The story of the Gadarene demoniac has always struck me as an especially difficult experience in the life of Jesus, one that revealed, among other things, an unusual willingness to accept rejection by the very ones he had served. On the far side of the Lake in the region of the Gerasenes there lived a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. When I say, “lived,” I mean that since he was no longer able to be with others he had gone into the burial caves outside the city. Night and day he wandered among the tombs, stark naked, howling and gnashing himself with sharp stones. The townspeople were frightened to death of this violent demonic and had tried to tie him up in chains but he was always able to break free.
When this demoniac saw Jesus he rushed toward him, fell at his feet and begged not to be tormented ahead of time. On a nearby hillside was a large herd of sheep and at the evil spirits’ request Jesus sent them out of the man and into the pigs who immediately rushed down into the lake and destroyed themselves. The man was cured and wanted to stay with Jesus but the event had caused such a stir among the townspeople that they pled with Jesus to leave, which he did (Mark 5:1-20).
What do we see in Jesus demeanor and actions that will help us today to live in a similar fashion? Certainly one thing is his total lack of fear of the man possessed by so many demons that he was called by the name “Legion.” When he came running up to Jesus with the evil spirits screaming through him, Jesus calmly asked him his name. Such composure is remarkable among men.
The other quality I see in Jesus is his ability to accept with composure the rejection of the people from whose community this wretched man had been removed. Instead of joyfully celebrating the new day they begged Jesus to leave. So, after telling the demoniac to go back to his friends and tell them of the mercy he had received from the Lord, Jesus moved on to whatever would be next. Like a true prophet he spoke the truth of God and allowed the hearers to react as they would.
To live like Jesus is to react as he did regardless of the danger involved. Should we find ourselves in a unstable situation, as Jesus did in today’s narrative, we are to face it without fear, in the most effective manner available, and without expectation of appreciation. That’s what Jesus did and, since he is our mentor, we now have a model of how we are to live — courageously, effectively, and without expectation of approval.