In our gospel reading today we find Jesus in a Gentile area by the sea of Galilee where the land rises steeply from the shore. We know this is a Gentile area from the described geography… and the fact that there are a herd of pigs.
In that place Jesus finds this man, a human storm, violently possessed by many spirits. The man confronts Jesus, but Jesus remains calm, as we have seen when he is faced with other storms. He conveys his quiet authority once again, as we have seen when he is faced with other storms. Jesus rescues the man.
For Luke, this is not just a remarkable healing, but rather this is salvation. The salvation promised to the Jewish people from long ago is reaching out, touching those beyond Israel, coming to outsiders. In this case, coming to an outsider to the outsiders.
But all of this is by way of setting the scene. The real crux of the action is at the end of the passage; the man, healed and restored, wants to stay with Jesus.
We can imagine that this is not only because of what he has experienced, but also because things will not be easy for him if he were to go back to where he came from. There would likely be considerable reluctance to accept him back into the community.
Standing alone, without being able to hold on, literally, to Jesus, must have felt frightening. However, Jesus does not say, ‘come, stay with me, go where I go’. But rather, ‘go, back to your people, and tell them your story; tell them what God has done for you’.
We humans have, it seems, a never-ending capacity to put people into boxes; ‘that one is no good’, ‘the other is ok’, and so on. When people change category, when the one we had labelled as beyond the pail does something heroic, or the hero falls from their pedestal, we struggle to adjust.
The man Jesus encounters in this gospel reading had been well and truly categorised. People knew how to, or rather not to relate to him. Because of this, his healing and restoration made him a threat.
And so it is with us. No matter how broken or dysfunctional things are, if they are known, we know how to respond. We know what is expected of us. If things change category, even if it is for the better, it is a challenge. We have to rethink how we respond and learn to relate again.
We would rather accept one anothers failings. So often we hear, ‘that’s just the way they are’ or, ‘that’s just how that group of people behave’.We do not look for transformation; we do not welcome transformation. We would rather live with the pain of brokenness than embark on the challenging and demanding work of restoration and healing.
But, Jesus is all about healing and restoration; all about salvation – of our lives, of our hearts, of our relationships. Personally and institutionally. We need to trust that, when we embark on the journey of transformation, it is not in our own strength, but in the power of Jesus Christ, who is able to face any storm, to not be overcome by it, and to bring about healing and peace.
And when we allow that healing and restoration; that salvation, to touch us, we are called to tell our story; of what God has done for us, so that healing and restoration; that salvation, can touch the lives of those around us.