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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 52
If your house caught fire, what possessions would you try hardest to save?
For me, it would have to be my computer. I love a nice piece of IT equipment. Nothing thrills me more than getting it to work perfectly and nothing irritates me more than when it doesn’t. I recently spent the best part of two whole days rebuilding all the software on my computer, because it kept on flashing up reminders for tasks on the wrong day. I couldn’t stand my computer telling me that a dozen tasks were overdue today, when they weren’t really due until tomorrow.
Jean finds it utterly beyond comprehension that I would work so hard to fix something so trivial. She doesn’t share my values about the beauty and wonder of a computer doing what you tell it to do, when it is supposed to. She just doesn’t get it…
This week, we return once more to the episode in Mark’s biography, where Jesus has sent the demons packing from “the man” (
). We will see a clash of values and people who just “didn’t get it”.
Jesus had allowed the demons to go from the man and into a herd of pigs. This poor tormented soul had been tortured for so long by a whole legion of demons living inside him. So many that they could enter into a herd of 2000 pigs and drive every single animal to run off the edge of the cliff and drown in the sea beneath.
The workers tending the pigs had been left dumbfounded.
They had watched as “the man” had come running towards Jesus. Who is this crazy stranger who doesn’t scarper at the very sight of “the man”? “He’ll soon learn…” they had thought.
Those workers had certainly seen some fireworks that day, although nothing like they imagined. “Watching the show” while Jesus had cast the demons out of “the man” had been mesmerising… But they never expected the demons to go into the pigs and nothing had prepared them for the crazed squealing of the pigs as they rushed over the cliff edge, their tormented thrashing in the water and the drowning of all 2000.
Beside themselves with terror, they had run back into their village. How would they explain what happened? What would the pig owners say about their prized animal assets being wiped out in a few moments of demon-induced madness?
Mark suddenly changes scene. The locals have come to the cliff edge to see for themselves what had happened. The fields where 2000 pigs had been grunting and foraging stand eerily empty.
Then there is “the man”. To start with, he is wearing clothes. He is sat still and peaceful, chatting with Jesus and his disciples. That face once twisted with torment now has a wonderful serenity. There is warmth in his smile and a sparkle in his eyes.
Could this really be “the man”? Are the pigs really gone? The locals can barely believe what their eyes are telling them. They ask the workers to tell them the story of what happened once more. “The man” listens to his story retold. He grins and nods vigorously, rehearsing under his breath the details and his whole face shines with delight as it reaches its climax.
The crowd of locals listen as the story is repeated. They are in total silence and as they grasp the enormity of what has happened, their incredulity slowly turns to fear.
They look once more at “the man” sat quietly and in his right mind. Their gaze turns to the empty fields. Demons tamed and pigs gone – it is all too much for them to handle.
This Jesus totally freaks them out. Such overwhelming power. How can a man do this? Pigs destroyed. What might happen next if he stays around? If he didn’t stay, though, life could return to normal again. It would be predictable and calm once more. That was the solution… Jesus had to go.
How do you get someone with power like that to leave you alone? You don’t tell him to go. You beg him. One by one, they fall at Jesus’ feet and implore him to leave.
Jesus steps into the boat once more and he is off. Life will get back to normal again. Although not quite… “the man” is staying put. They will be hearing his story again…
There were two different sets of values at work here.
The locals see the pigs gone and are afraid of what will happen next. It seems that the loss of the pigs has got to them.
For Jesus, the loss of the pigs paled into insignificance beside what had happened to “the man”. One human soul rescued is worth far more than even 2000 pigs.
Just one individual matters to Jesus. He will cross the lake to rescue just one. He will see 2000 pigs sacrificed to complete that rescue, so that “the man” and the locals could see the dreadful destructive reality of the evil forces who had been vanquished and the utter certainty of their exit from the scene.
“The man” had been reduced to a grotesque parody of a person by the activity of these demons inside him.
Thankfully none of us has ever been victimised by the forces of evil in such a powerful way. Every little incursion by darkness into our lives, our thought patterns and our emotions still takes something away from us, though. It makes you and me less of the people we are meant to be.
Our rescue story will not be as dramatic as that of “the man”, but even with our smaller struggles, we still matter to Jesus.
He can and will bring us rescue.