Jesus had started his ministry, performed healings and deliverances, attracted crowds, called out the first few disciples, preached the Sermon on the Mount, healed the Centurion’s servant, and towards evening one day he headed to Peter’s house in Capernaum, maybe for a meal. Everywhere he went, crowds went. Arriving at the house, he found that even Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, so he healed her, too.
As the news of Jesus’ whereabouts began to circulate, the crowd soon brought more needy people. Instead of being able to relax and unwind Jesus continued ministering to the people, but the crowd didn’t seem to diminish.
Looking at the multitudes of people still waiting, Jesus decided to stop what he was doing and leave. Let’s go across to the other side, he said to the disciples. They headed to the seashore.
There was no hint of bad weather when Jesus and the disciples embarked. By the time he had settled down and fallen asleep, a bad storm came up. Wind-churned waves sloshing into the boat, the panic-stricken disciples woke Jesus up. He rebuked the storm, then rebuked them. “Where is your faith?” he asked. “Ye of little faith!” he called them. They could have calmed the storm themselves and let him sleep. It had been a long day!
(Why the sudden storm? Well, Jesus had given the disciples a “commandment to depart unto the other side.” When the Lord gives you something to do, do obstacles suddenly arise? Think about it. The enemy loves to throw monkey-wrenches.)
What was on the other side? Peace and quiet? Calm mountains, calm weather, peace and calm. That’s what you’d expect Jesus to be seeking after the busy and tiring day he’d had.
That’s not what was on the other side. It was a place of cliffs, tombs, pig-herders and demons. And a long-tormented, demon-possessed wild man. An irritating annoyance, a constant embarassment, otherwise a man of no account in the region of Gadara.
No one could tame him. People had tried chaining him up but he easily broke the chains. He wore no clothes, lived in the tombs, and spent his days and nights roaming the mountainside, cutting himself with stones and crying out. Imagine what he must have looked like, dirt covered and blood stained.
Instead of staying hidden among his mountain-side caves, that man was watching the sea. When he saw Jesus from a distance he came running to him, falling on his knees at Jesus’ feet. Jesus immediately commanded, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” And he did. Legion, the demon said his name was. We are many, he said.
The man called out “Jesus, Son of the Most High God!” and prayed, “Swear to God you won’t torture me.” Jesus didn’t torture the man, he tortured the demons. He set the man free. With Jesus’ permission the demons ran into the pigs. The unhappy pigs quickly ran into the sea. The unhappy pig-herders quickly ran into town to tell everyone, who quickly came running to see for themselves.
And there they saw the formerly wild man now demon-free, clothed and in his right mind, sitting at Jesus’ feet.
You’d think the townspeople would celebrate. You’d think they would beg Jesus to help everyone in the area. That’s what the crowds on the other side did. But, there were also 2000 dead pigs floating in the sea. Fear was their reaction, not faith. Instead of begging Jesus to come cast out demons and heal their sick, they begged Jesus to leave.
The delivered man wanted to go with Jesus. But Jesus told him to go home instead, go to his family, go tell everyone what had happened. Tell them what great things God had done for him. Tell them about God’s mercy. So that’s what he did, and the people were amazed.
Jesus and the disciples returned to their boat, returned to the sea, and returned to Capernaum where the crowds awaited. Where Jairus – an important man – waited for help with his dying daughter. Jesus had had no restful night, and the day ahead wouldn’t be restful either.
Did Jesus miss it? Did he not know about the storm coming up? Did he not know about the poor demon-possessed man? Did he not know Gadara wouldn’t be grateful?
Oh, I think he did. But while looking at the multitudes, I think Jesus was listening to a cry from across the sea. Jesus left the needy crowd to answer a heart-wrenching cry from one needy man.
(Matthew 8, Mark 5, Luke 8)