“My name is Legion,”
Yesterday we explored the personal connection between ourselves and the story of the Gerasene Demoniac. Today we explore the story from a different perspective. When Jesus asks the unclean spirit it’s name, the reply is, ‘Legion.’ Legion would not signify many in general, but Roman troops specifically. This is a story of Jesus confronting the power of Rome, specifically the primary method by which Rome exercises its power over and control of Palestine, which is its army. This point is solidified when we learn that the Roman Tenth Legion were stationed very close to Gerasa, where Jesus is and the shield symbol of the Tenth Legion was a wild boar.
Mark sees in this story, not only the exorcism of a man, but the confrontation between the Kingdom of God through Jesus and the Kingdom of Rome. But how is this important to us? Psychologist and anthropologists have done studies on how demon possession operates in societies. One very interesting theory is that possession subconsciously acts to free the ‘possessed’ from the pain and torment of violent political occupation and/or the poverty that often accompanies such occupation. In other words, the man’s possession is a result of cruel and unjust political forces and systems. Jesus has not just come to free the man from the symptoms of his possession, but from the cause of the possession, which was the cruelty and abuse of Roman occupation.
This gives us opportunity to pause and consider the difference between the Kingdom of Rome and the Kingdom of God. Rome occupies by force, by violence and its threat. Jesus invades Gerasa with words. Rome rules by a complex system of hierarchy which oppresses the occupied by creating society in which they are treated as less human than Romans. Jesus welcomes the man to his side, allows him to sit at his feet. God’s rule is egalitarian and communal. Rome rules by creating fear. God’s rule frees people from fear. All of this leads to an unmistakable although perhaps unfamiliar conclusion. Jesus is not just present to rescue the man’s soul, but to restore his whole life. By invading and defeating Rome symbolically in the casting out of the demon, Jesus is revealing God concern with human political and economic systems. Do they empower each person to become his/her best, or do they favor a few and harm many? In our own nation this can be applied to concerns of poverty, income inequality, and the number of african-americans in our prison system. These too are issues that God concerns himself with, issues that Jesus came to rescue and heal us from so that all could experience eternal life.
What ‘big picture’ issue do you think most adversely affects people’s ability to grow and thrive?