The Legend of Gerasenes — confronting horror in the Bible
Standing on the shore line, Jesus looked upon the disciples who gathered before him. They have faithfully been following him throughout the region of Galilee and wondering what this new day might behold. Looking across the lake, Jesus instructed his disciples to get inside the boat, “Because we are going to the other side of lake.”
Shock. Disbelief. Glancing at each other with looks of great concern, the disciples were silently questioning themselves at the foolish idea of going to the other side of the lake. That’s were those people live. The people who believe in other gods. The Gentiles that we have been taught from generations past to avoid at all costs. Why does Jesus want us to go there? But, they trusted their rabbi Jesus and obediently followed him despite their fears and concerns.
On their way across the lake, a fierce storm hit. Fierce waves violently rocked the boat. Rain and water began to pour over the bow. Even for experienced fisherman, the fierce storms on the Sea of Galilee were terrifying and dangerous. Desperate, the disciples began to look for Jesus. Unable to find him in the darkness, perhaps a disciple stumbled upon Jesus who was peacefully snoozing on the floor of the boat. He was quickly awakened and asked to calm the storm. Bewildered at how the disciples were responding with fear, Jesus lifted his arms and the winds immediately came to a halt. Shaking his head, Jesus rebuked his disciples at their lack of faith. Mouths open upon what they observed, perhaps Peter himself declared, “Surely, this is the Son of God.”
The boat continue to creep along towards the other side of the lake. Jesus points towards a spot on the shore for the boat to land. For those experienced fisherman who knew the lake and the landscapes very well, probably recognized the land they were heading. Already concerned about entering the land of the Gentiles, they were shocked that the boat was heading toward the shore of Gerasenes. Gerasenes!
The disciples were probably familiar with the legend. Stories of this magnitude will carry across cultures and mountains of great divide. The legend of Gerasenes speaks of a man who lives among the graves who violently attacks passersby who dare to enter his dwelling. Howling at night, even possessing great strength, the legend says that even guards and chains are not enough to hold this man down. And this is where Jesus was pointing his boat!
With the shore quickly approaching, the huddled disciples were nervous and afraid. Their concerns quickly turned to sheer terror when they saw a wild-looking man quickly running toward the boat. It’s the man they heard about. It’s the legend of Gerasenes. Upon seeing Jesus, the man stumbles and falls at Jesus’ feet, shouting, “What do you want with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” Possessed and tormented by many demons, Jesus casts them all into a herd of pigs nearby who rushed into the nearby water and drowned.
Greatly relieved and thankful over being healed after many years of torment, the Gentile man begged Jesus to go with him and be his disciple. Can you imagine the story he could tell? Do you think Jesus could use this man to share his testimony? Surely, the former legend of Gerasenes and now a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, the true Son of God, would have a huge impact on Jesus’ ministry. But Jesus had other ideas. Instead, he told the man, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” Simple instruction. No theological training or preparation whatsoever. Just go and tell people what God has done for him.
The instructions haven’t changed for us. When baffled on what to say when provided with an opportunity to share or express our Christians faith, we can remember the same words given to the legend of Gerasenes. Go…. and tell people what Christ has already done for us. He became our substitute and died on the cross in place of us. By his completed work, our sins are forgiven right now. By his resurrection, we are assured that we are heirs of eternal life, God’s children, citizens of heaven. Truly, a simple message of good news.
Not long after leaving Gerasenes, Jesus returned. And waiting for him were thousands of people who heard the message of what God has done for this man. This was the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 with just a few loaves and a few fish. Out of sheer thanksgiving for what Christ already done for him, God used this man’s message and planted the seeds of God’s Word. And the people responded.
Easter is a simple story and a simple message that even a child could tell. And we are asked by Jesus to return “home” — the places where people know our name — and share the simple message of what God has already done for us. And leave the results to him.