Amen.