“Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
This verse again urges us to ponder the difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Rome. The Kingdom of Rome is established first by might, strength, violence, whereas the Kingdom of God is established by the story of a once broken man, simply by words and word of mouth. The Kingdom of Rome is established by overwhelming numbers. Legion numbered 2,000 in the man (Roman Legions were actually comprised of 6,000 soldiers). The Kingdom of God is established by small groups and even solitary individuals. Jesus had only 12 disciples. The possessed and now liberated man alone preached to the city of Decapolis. Power and strength are undermined by the Kingdom of God. Each individual is valued and empowered in this kingdom, each plays an important part, whereas in the Roman system, the vast majority served to create and maintain the privilege of a few elites.
On a more personal level, this story, and today’s verse in particular, reveal transformation and empowerment. The possessed man, who had been the outcast, who had born the pain and fear of his community, becomes, like Jesus, the bearer of the Kingdom of God. This is an amazing occurrence! His suffering is transformed into his greatest strength. Because of his possession, his suffering and his oppression, he is able in a way that others are not, to go to his neighbors and to the wider world, telling a story of liberation. Not only is he healed and liberated from his suffering, but his experience is transformed into his strength. He can travel to the oppressed and the suffering and speak a healing word because he understands, can empathize, knows personally and intimately the pain that people carry. Theologically we remember the cross. It is in and through the cross of Jesus that God enters pain, fear, violence and even death itself, and transforms them all. Jesus is raised from death, and human suffering no longer is that which keeps away from God, but that which bring us closer to God, and through which God can lead us to our fullest and best humanity. Practically we are taught to share, to enter compassionately the suffering experience of others with our own experience of suffering and surviving, of tenaciously holding to God in faith and realizing that we are not destroyed by our pain and fear, but reborn by the liberating love of God.
What experiences of fear or pain may empower you to bring hope and strength to others?