Daily Dose, June 7 — Summer Blockbusters: Big Bible Stories

 

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. (Luke 8:26-39)

What does the word “grace” mean to you? Does it bring to mind the effortless motions of a ballet dancer or a figure skater? Or does it make you think of a certain set of words that your grandfather would say, always ended by “Amen,” before you dug into Thanksgiving dinner? Or does it bring to mind something about the mystery of God’s love and how Christ showed it?

The Bible story today may not fit in the typical “epic Bible story” category, but I come back to it, again and again, as a powerful demonstration of grace. To me, grace means being granted something you don’t deserve, or being relieved of something you do deserve. In a divine sense, grace is when God looks at us lovingly, even when we are not very lovable. Grace is when God extends compassion to us, even when we have not been compassionate. Grace is when God forgives us, even when we don’t really deserve it.

This is a story about grace because Jesus knows — and meets — this man’s deepest need. This man certainly had other issues that went along with his possession. He was living among the tombs, after all. We could imagine that food might be a problem for him. And yet, Jesus doesn’t perform a miracle that provides him with food. We could imagine that shelter could have even been a problem for this man. But Jesus doesn’t provide him with that either. As an incredible act of grace, Jesus immediately goes to the place of his deepest need. He goes to the place where this man is the most broken, the most hurting, and he brings him healing.

This is a story about grace because Jesus does some things that likely very few people have done to this man in a very long time.

1.) He chooses to be in his space! Jesus certainly could have chosen to avoid this uncomfortable situation, but he didn’t.

2.) He sees the man and his afflictions as separate. (This reminds me of the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” idea.) It’s likely this man had been considered a vile, sinful man in his community, and Jesus puts that aside.

3.) He asked him what his name is! He saw him as a person, and he knew that there is value in that. Rather than dismissing him as “that crazy guy that lives outside of town,” Jesus invites relationship by essentially asking the man to introduce himself.

He stands in need. Jesus knows his need. Jesus meets his need.

If you need that kind of grace, Jesus offers it. If you know of someone in need of that kind of grace, then offer them Jesus…through you! — Rev. Brad Greene