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There's a new tempest on the beach. It's not Legion. This time it's the townspeople.
A large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, "Send us to the swine, that we may enter them." Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned.
Those who fed the swine fled and told it in the city. They went out to see and came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Then they began to plead with Jesus to depart from their region.
When Jesus got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you."
And Legion departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.
Mark 5:11-20 NKJV, condensed
Flashpoints and Power Points
Flashpoints! We've got a hot one here and Jesus is not welcome. It was a pocketbook issue that wore dollar signs. Because those drowned pigs belonged to someone, and there was no reimbursement for the loss. Justifiably, the whole town sided with the owner of the pigs in requiring the unwanted stranger to leave their region and go back to the other side of the lake where he belonged.
When the townspeople had arrived on the scene, they could see that Legion was not the man he used to be. He was sitting down, looking good and talking sense. Having Legion in his right mind must certainly have been a gift to the entire community, but the trade off was that the pigs were no longer on the hillside. Their dead bodies were washing out to sea. So instead of a celebration with Legion at center stage, there's apprehension and anger.
The mood may have been similar to what happens when a crime is committed in a community; afterwards everyone becomes fearful and very deliberate in keeping the doors locked and watching for potential criminals. If one man lost his herd of pigs, who knows what could happen to the rest of us! Imaginations run wild; suspicions abound.
So they begged Jesus to leave. Their fears prevented them from realizing what a wonderful opportunity it was to have a great healer visit their town. Surely there were many other people Jesus would have restored to health. Yet the community failed to see how valuable Jesus was and sent him away instead. Perhaps the price was too high. Their herd of pigs too great a loss!
Fear was nothing new in this place, so Jesus got back into the boat. That's when Legion decided he didn't want to be separated from Jesus, and begged to go along. Legion may have been thinking--Hey, you're not leaving me here; there's hostility in the air, and it could all come down on me!
Jesus told him to go home and share his transformation story. Tell your friends all the great things God did for you and tell them about God's compassion and mercy. The use of the word "friends" is interesting here. I don't think the old Legion had any friends. But the new Legion surely would. Home for him was the region of the Ten Towns, also called the Decapolis. Legion did as Jesus told him. And everyone who heard him marveled.
Legion needed no course in theology. He didn't need to attend seminary or any leadership training conference. He had not heard that great sermon on the mount, nor any of the parables about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus simply told him to go home, to family and friends, to the local folks, and tell everyone what God had done for him, highlighting God's compassion and loving-kindness.
When Jesus removed the evil spirits from Legion's life, it left a big hole which needed to be filled with something good. Jesus filled that empty space. He gave Legion a purpose for living when he told him to go and share his story. Legion had always been forceful and dynamic. Now those traits were going to be used to spread his gift of good news. Once he had been a slave to his demons, now he was free to serve his Maker. The old Legion had been a whirlwind of demonic activity. The new Legion was energized by God and running over with powerful stories of grace and compassion. No longer a danger to himself and others, now he was secure in the love of Jesus.
The townspeople were blinded by negative emotions. They would tell and retell the story about the loss of their pigs and the awful day Jesus landed on their shores. They probably discussed that tale for years to come. Legion, on the other hand, had an entirely different perspective on the incident. He went out and talked about the wonderful things God had done, and continued to do for him every day. Whose story would you rather listen to--the woeful tale of the townspeople or the amazing testimony of Legion?
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: So much of what we hear is bad news. Be a lone voice right now and share one piece of good news.
Instead of asking Jesus to walk through their streets and minister healing to all who needed it, the townspeople turned Jesus away. What reasons could there be for that reaction? Are they the same reasons people use today when we turn Jesus away?This region was Gentile and Jesus was Jewish. How would that play into the story?
Jewish people did not produce or eat pigs. Suppose instead of pigs, there had been a herd of sheep grazing on the hillside. Do you think Jesus would have sent Legion's demons into the sheep?
Jesus turned Legion away when Legion wanted to go with Jesus. Why didn't Jesus take him on as a disciple? Imagine what Legion would have added to that intimate group?
Instead, Jesus told Legion to go home and tell his story. Why would that be a better alternative?
As with Legion, we all have a story to tell. Many of these stories grow out the storms we survived throughout our lives. What is your story? Who do you tell it to? What makes these personal stories so powerful?
If you have not put your faith story into words, this would be a good time to do so. Start with a basic outline, and fill it in as time allows. Legion's key focus was God's compassion for him and the changes that took place when he met Jesus. What is the key theme of your story?
Jesus seemed to be telling Legion: Don't focus on the anger, negativity and bad news all around you; just go tell your story. Put in a good word for God wherever you are. In what ways is that good advice for us, too. When have you felt like a lone voice? Describe one specific time when you put in a good word for God.
What is the lesson from Legion's life which is most helpful to you?