Submitted by Jan on Mon, 06/06/2016 – 20:30
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 6th after Pentecost, Proper 7
Year C (2015-2016)
Bible Book: Luke
Verse: 26 – 39
Jesus is crossing over the Sea of Galilee to the land of the Gerasenes, which means that He is not just crossing the sea, He is also crossing boundaries. The land of the Gerasenes is the land of Gentiles, and no self-respecting Jewish Rabbi would ever waste his precious time there. Jesus is immediately confronted by a man who is possessed. Actually, he is more than possessed, he is occupied. That is what a legion was; a unit by which the Roman military organized itself. He is occupied by a host of demons – dozens, hundreds, or more? We do not know, although the Roman army “legion” designated 6,000 soldiers, so we can be sure that Luke employs this term to impress upon us that it was a lot!
It is devastating that he has no name, no identity left, except for what he is captive to. His story is extremely tragic for he is alone, wandering the tombs, a place of utter desolation and uncleanness, and he is clearly a frightening hazard to himself and to others. He should be living in a home amongst people and not amongst the dead.
Jesus heals him, sending the host of demons to inhabit and drive mad a herd of pigs. In response to this healing, people are amazed and a little uncomfortable, perhaps. The scene after his healing is a sharp contrast to the scene when Jesus first met him. He is back at home, not running around naked and wandering amongst the tombs. He sits at the feet of Jesus. The man is grateful and wants to follow Jesus, but Jesus tells him to stay where he is, sharing the word of what God has done for him in his own homeland.
I think this story is, at heart, about identity; his identity and ours. The heart breaking moment in the story is when Jesus asks the man his name and one of the horde answers, “Legion, for we are many.” It is devastating that he has no name, no identity left, except for what he is captive to. He has been completely defined by what robs him of joy and health, by what hinders him and keeps him bound, by all those things that keep him from experiencing life in its abundance.
Do we also tend to define ourselves in terms of our deficiencies and setbacks, our disappointments and failures? Not always, of course, but enough to rob us of the abundant life God hopes that we experience and share. Why is it that every time we want to take a risk and in this way be vulnerable, we are reminded of every failure, every disappointment we have experienced before? We live in a culture that seeks to create in us a sense of lack. The majority of advertisements we see or listen to have as their goal to create in us a powerful sense of insecurity. Whether they focus on our looks or status, our possessions or our relationships, they try to create in us a sense of insufficiency that can only be remedied by buying the product being advertised. And all too often we comply. Not always, of course, but if we are being honest, we must admit we believe the promise the product made, but before we could believe its promise we had to believe its claim: that we are insufficient.
Jesus is still crossing boundaries to heal us. Jesus conveys to us that we are more than the sum total of our past failures and disappoints. We are God’s beloved children, forgiven of our sins, healed of our disappointments, and blessed with an open future. The Gerasene man Jesus encountered lost his identity amid the legion of demons, but Jesus gave it back to him. So also Jesus gives us our identity. It is powerful, because it dares to call so many of the identities forced upon us a lie and invites us to receive once again our God-given identity of being a beloved child worthy of love, honour, and respect.
To think about: Do we tend to define ourselves in terms of our deficiencies and setbacks, our disappointments and failures? How can the message of this passage help us to change the way we identify ourselves and others?
Written By: Rev. Hennie van Rooyen (Chairperson HIV/AIDS Commission Highveld Synod Dutch Reformed Church) and trained ‘Churches, Channel of Hope’ Facilitator.
Author: van Rooyen H (Rev)