Thursday, June 16, 2016
What Did the Disciples Really Think?
I've been reading Luke 8 this week, the story about the demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs. The one Jesus healed, and sent all his demons into a herd of pigs. Remember?
As I've been reading it, I've been putting myself into the shoes of the disciples.
After having a near-death experience while crossing the lake in a boat, they finally get to dry land. No sooner have they managed to drag their still-shaking limbs out of the boat, than they are accosted by the local madman, shouting at Jesus to go away. They've heard about this man - he's a Gentile for starters, which means he's unclean and they need to keep away from him. He's possessed by demons and is violent and unpredictable, which means they'd like to keep quite a long way away from him, and he lives in the tombs, which makes him even more unclean. At this point, they are in agreement with the crazy man - they think the best thing to do is to get back in the boat, sail away to a nice quiet little bay, gather their wits about them and ask Jesus what, exactly, just happened out there on the lake. Where did that storm come from, why didn't He do anything to help them sail the boat out of danger, if He can make storms stop, why didn't He make it stop sooner, and why on earth was His only concern their lack of faith, instead of their iminent, watery death?
Jesus, however, doesn't think this is a good idea. He talks to the demons in the man, telling them to come out, and then has a discussion with the demons (what on earth?!) as to where they are going to go when they leave the man. Finally, the demons leave the man only to attack a large herd of pigs, and the disciples watch in shocked awe as the maddened pigs run frantically round in circles, before hurling themselves into the sea where they drown. Considering the risk of spiritual contamination from the pigs is now nil, the disciples are feeling slightly relieved... only to discover they are being watched by people from the nearby village, who are - or were - the owners of the pigs. These people are Not Happy. Their pigs are drowned, and somehow the local madman is involved, along with a group of those crazy Jews from over the lake. The townspeople are now telling Jesus they don't know what He's just done, but they don't want Him to do any more, thank you, and can He go away, now. They have large rocks, sticks, and some hungry looking dogs to back their arguments up.
The disciples think going away is a very good idea! They are now terrified, again, in risk of serious physical harm, again, and Jesus is not doing anything about it, again. One of the disciples (possibly Thomas) has noticed that the madman has calmed down and is shivering. He finds a spare cloak that is mostly dry in the bottom of the boat, and throws it over the man, who wraps it round himself. At this point, the townspeople's attention is drawn from their floating pigs to the man. This is the one who has terrorised their community - raging, screaming in the streets and outside their houses, terrifying their children and servants, shredding clothes, chains, dignity and peace, along with his family's standing in the community. This man, who has been mad, possessed, existing alongside the dead when the living threw him out from their midst; this man is now sitting at the feet of the man Jesus who has somehow been involved in their pigs' deaths. He doesn't seem mad anymore - the manic glare has left his eyes, he has a cloak wrapped around himself, and a look of peace on his face. Even his matted hair seems a little less wild than it used to.
... to be continued