“What is your Name?.. Go Home” Rev. Stuart C. Buisch Mark 5: 1-20
It is difficult to know what really happened at the beginning of Mark 5. Did Jesus expect to meet
this demon possessed man? Did the man know who he was meeting? He was known as the man
with an evil spirit, when actually we find out later that there are a whole army of evil ones inside
him. Does that matter? Mark, or the source who Mark got this story from, wants us to know
other details: the troubled man lived among the tombs – it must be very lonely and sad living in
that setting; people’s reaction to him was to restrain him but even chains didn’t work- he must
have felt separated from all humans if all they wanted was him confined, I wonder who I confine
and in what ways; the approach to confining him used chains and iron but he was so strong he
broke these- his desire for freedom perhaps gave him enough practice to break any constraint,
even if he couldn’t get free of his demons; his personal despair caused him to cry out at night and
made him what today we call a cutter – it’s a shame that we have enough people who seek to rip
open their bodies that we have a name for it. It is a pretty bleak picture. Certainly, the man had
profound personal needs and tremendous inner issues.
When you ponder Mark’s resume of the man, the words and actions from him toward Jesus seem
to take on more meaning. Here’s someone who is not racing to confine him or even interact with
him, even tho Jesus had already spoken to the demons. It is probably the demons who recognize
Jesus and who make this man say, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High
God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me.’ The demons were not the only ones who knew
what they were up against. Mark tells us that already Jesus had ordered the unclean spirit out of
the man. The demons have every reason to be afraid. When the man was not freed at Jesus’
word, Jesus asked, ‘What is your name?’ Those who have ever led a group of any age know that
calling someone by name has a much better chance of getting their attention than simply saying
hey! You! Jesus finds out that he is working with a whole group of demons. Then there is a
curious turn to the story, the demons do not want to be sent out of the region. For some reason
the demons started ranting ‘send us into the pigs’. Even more interesting Jesus grants them
permission. The next thing that happens is that the entire herd of pigs is destroyed by drowning
and seemingly the demons got what they wanted – to be in the pigs and Jesus accomplished even
more- the demons were without a body, a container to live in, thus limited, in some way.
This whole encounter stirred a whole crowd from the area to come to check it out, both for
themselves and also from the eye witnesses. They saw the man in a very different state of being,
clothed, in his right mind and this filled them with awe. But what did this awe mean? They give
no credit to God or Jesus. But maybe the awe will work away in their souls. In fact, they ask
Jesus to go away. Jesus got back in the boat that he arrived in and started to leave. The man who
had been possessed asked, indeed pleaded, with Jesus to let him come and Jesus would not allow
it. Jesus sent him home to tell his own people what the Lord had done for him. He did and
everyone was amazed.
So what? If my math is right only one person was set free. The town asked Jesus to leave. The
demons didn’t want to leave the region but the released man wanted to. People saw the man free
and were in awe but that didn’t take them anywhere. There is no note that they started a group of
disciples. Jesus let the demons ‘have their way and go into the pigs’ but he told the healed,
liberated man, ‘go home’. Jesus has already told the crowd that those who do God’s will are his
mother, sister and brothers. Sage words when you reflect on Mary who allows God’s child to be
born in her, for God’s will to be done. But God’s will isn’t a once in a lifetime experience.
Every day there is the will of God to do or the will of our self to accomplish. God’s will liberates
us from the demons that would destroy us. Our will makes room for all kinds of desires and
forces to be fulfilled that neither bless us or anyone else.
Some Christian groups at the point of baptism give a new name to the one being baptized– a new
identity. When we are called by God we have a purpose, God has a task for each of us.
Probably the most difficult thing is to go home and tell what the Lord has done for us. Our
family and friends that we grew up have keen memories of those years. They remember every
good and not so good thing we have done. For some of us those memories like demons seek to
rule and destroy our lives. No doubt the demons liked that region because the memories of
others made their destructive work easy.
Whatever happened to the demons, the free man was living a new story. His very presence back
home called their routine into question. The grace of God was truly amazing.
Where is home for us? Where do we need to go back to and what must we tell of the Lord’s
work to be truly free to do God’s will?
God of the Cosmos, we see your handiwork all around us, glory to you...
Transforming Christ, our lives need to change, each detail of them need new...
Breath of God, we gasp to do your work, we need fresh Spirit with each breath...