Kent Hansen, an attorney in California with an interest in religious liberty, also takes time from his practice to send out a weekly inspirational newsletter: “A Word of Grace for your Monday.” What he communicates never fails to connect with my mind and heart on a deep level. With his permission, I’m sharing below what he shared this week:
“Then people came to see what it was that happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting right there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to ask Jesus to leave their neighborhood” (Mark 5:15-17. Mark 5:1-20 for the full story).
There is something to see, alright. Our local entertainment is over. Our economy is wrecked. We blame Jesus for this.
No more can exasperated parents threaten to take their kids down to the cemetery and turn them over to the “monster” if they don’t behave themselves. Teenagers can no longer dare each other to creep along the ridge taunting the naked, obscenity-spewing “devil” down below to break his chains and chase them. The swineherd’s dependence on the terror of the moaning, shrieking, murderous outcast to keep the same teenagers away from harassing their herds is at an end. The loud and terrifying spectacle had gone on so long that the new silence is deafening.
It looks like Hades out here. The superhuman thrashing of broken chains and shackles has gouged the tomb walls. One looking closely can actually see bloody claw marks in the sandstone. The rooting and wallowing pigs have denuded the hillsides and wadis of vegetation. Acrid dust covers everything.
The swineherds came tearing into town claiming that someone called Jesus of Nazareth, a visitor from Galilee across the lake, cast the protesting demons out of the demoniac and into their pigs. The pigs then ran off of the cliff into the lake. Now there are 2,000 pig carcasses bobbing in the cove below. That’s going to stink!
In the midst of this mad mess, the newly retired demoniac sits on a rock quietly, respectfully conversing with the one called Jesus of Nazareth. The demoniac — we don’t know him by any other name — is clean with no sign of the filth and self-inflicted cuts and bruises that used to cover his body. He is wearing a bright white singlet that stands out against the squalid rubble of the graveyard cum pigsty
Where did that robe come from? In a land and time where cloth is at such a premium that Roman soldiers will gamble for the tunic of the condemned at an execution, a new singlet is a luxury.
Clothing that clean didn’t come over in a fishing boat. No one came into town to fetch it. It fits the man once known for his scandalous nudity like it was made for him, but who gave it to him? Apparently, Jesus did. Who is this Jesus? Why would he put new clothing on a low-life like the demoniac?
None of this makes sense. Even though we never got the howling, wild man-beast under control, we had learned to co-exist with him and the devils that possessed him. We were making an adequate living off of the meat and skin of animals that the Jews from the other side of the lake wouldn’t touch, although fortunately the Romans have no such compunction. Gadara may be a God-forsaken niche between the desert and the lake, but it is our God-forsaken niche.
The swineherds say the demoniac asked Jesus, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Good question, though you wonder how the demoniac knew him. Something is going on here beyond what we can see. It feels like some kind of ancient battle has been rejoined in our backyard.
Whatever it means for Jesus to win that battle, it has devastated our lives here. The swineherds are unemployed. The ripple effect will last a lot longer than the splash 2,000 pigs made in the lake. Butchers, tanners, leather workers, and traders will go hungry. We can’t take any more of this!
Sure, the wildest, nastiest person in our midst has been transformed into a new creation, but at what cost? Jesus is causing a lot more trouble for us than the demoniac ever did. He is scary! He needs to go away and leave us alone, before he destroys everything we have worked so hard to build.
Given the choice between pig breeding and Jesus, we will take the pigs, thank you very much! That’s our collective judgment.
“OK, Jesus, it’s time for you to go. Please leave our neighborhood. We’ll take it from here.”
What would you do in our place?
It makes you think, doesn’t it? . . . .
Under the mercy of Christ,
(Note from Martin Weber: If you wish to receive Kent Hansen’s weekly meditation, just send him an email at email@example.com with the word “subscribe.”)