One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they 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. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
As humans we are often afraid of what we don’t understand. The contrast in these two stories is how we handle that fear. The disciples were terrified of Jesus’s power over the weather and the elements, but their fear led them to greater awe and reverence of Christ. The people of Gerasene were afraid of Jesus’s power over demons, and it caused them to basically run Him out of town.
Now, in both situations the miracle was unquestionably good, yet people were still afraid. The lesson to be learned (to me at least) is that we should always question our fears. Are we afraid because something is threatening us, or are we afraid because something is unfamiliar? Once we realize that change isn’t always a bad thing, and that perhaps we are only afraid of something because it is new, perhaps our fear will go away on its own and leave us to be more understanding, compassionate human beings.
But when we are afraid and can’t rationalize ourselves into being unafraid, we need to handle our fears the way the disciples did, by trusting God more deeply. Our fear can help us recognize His power and majesty. A God with a power like that can surely manage to take care of us! What, then, is there to be afraid of? But when we let our fears control us, we tend to run God out of our hearts.
Side note, I finally understand the pigs. By allowing the demons to enter the pigs, Jesus ensures that the demons die, not just leave their host. Presumably this would keep them from entering other hosts? So what I originally read as mercy is really Jesus knowing what would happen better than the demons did. Huh. Good ole’ Luke again!