What would you say if your good friend said, “hey let’s head over to Al Qaeda’s controlled area and see what’s up?” You’d probably think they were running a quart low. Yet, this is what Jesus said to his disciples when he sailed to the “other side” of the lake. This wasn’t just any lake – it divided the Jews and the Pagans – the heathens.
In John Ortberg’s audio series, Who Is This Man, he notes how this trip was like dropping a bomb. To go to the other side! Are you nuts? The other side of the lake was Paganville. Jews did not associate with pagans – especially Jewish rabbis, like Jesus. But, as we know, Jesus was quite unorthodox is his rabbinical approach.
So they go to the other side. His disciples weren’t about to say no as just prior to this Jesus told the wind and the waves to shut up. And they did – they went calm. Creepy calm. I’d probably do whatever somebody said who had that kind of clout.
When they arrive, they meet Legion who was a man wandering around aimlessly. He was full of demons. He lived in caves and was an outcast from his community. He immediately falls at Jesus’ feet, and the demons cry out uncle. So Jesus sends the demons into a heard of pigs, and off the pigs run into the lake and drown.
Now the pig herders saw this and they were scared of Jesus. Remember there were three responses to those who met Jesus – fear, hatred, or worship. The pig herders were afraid. The demons probably full of hatred and fear. And Legion falls down in worship.
The people of the “other side” were scared of this outsider Jesus who wielded so much power. He could do some serious damage to them. They asked him to leave. He complied. As he was leaving, Legion, who was now dressed and in his right mind, asked if he could come. Jesus, who was always telling folks to follow him, say no. Instead he said, Return home and tell how much God has done for you. Legion did.
Jesus eventually returned to the other side. Ortberg notes that Jesus’ reception was quite different on the second trip. People flocked to him. All because one half-crazed man, Legion, encountered Jesus – and did what he said.
The story of Legion, is teaching a lot of things here, but side-taking is clearly on the agenda. We always tend to think Us and Them. We’re trained early, and the Us and Them training is supported through education, business, government, and culture. Jesus was saying to his followers and non-followers, there are no sides with God. There is no Us and Them. We’re all children. All equal. God is not just for the Jews – he’s for every nation.
How do we react to those with different lifestyles, agendas, looks? What would happened if the thought we’re all children of an amazing God truly permeated us? Our behavior would change, radically, and so would the world.
What I find amazing the more I study the life and work of Jesus is just how big he was always thinking.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson