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This is the second, and final part, of our two part series in which we have been looking at a fascinating account of healing found in Luke chapter 8 where Jesus had healed a demon possessed man which resulted in a mass drowning of a large herd of pigs.
In our previous episode we discovered that the demoniac illustrated man in his fallen state. And when the demoniac saw, cried out and fell before Jesus he found healing. This is something that we, in our fallen state, need to experience too.
But the healing of the demoniac wasn’t just limited to him. His healing had a direct effect on his community as it resulted in the mass drowning of a herd of pigs. This drowning symbolises the purging of the community, from the corrupted society they had created through their adherence to false ideologies that were in direct opposition to God. However, this purging was not exactly welcomed by the local population. Instead of rejoicing they were filled with great fear.
It Is here that we pick up the story. In Luke 8:34-35 we read;
‘When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.’Luke 8:34-35
Why were the people seized with such great fear? Hadn’t they had just witnessed a great miracle?
Why healing caused fear
The fear the people experienced stemmed from the fact that this healing pushed them out of their own comfort zone as they were being confronted with an opposing ideology.
This was not just a destruction of a herd of pigs, this was a direct attack on their own livelihoods. Their way of life had been turned upside-down. By casting the demons into the pigs, Jesus revealed to the people that He had Authority over their corrupt system, a system that was in opposition to God. The people experienced the destruction of the herd as a direct threat to their own religious and socio-economic stability. Indeed, it was an attack, by a superior power, which overturned their inferior ideology.
Did you notice that the thing that caused them the greatest consternation was not the destruction of their pigs, but rather seeing the demon possessed man ‘sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind’?
It doesn’t seem very logical that the people should be so afraid of a man that is sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus. After all, he is not threatening them in any way.
So what did the people see that caused them to be gripped by such fear?
A new ideology revealed
If we delve a little deeper into the text we will come to realise that the healed demoniac was indeed manifesting a new ideology, a new way, which was not only different, but more importantly it was seen and experienced as being superior to the corrupt ideology of the day.
And it was as the people came into contact with this new ideology that they felt threatened and fear gripped their hearts and minds.
So let’s take a deeper look at the symbolisms.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus
The man was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Whereas previously he was running around and out of control, he was now at peace both physically and mentally.
The word ‘sitting’ used in this verse – κάθημαι kathémai has the nuance of being steadfast and firm in purpose of mind, not given to moving off course, showing that the demoniac’s healing had turned his scattered brain into one that was focused and steadfast.
but who clothed him?
The second thing we are told about this healed man is that he is clothed. In his possessed state he was unclothed, he had lost his identity… but now, having been healed, he is clothed. The question is, who clothed him and therefore whose identity is he reflecting?
To find the answer to this question we need to return to the beginning of our story where we read;
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.Mark 5:2
Did you notice the detail? There was only one who left the boat – and that was Jesus. The disciples that were with him likely saw this demon possessed man, who was fearful to behold, coming from the distance and were too afraid to step out of the boat for fear of their lives. So as Jesus was the only one present at the encounter, we can surmise that Jesus clothed the man with His own cloak.
Taking on the identity of Jesus
Are you seeing the enormity of this small detail? By clothing the man with His own cloak Jesus does two things;
- Firstly, Jesus is disadvantaging Himself as He is the One that walks away unclothed from the encounter – Jesus has removed His cloak to cover the nakedness of the man. He has in fact traded places with the man and this is what Jesus does – He takes on the shame and sin.
- So that, secondly the healed man can be clothed with His Righteousness. The one does not happen without the other. For the demoniac to be clothed, Jesus needs to be unclothed. Jesus lays down His life so that the other can be clothed in His garment of Righteousness and bear forth His anointing and identity!
Just ponder on that for a moment. It was this combination of sitting and being clothed that transformed and healed this man’s mind in order that he could now reflect the will and ideology of our Lord, and this is what the people were afraid of.
How we can be clothed in righteousness
Like the demon possessed man, we also need this healing. In our ‘fallen state’ we are not sitting quietly in our right mind. We are a people that are running too and fro and our thoughts reflect this scattered reality.
Yet as we recognise our insufficiency, and give voice to that, by crying out and falling at the feet of our Saviour, we too are returning into covenant with Him and the bonds of our scattered thinking will be broken.
Romans 12 puts it this way,
‘…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God… Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…’Romans 12:1-2
It is when our mind has been restored that we can be clothed again with those garments of Righteousness, His Light, that were lost all those years ago in the garden. Being covered in these garments we reflect His identity into the world, we bear His image.
And this brings us to the last, and most amazing part of this fascinating account of healing. Amazing because I feel that it encapsulates our destiny.
The mission revealed
The healed man wanted nothing else than to join Jesus, to be with Him, to be in His presence… but Jesus refused this request!
The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away…Luke 8:38
Wow, that is quite something! Just think about it… the man has just been healed and all he wants to do is be with Jesus. Don’t we also, when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, just want to dwell safely in His presence? What is wrong with that?
Why was Jesus so adamant in sending the man away?
The answer to that question is found in the next verse, where Jesus says;
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And the man went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.Luke 8:39
So, Jesus did not just send the man away, He gave him a mission and what a difficult mission it was! Remember that the people of the area were afraid and openly hostile to Jesus and the healed man. So much so that they implored Jesus to get up and leave the district… they didn’t want Him there as His presence, His identity posed a real threat to their lifestyle.
By commanding the healed demoniac to return to his house Jesus was sending him back to his community, in effect becoming His presence there, manifesting His radical new way of life. This was a huge ask, given the open hostility of the community.
In looking at our own lives we too may at times feel overwhelmed with this great mission. We all live in different communities and the Lord has revealed Himself to each and every one of us in different ways. Although the easy thing to do is to stay in His presence, our mission, our calling, is to return to our people with this new calling and proclaim its message boldly. The road may not be easy, but clothed as we are in His garments of Righteousness, bearing His image, we can be assured that the darkness that surrounds us will dissipate.
The healed demoniac walked out his calling. He returned to his people and proclaimed what the Lord had done for him. He shared his experience with his community by radiating forth the Righteousness of our Lord and the news traveled far and wide… the results were indeed astounding!
That many heeded his voice can be seen in Mark 8 where we read that Jesus returns to the area after several months and is welcomed by no less than 4000 people eager to sit and listen to His words.
The people were no longer hostile, they were warm and welcoming and eager to listen and learn. Just ponder on that for a moment. What an impact one healed man made. He became the conduit of healing and transformation to his whole community. It was not an easy road, it required great faith, strength and courage on his part… The question for each of us is, are we up for the challenge to do the same?