St Luke 8: 26 – 39
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
Volunteering at Mind’s drop-in centre, I often met people who had lost all hope. They couldn’t see any end to their misery or believe that life could improve. Through various activities we aimed to get them smiling or even laughing so they had some tangible proof that life could be good again.
The demon-possessed man also needed evidence that he was healed. William Barclay suggests that Jesus used the pigs’ reaction to the commotion the man was making to reassure him that his demons were gone. We may dismiss the idea of demons but they were very real to the people of Jesus’ day.
Today we know about the placebo effect but do we recognise how much we need tangible evidence to help us believe. In our areas of doubt God will provide ways to reassure us, if we ask him. Pray today for the help you need to grow in faith and trust. Rejoice that God hears but prepare for an unexpected answer.
Loving God, You sent your Son as the tangible expression of your deep love for us. Thank you for the many ways you still express that love. Forgive our weak faith and enable us to trust you more. Thank you Lord. Amen.