This text sounds hauntingly familiar. Only today we might call the man’s affliction “mental illness.” This sounds an awful lot like untreated schizophrenia to me. The violence, the need to be bound for his own protection and others’, the many voices speaking inside his head. They had no treatment for this in Jesus’ day. To exile and bind him was likely a mercy.
But Jesus wasn’t content to let this torment him any longer. Whether you prefer to call this demons or mental illness, it is clear Jesus wanted to set the poor man free. Jesus made it a practice to approach the unapproachable, to heal the unhealable, and to love the unlovable. It gives me courage to face, rather than run from people who suffer afflictions of body, mind, or spirit. All are equally deserving of Jesus’ and our love and attention.
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.