The Gerasene Demoniac’s Story

This is another of my “meditations” on the Gospel stories. It is an attempt to get into the story, to understand from the viewpoint of one of the participants. It is also an attempt to make the story relevant, and to explore my own self. This one looks at the Gerasene demoniac that Jesus healed. The bit that really caught my attention was when Jesus leaves and tells him he cannot come with him but must go home. Having recently returned home myself after over 30 years, that hit home…

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Sunset in Cornwall

Sunset in Cornwall

“Go home,” he said. Home—who wouldn’t want to go home? And yet… It had been so long, so many years and so much pain, both for me and especially for others.

It all started back when I was barely a man. At first it was just anger, periods of rage that were only a little worse than those of other boys my age. But slowly they got worse, and more frequent. And then the blackouts began. I still remember the disorientation and confusion that I felt after the first blackout, waking up and not knowing what had happened but sensing something awful had occurred. Slowly my friends began to avoid me, until at last I had none. And then my family to began to keep their distance. Eventually it simply became easier to walk away than to face the looks of fear in their faces.
So I found myself living in the wild places outside of town. I made a sort of home for myself among the memorials and tombs, a small cave in a hillside. Few people ever came that way, and those that did soon learned to avoid it after I moved in. My clothing grew old and finally disintegrated, but by then I didn’t care. And still the blackness increased. Often I would find myself cutting my arms or legs with sharp stones, the physical pain being preferable to the sense of unreality that so often pervaded my existence.
At times, especially after someone unwittingly came that way and got hurt, that townspeople would come out and try to capture me, to bind me with ropes or chains, to deal with this menace. But it never worked. I would be calm enough, docile enough for a while but then the blackness would rise within me and my anger would find strength I hardly knew I had, and I would break the bonds and flee back to the safety of my cave in the wilderness.

And so the years passed, nothing really changing, until today. I saw the boat while it was still out on the lake, and watched it head towards the shore nearby. Something in me knew that it was important and so I continued to watch it approach. The closer it came to more agitated I became. The blackness within me began to rise, and a sense of dread began to fill my being. By the time the boat touch the shore I was trembling with fear. And then I saw him, as he stepped from the boat onto the sand. Everything within me cried out to run as fast as I could away from there, and so I did. I turned away and began to run as if my life depended upon it, in panic.
Finally I fell, exhausted, to my knees. But then, strangely, I saw a pair of feet in front of me. I dared not look up, for I knew who it was: it was the man from the boat. My body had betrayed me, and where I thought I was running away I had a run to him.
“What is there between us?” I cried out. “What have you got to do with me?”
He said nothing at first, but then I felt a hand, his hand, on my head.
“What?” I cried again. My whole body was shaking with the fear and tension I fell, but he was very calm.
“Go away,” he said quietly. I wanted nothing more than to leave, but I couldn’t. And then I realised he wasn’t talking to me, but to the blackness and fear within me.
“No!” I shouted—or rather, the blackness inside me shouted. “Don’t make us leave!”
“Who are you?”
“There are many of us, call us ‘Legion’.”
It was strange hearing these words come out of my mouth, but not being the one saying them. I was more afraid now that I had been when I first saw the boat, and I wanted more than ever to run away, but I couldn’t. I stayed where I was, on my knees in front of him, and listened, helpless, to this strange conversation.
“Don’t send us out into the wild places,” my voice begged. “Send us into the pigs.”
“Very well, go.”
I don’t remember much of the next few minutes. The blackness rose, I vaguely remember screaming, and great pain, then nothing. When I came to I was sitting on the sand, being held gently by this stranger. Finally I looked at him. I saw his face, his eyes so full of compassion, and then he went blurry, his features melting and running together. It took me a moment to realise that this was due to the fact that I was crying. I hadn’t cried since I was a child, didn’t think I still could, yet here I was weeping openly, and making no effort to stop. Nor did he seem embarrassed by it, he just held me until the tears subsided.
As I stop crying I realised I felt different. There was a peace, a calmness inside. I couldn’t sense the blackness any more and somehow I knew it was gone forever. I sat up and someone in the crowd took a cloak and put it around my shoulders—the first clothing I had worn in years. Someone else passed me some bread and cheese and I ate gratefully.

There was clearly a lot of excitement in the crowd. What was odd, to me, was that much of it seemed directed not at this man or me, but at an empty field nearby. What was so strange about an empty field? Then I remembered: not long before it had been filled with pigs. Apparently as I was being healed the pigs had suddenly run down into the lake and drowned. Was that a coincidence or was it connected to what had happened here with me? I vaguely remembered the mention of pigs in my ranting and realised that others had made the connection too.
It soon became clear that some of the crowd had run to tell others in the town about what was happening. People began arriving, often stopping in surprise and shock at seeing me sitting so calmly, clothed and eating, and listening to this man. Those who had been there all along told them of the wondrous events that had happened. I was somewhat oblivious at first, so wrapped up in the presence of this man that I didn’t notice that many of the people around me were less than happy at what had happened. Not that they were not impressed with my healing, but the pigs represented a lot of money.
I suppose I could have gotten angry, but I understood them. It was hard enough for me to believe in my healing, surely many of them wondered if it would last. On the other hand, they knew pigs, and these pigs represented a considerable part of the wealth of the village. It was no wonder that they began to ask him to go away, to go back home across the lake.

As the crowd continued to grow and the tone became angrier, his friends encouraged him to do as they asked. He reluctantly agreed and began to get into the boat. I followed him and told him that I would go with him. But he wouldn’t let me, and instead told me to go home and tell my friends and family what had happened and how God had blessed me.
So here I am on the road to the house I left so long ago. My heart longs to see them all again, to give them my good news, to show them this wonderful thing that has happened to me. But I am also afraid: what if they don’t believe? What if they are scared it is only temporary? What if they reject me? But he told me to go and so I am going. If they do reject me, perhaps I’ll go across the lake myself and try to find him again. I’d like to see him again, but oh, to be part of my family once again!

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