The Gospel reading for today (Mark 5:1-20) is the story of the Gadarene swine.
A man is tormented by unclean spirits, wandering throughout “the tombs.” He threatens others and himself. Attempts to bind him are unsuccessful. These spirits recognize the approaching Lord, and drive the man forward to fall at the feet of Jesus. Spare us, they beg, for we know who you are. We are Legion, there are many of us. He commands the spirits to enter a nearby herd of swine, which are driven to madness, plunging off of a cliff and into the sea.
A crowd gathers at the commotion and meets the man, now well. He is calmly sitting, dressed and in his “right mind.” Witnesses relay what has happened to the onlookers. Greatly disturbed at the events, the crowd implores Jesus to depart. The restored man, for his part, pleads for the Lord to “remain with him.”
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
This curious ending catches my attention. Rather than the usual instruction to “tell no one,” the restored man is explicitly told to go and proclaim what has happened. Unclean spirits, torment, and disease are types (used in the scriptural sense) of sin. An encounter with the Lord restores this man and rids him of his disorder. Now calm and brought back to right reason, the man rightly wants to remain with the Lord, maybe indefinitely. How can he be blamed? Who hasn’t experienced moments of love and belonging so profound that we wished they could stretch to an eternity? God has other plans. This restoration is to drive us to move purposefully along our true road. He returns to community, leaving the dead behind for the living, proclaiming what the Lord has done for him.
We are to be active rather than static. The freedom given to us is freedom to choose to move in the directions God has knitted into our very being.