Scripture: Immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs…and when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said “what have you to do with Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure by God, do not torment me.” ~ Mark 5:2-3, 6-7
Theological Thought: Unclean spirits, or demonic spirits are commonly believed to prefer to abide in those physical places which are on the fringe of civilized and feral (called liminal). Examples would be desert wilderness, graveyards, and the open sea. An easy example for modern western society is “the woods” often used in the fairy tales by the brothers Grimm, where dark and evil things lurk.
Reflection: I usually forget that the Gerasene demoniac CHOSE to go among the tombs. I suppose it could be debated whether it was the man or the evil spirit in him that made that decision but the man still made that choice. He chose to hide from his village in that place. When I think of wild place like a graveyard, I usually think of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness first (Luke 4) in which Jesus chose to be obedient to God and to face this trial. I get that. I often think of the wilderness as a place where I can be tempered and refined. It is the fiery furnace, only slightly less dramatic. It is a place where the fight happens and I might walk away battered, bruised, but by the grace of God I am confident I will walk away victorious. And yet here is a man, who when his community chained and bound him, presumably to keep him safe and/or from hurting himself (cf mk 5:5), he runs away from them into the wilderness, into the dark place among the tombs, among the dead where the living dare not tread. It is different from when Adam and Eve hid from God because regardless of my sin, people will hurt me. They might have the best of intentions, but people have, and will hurt me. The world is a loud, noisy, complicated place that can be difficult to deal with. Between the confusing and the people who live in it, is any surprise at all that I might want to hide someplace where people can’t get to me? And if the only place available is a place where no one else wants to go, then of course it doesn’t matter how bad it is, because I need to hide. I realize now, that in some ways I have spent my entire life hiding in the woods, in the wilderness, among the tombs. It’s hard to see because it’s all I’ve ever known, and now to have Jesus stand there and say “come out of the darkness and into the light” is terrifying! How many unknowns are out there? These woods are lovely dark and deep, I know these woods, but out there? Out there Lord? Can’t I serve you from my hiding place? To which Jesus replies “This isn’t about your service, this is about you.”
Prayer: Lord, I am frightened of the world outside my woods, of the world outside my little, personal Egypt. I’m afraid of it. Shower me in your love, overwhelm me with your love, that I might not fear, that I might have eyes only for you.
Practice: Take a walk in a wooded area and recognize how little light filters through the trees as compared to an open area. Ask the Lord to reveal which parts of your life have proven a wilderness to His light.