IT was perhaps early morning after the stormy night on the sea, when the boat with the Lord and the disciples drew to the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. There was no broad meadow there, like the plain of Gennesaret, but steep slopes rose up to the pasture land above, the rich pasture land of Bashan, where long ago half the tribe of Manasseh made its home when the children of Israel came from Egypt. In some places the slopes rose from the very water’s edge, in other places from a narrow beach. Here and there a rough valley came down from the upland and spread out in a little level place by the water. There is such a valley and spot of level ground near the middle of the eastern shore, with a ruined town called Kersa. This is probably the place to which the Lord and the disciples came. A path from the shore led up the rough valley to the pastures above. The sides of the valley were rocky, and there were caves which were used as tombs.
They landed near the town, and perhaps were taking the path which led up the valley from the shore, when they saw a very sad sight. “Two possessed with devils” (Mark and Luke speak only of one), “coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” Evil spirits had such power at the time when the Lord came into the world. As these poor men met the Lord the spirits knew Him, and cried out with fear. They knew that the Lord would send them away. Still, they wanted to do harm, and prayed the Lord that they might go out into a herd of swine that was feeding on the slope above the lake. The Jews had been forbidden to eat the flesh of swine, but they often disobeyed and kept them. The Lord let the devils go into the swine. They were unclean and swine-like spirits, and all in this way they showed themselves as they truly were. Should you not think that the people of that city would have lieen glad to have the poor men saved from the evil spirits? Should you not think that they would have loved the Lord who came with such power, and would have asked Him to stay with them? But it was not so.
And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forth with Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.—Mark V. 1-20.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
The Holy Land >> A spiritual state of life
Journeying to Canaan >> Journeying to Heaven
Lands beyond the border of Canaan >> States which are good and useful if they are helpful to the spiritual life
Bashan, a great pasture land with herds and oaks >> A natural state where strong affections for natural usefulness increase, and where is developed a vigorous natural understanding of right
The Lord crosses the Sea of Galilee to this pasture land >> His presence with us in natural states
Swine >> Evil spirits which make us indolent and greedy, which drive to what is impure, and to indulgence in eating and drinking
In the tombs >> In the power of evil spirits where there is nothing of spiritual life
The Lord rebukes the spirits >> The Lord overcame hell; He delivered men from its power, and restored them to spiritual freedom
The charge to the man on the eastern shore >> Outward signs of power have a use for those in natural, external states of mind
The Lord returned to the scene of His labor of applying the law to the outward life, which Matthew calls, ” His own city.” And again they bring to Him a paralytic not now a centurion’s servant, representing the need of a new love of obedience to law as the law of God ; but one who needed the encouraging words, ” Son, be of good cheer ; thy sins be forgiven thee.” The Lord had just cast out the swinish devils, and now, returning to the plane of conduct and service, it is represented that the motive for useful service has been so largely to obtain means for swinish indulgence, that when the evil of this is seen and judged, paralysis follows. The paralysis is healed by the removal of the selfish motive, and the reception of new motives from the Spirit of the Lord, in those who trust in Him and serve obediently. To go to the house is to return to normal states of usefulness. To take up the bed is to carry into the usefulness the trust in the Lord, which recognized the control of the Lord over the appetites of the body, and suffices to bring one to the Lord, but not until now has experience of the joy of orderly life, free from selfish ends, from the Spirit of the Lord.
Matthew, whose other name was Levi, and who stands in the series of the apostles for the blessedness of a life according to the Commandments, now follows the Lord ; though before, for selfish gain, he had sat “at the receipt of custom.” And many other publicans and sinners sat down to meat with Jesus and His disciples standing for the many selfish motives of gain and pleasure, which now give way to the Lord’s own joy in an orderly life according to the truth. He had not come merely to preach repentance, but to bring the kingdom of heaven. The disciples of John and of the Pharisees might fast, in humility or for show, but His disciples were at a marriage feast, and were entering into the joys of a marriage life that was good as well as true. They were to live a new life, in which the formal representatives of the old life were out of place. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew’s Gospel.)
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum