Jesus crossed the sea for him

June 23, 2019


In today’s text from Luke we encounter one of the most unique personalities in the Bible.  He’s a man whom is never named, and so in English, has come down through the years known to us as, “The Gerasene Demoniac.”

It sounds like this guy could have been a famous wrestler, or boxer, or something.   “In tonight’s fight, hailing from the far-shore of the Sea of Galilee, we have, “The Gerasene Demoniac!”

He is undefeated, and is facing, “The Galloping Galilean, aka, the Roaming Rabbi” whom is also undefeated.  It should be quite the contest!

Though “The Gerasene Demoniac!” had the strength to be such a fellow, as we read, his existence was harder, and sadder than most we meet people we meet in the Bible.  Rather than being a famous celebrity, this man was terribly infamous in the Gentile regions on the Eastern shore of Galilee.  The Gospel of Mark deepens the description of the man.  Please listen from his fifth chapter, “He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him anymore, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.”

The man, whoever he was, had lost his life to demon-possession and a sickness of the mind.  He was utterly ostracized from human society, a feared outcast living life amongst the graves.  I am sure in the minds of others, he was no longer even considered human.

And for the Jewish people living on the far shore, there was an even bigger barrier to relations with this man, that barrier being he was a Gentile!

So, the question we might have today is, “Why did Jesus cross the sea for this guy?”

When we read the Bible, we are confronted with the categories of that day. Yet because we are of a different time and different cultures, the categories that separated society back then is not easy for us to see. Peering into another culture and another time is not so easily done, but it is necessary in order for us to understand what is happening.

The primary line of division that we encounter while reading Jesus’ story in the four Gospels, is that between Jew and gentile.  This division is entirely constructed by the Jews, in obedience to God’s laws. Within Jewish society either a person was a Jew or they were the “other” meaning, a Gentile. This reality made all the difference in how a Jewish person related to, or avoided others.  Jewish people did not relate to Gentiles, except in a few certain instances and then there were religious laws set to guide the Jews in their interactions with non-Jews.  The average Jewish person simply did not relate with Gentiles.

Within Jewish society, there were the sub-categories of gender, righteousness, learned-ness and position.  A person’s category in life mattered.  And so, there was not much communication between people who found themselves in these different categories.

We may look at this state of affairs from two millennia ago, and think, “How horrible for society to be so stratified, for people to be so categorized.”  And yet, though our society is not nearly so stringent according to law, be it religious or civic, we too are a people of vastly different social and religious categories, and so, this “wall” between peoples still happens today in our societies. We even build real walls to separate one people from another.  As Christians, too often we fail to reach over the walls, or cross the lines that separate, or categorize one person from another.

As followers of Christ we must ask, how did Jesus live and relate to others within the strict social order of his day.  The author Henri Daniel-Rops asks the same question in his book, Daily Life In The Time Of Jesus.  He writes,

“But what was Christ’s attitude?  He went very much farther than the most universalist of rabbis, seeing a brother in the uncircumcised pagan [meaning Gentile], the open sinner and the unbeliever.”

So, in Jesus we see that the Messiah came for humankind and not simply for the Jewish people.  They had expected and dreamed for centuries of the Messiah who would rescue the Jewish people from their earthly troubles and raise them to prominence amongst the nations of the world.  But Jesus went way beyond expectations, Jewish or otherwise in what he said and did during his time here on earth, and this is especially true in his dealings with people, and the crossing and then obliteration of the dividing lines between people.

We can clearly see this reality in today’s gospel text.

When Luke writes, “…they arrived in the land of the Gerasenes…” the fact that Luke is stating is that, Jesus and his disciples had entered a Gentile region.  Thus, we understand that the man whom is possessed by demons is not a Jew, and so is doubly off limits to the Jewish person of his day.  He’s doubly unclean, both as a gentile and as one whom is possessed and yet immediately upon being met by this wild man, Jesus heals him.  According to Jewish law, he should have immediately withdrawn from this unclean man’s presence, and yet he did not.  In this encounter Jesus, the Messiah, is going where no Jewish rabbi, or religious leader would dare to go, that is, into relationship with a deranged gentile.

The other very interesting aspect of this story is the interchange between Jesus and the demons.  The demons immediately know who Jesus is, and obviously they know that there is no question of whether he will exorcise them from the man, the only question is, to where will they be ordered, into the abyss or into the swine.

What this entry into gentile territory and his encounter with the demon possessed gentile man show us, is the universality of Christ’s message and mission here on earth.  What I mean, is that Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah did not come to earth, only for the Jews.  Jesus did not come to earth simply to speak wise words of love and forgiveness.  No, Jesus came for all people regardless of category.  He came not simply to share a message, but to rule in and through his grace-filled love.  And all of this can be seen in this short story from Luke.

When Jesus stepped onto the shore of the Gerasene side of the lake, he was not there simply to tell this man he was loved, but rather to show this man, a gentile, that he was loved by releasing him from the power of this legion of demons who ruled his life.  Jesus, who reigns supreme over all spiritual beings, replaced their rule of chaos and evil, with his rule of grace, forgiveness and love, thus giving the man new life.

Once he had restored the man to life, to community and to his family, Jesus left.  So, we can only surmise that the sole reason he had led the disciples to the far, Eastern shore of the sea, was to meet, and heal this man.

Everyone else looked at this Gerasene demoniac and saw a wasted, scary and deranged man.  Yet Jesus, he saw something different, he saw a child of God worthy to be healed, because God loved him, and so, Jesus crossed the sea simply, and only for him.  Jesus did nothing else on that Gentile shore, other than to heal the man, that’s all.  Now that’s the very definition of love!

And that’s what Jesus does regardless of human category or human condition, he overwhelms us humans with a love that is so great, that it’s wasteful.  Jesus drowns out everything else in our lives, with his wasteful, all encompassing love.

‘Wasteful love’ is a wonderful phrase that so succinctly describes Jesus’ loving actions.  I first heard the term from the Episcopalian Priest John Shelby Spong.  It says to me that Jesus has so much love for the world, for us, for me, for you, that he doesn’t give it away sparingly.  He doesn’t give a little love here, and little over there, God from whom all love flows, is so loving to us, that in giving it away, he seems wasteful with it, but this is just how Jesus is, right?

Unlike us humans with our money, or our time, or our energy or our resources, Jesus gives away the most precious commodity in the universe, God’s love, with abandon and with joy!

It doesn’t matter to Jesus whether you are a Jew or a gentile,  whether you are sick, deranged, poor, lost, lonely, apathetic, ego-driven, rich, prideful, depressed, pompous or average.  And it surely doesn’t’ matter if you’re a South African, Japanese, or Norwegian, from Latvia, Ghana or Indonesia, or an American from Connecticut, Kansas, or even California, in Jesus’ eyes you are worthy to be loved.  Loved with abandon, and loved to the point of wastefulness, for you are God’s child and nothing can change that, ever!  People in this  world need to know that Jesus would cross the sea for them too!


Bible References

  • Galatians 3:23 - 29
  • Luke 8:26 - 39



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