Now, you might think that the townsfolk who had been plagued by the presence of this man filled with demons (or plagued with schizophrenia) was finally healed. But the healing came at a cost. The demons were cast out of the man and into swine, who promptly ran off a cliff. Ok, so it could be a bit disconcerting and inconvenient to lose the swine. But maybe there’s more going on here.
There’s an interesting phenomenon (it’s called co-dependence, I believe), that when one ill person becomes well, it sends those around them spinning out of control. People in relationships are like a baby’s mobile. Over time, all the people learn their roles in keeping the mobile stable. When one person in the family system changes, even when it’s from illness to wellness, the whole mobile is thrown off balance. As human beings are drawn to keeping the status quo, often families work hard to steady the mobile, even if it means keeping the sick person sick. Because at least the sickness is familiar, and they have learned how to cope with it. Wellness is a whole new ballgame, and everyone has to learn new roles, which can be jarring and uncomfortable.
This town was a well-balanced system. The demoniac was sick, crazy, tormented – but at least they could keep him in chains. They knew where he was and where he wasn’t. They knew that the man would suffer in this way until his death. But all of a sudden, Jesus blew into town and changed everything. Now the man was healed – what in the world would they do with him? All the townsfolk already had their roles and their system was balanced. Would they give him a job? Could they continue to exile and bind him, now that he was in his right mind? Besides losing their swine, they now had to learn new roles. They had to learn to care for this man in ways they never had before. The whole nasty business shook them to the core.
People might like the status quo, but Jesus does not. Jesus has no problem throwing us off our game. Jesus won’t stand for complacency. There is always work to be done, more to learn, new systems to conquer. Whenever we find ourselves spinning out of control, we might ask ourselves, “What changed? Can I learn to live with the new reality if the new reality is healthier than the old? How can I reposition myself in the system so everyone can live healthier? What can I learn about the new situation and my role in it? How can I adapt?”
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.