On Sunday, Pastor Mary preached a story of healing from the latter half of Mark chapter 5. In the opening verses of Mark 5 is a different healing story. In it, Jesus meets a man who lives among the tombs. The scripture says that the man had an “impure spirit” that drove him to cry out and cut himself. Jesus calls the spirit out of the man, healing him. The impure spirit(s) then asked to be cast into a herd of pigs which Jesus allows. The pigs then rushed down a steep bank into the lake and drowned. While there are several odd notes in the story, it is what happens next which stands out to me.
“Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave…”Mark 5:17
The people of the region cast out Jesus.
Throughout his ministry Jesus moved people towards truth, wholeness, and healing. Jesus led people into the light of God. Sometimes, people have grown so accustomed to the dark they avoid the light.
Make no mistake, Jesus was a disruptive force. He did not allow the abuse of power (aka injustice) and unrighteousness to go unchecked (the overturning of the tables in Mark 11:15-18 is a great example). Jesus disrupted oppressive dynamics and systemic sin.
When Jesus healed the man with the impure spirit(s), he disrupted not only the spirit(s) but also the community that had grown accustomed to how things were. The scripture says they had tried binding the man to no avail. It seems they had accepted his fate as a tortured wandered among the tombs. However, Jesus envisions more.
There is ample anecdotal evidence of individuals working on getting emotionally and psychologically healthy who are only then rejected by the dysfunctional community they had once been a part of. Sometimes people prefer a known dysfunction to a healthy unknown.
“Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave…” Mark 5:17
Jesus left but gave the healed man a new mission. “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.” Jesus continues to point the community to God’s healing and God’s mercy.
Following Christ may disrupt our regular pattern of interactions or choices. Yet we can take comfort and strength in the knowledge that Christ will always want to lead us to a healthy relationship with God and with others.