a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet
While the actual existence of demons strains credibility for many, we all can identify with the need to ‘face our demons.’ The telling of this story is rich in metaphors which connect to our lives and experience. He has been chained, but the chains break. In other words, all the resources that he and his community could muster to control his ‘demons’ were ultimately unsuccessful. He does not know how to be free of his ‘demons’ and his community does not know how to help him.
This causes me to think of many of the demons that can torment us in our lives: Addiction, mental illness, past or present abuse, chronic pain, and even, in my opinion, the anxiety of finding work and paying the bills in our day and age, could be thought of as ‘demons’ . Any of these, and many other phenomena that you could add to the list, keep us from being and becoming the people God created us to be. That is how I interpret and apply demonic language in the Bible. The demonic is that which hinders us from becoming our best selves, or, more biblically, from experience eternal life. There is the rejection of the community. The possessed man, who cannot be controlled, is banished to the tombs. His is a living death. His neighbors not knowing how to help, cope or control, simply send him away. The demonic isolates the possessed. But it occurs to me that the community is not really rescued, although the members may feel that way. While they are free of his pain and the pain he causes, they are still made weaker by the fact that he is lost to them. His presence, were it healed and whole, would benefit them. They do not experience this benefit. But perhaps the most painful and harmful of the effects of the demonic on our lives is the loss of a sense of God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s active mercy. Certainly one of the main lessons of this story is that when we have experienced fear and pain and loss and found our own resources, answers and solutions wanting, there is still a source of security, healing and renewal beyond ourselves. ‘God helps those who help themselves’ may be a popular statement but it is not biblical nor theologically accurate. None can help themselves in this story. Neither the man nor his community have the resources to meet this challenge. So Jesus invades their experience to not only bring hope, but healing. This is what the story celebrates. A healing power from beyond that rescues us from the demonic and empowers us to continue the journey toward eternal life.
Are their ‘demons’ that haunt you? name them and lift them up in prayer.