Is there anything we can learn from this account of the Gerasene Demoniac? At first blush, as moderns, we do not see what that possibly might be. Neither I nor anyone I know lives among the dead. No one I know cries out in anguish day and night mauling their own bodies. Are we certain of this?
It is truly amazing how adaptive and resilient human beings are. They can be found dwelling in a wide range of shelters; from the grandest of palaces to holes in the ground. Many years ago I regularly encountered a man who appeared to be in his 70’s in a wooded, hilly area where I was working. He always carried a paper sack and a hammer. He was dressed worse than any homeless person I had ever seen. I would try and speak to him but he was either unwilling or the devil had his tongue. I later learned from a newspaper article that this man was living in a hole near my project which he had insulated with paper. It would not surprise me if this poor man had not been tormented by a host of demons who had driven him to that place of torment to die alone which, sadly, was the occasion of the news piece.
Just before my encounter with Christ in 1976, I was living alone in an apartment in an unfamiliar place among unfamiliar people. I had been living in darkness for some time and in spite of efforts to change, which to me at that time meant becoming happy and free of torment, I felt as though something strong and evil was pulling me into itself. I do not mean to be melodramatic. I just don’t know how else to say it. I had become a prisoner of some dark behaviors and I knew I was becoming progressively bound by something very strong. Drawing from scripture, observation and personal experience, I don’t really think demons care if their hosts lives in a palace or a hole in the ground as long as they can remain there and be left alone to their missions of distraction and torment. I think they feed on and promote the decomposition of human life. My life at that time must have been quite a feast.
I suspect one reason we do not see manifestations of demons as they did in the bible or as they still do in other cultures is because in the West demons achieve their mission of isolating and tormenting people without hindrance. Our modern society with its pace of life and materialism provides all the ingredients they need to isolate, preoccupy, torment and bind. Perhaps they trade their desire to feast upon and dramatically devour a single soul as in our passage today for a regimen of just snacking on us as a culture creating a lower grade of torment which is spread out over a longer period of time over a larger segment of society. The net effect of this demonic presence would be to reinforce the grand deception that man can rescue himself from the thing that is pulling him under. In light of that perspective, our western culture, contrary to the complimentary view we have of ourselves, may be as demonized as any culture in history.
Our proximity to others does not relieve loneliness and isolation. In our culture, loneliness and tormented thoughts are pacified with a mind numbing array of entertainment options where we can easily avoid the reality of our imprisonment and torment by diving into fantasy worlds of distractions and vicariously live the dreams that our culture plants in our minds.
I have a vision of the kingdom of God as it inevitably expands; where its awakened citizens (you and I) expose the demons that inhabit and feed upon our dying culture. Poor souls that had learned to adapt to and survive their imprisonment to isolation, pornography, entertainment, gambling, wealth, etc. (suffice it to say “Legion”) will be set free by Life Himself. Like the liberated man from the tombs they may want to follow Jesus to some new remote place but Jesus will simply say to many, “Just go tell your story (among your people) of what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you.” As it was with the Gerasene demoniac, these persons who society had written off will obey and will cause many onlookers to “marvel“.
Father, Permit us to see the lonely isolated ones around us who in their own way are crying out; who have adapted to their own private places of torment; awaiting, in varied and demonically inspired places of denial, distraction and dissipation, a certain judgement. May Satan’s ploys backfire on him and may You deliver not just one or a few tormented ones but rather a whole generation of souls who can tell those in their networks what great things You have done for them. Amen.