Into the Herd
by Tim O'Hearn
We should have gotten used to the teacher doing the unexpected, but really never did. Such was the case the day that he got into a boat and asked us to go to the other side of the sea. We spent a lot of time on that water, but to cross over to the other side was an uncommon request. We didn’t often go there, not to Gadara.
It’s not that the people themselves bothered us. It’s just that it was so easy to become unclean. If we went over there, we usually packed our own lunches. After all, you couldn’t count on getting a kosher meal. This was Gentile pig-herder country.
But we did as the Teacher asked. When we landed some of the people warned us about a wild man in the area. They said he broke ropes and chains like Samson. He didn’t live in a house, like a respectable person. He sounded dangerous. So what does the Teacher do but head outside of town, just to the area where the people had warned us against.
As we approached the place, Matthew started to object. He couldn’t go there. He was of a priestly family, and we were headed straight for the tombs. Being among the dead would make him unclean. His reservations, though, didn’t sway the Teacher’s resolve, so even he continued on with us.
We could hear the man as we entered the tombs. Who couldn’t? With the screaming and shouting, and the rattling of broken chains, there was such a racket that more than one of us was ready to turn tail, then and there. But the Teacher calmly walked on, until he came within sight of the man.
What a sight he was, too. He was naked from head to toe, but you could hardly notice. His hair was long and tangled. He was covered with dirt; you might say he was clothed with it. He seemed to be going in all directions at once, as if he was being pulled this way and that.
In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, the Teacher walked forward and spoke to the man. He didn’t try to soothe him. He said something strange: “Come out of this man!”
When he heard this command, the man screamed. He yelled many things, but one of his utterances really struck me. “What have I to do with you, Yeshua, son of God most high?” We had never seen this man before. Yet here he was, calling the Teacher by name, and calling him the son of God. A Gentile. Yet this came out of his mouth! We were all dumbstruck.
The Teacher didn’t react the way I expected. He just asked a simple question. “What is your name?”
The answer was just as strange. “We,” (not I, but we) “are Legion. We beg you, do not send us into the Abyss. Let us go into that herd of swine, over there.”
Now, there was a vast herd of these unclean beasts feeding nearby. The Teacher commanded Legion to come out of the man and into the swine. All of a sudden, the whole herd started running as one, down the hill and straight into the water. All drowned.
Several men who had been herding the swine started running toward the town. We knew trouble would soon be coming. Meanwhile, the Teacher took some clothes he had brought along, cleaned and dressed the man. Such a change had come over him that he now sat calmly, awaiting the townspeople. When they arrived and asked who he was he explained everything. He had been filled with many evil spirits, but the Teacher had sent them into the herd.
When they heard this, the men of the town started telling the Teacher what we had been saying all along. Go back home. Get into the boat and go back where we had come from.
When the man heard this, he begged to go with us, but the teacher wouldn’t let him. “Go home,” he said, “and tell everyone what God did for you.” And this he did.
I saw a lot of things in my time with the Teacher. I later saw even greater things than this. But at this time I really began to believe that he was what the devils had called him. He was the son of God.
(Based on Luke 8:26-39)