When Jesus came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And he said to them, "Go!" So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
The city of Gadara was in pagan territory, and so it was “unclean” to Jews. It is not surprising to find pigs there: these were “unclean” animals, which no Jew would ever have on the land. In this unclean place they were met by two demoniacs who lived in the tombs. For Jews, a dead body was “unclean”, so tombs were “unclean” places. To touch a tomb, even accidentally, was to become ritually unclean. Only a demoniac would think of living in one. Everything in this story, then, is unclean, untouchable. At least it was appropriate that all these unclean things and people should be in the one place. There’s a kind of right order in that.
By the end of the story Jesus has rearranged everything: the demons have gone into the pigs, which in turn have gone into the water. Jews had a great fear of water – for them the sea was the abode of Leviathan, the monster of the deep – so it was appropriate that the pigs should end up there. [Jesus’ walking on water (Mt 14:26) was a symbol of his power over evil.] Besides, water was also considered fatal to demons: so it was right that they too should end up there. Meanwhile (in Mark’s account) the demoniac was “clothed and in his right mind” (5:15): he was restored to his family. Thus, in this story, Jesus restores everything to its proper place. He establishes right order.
But the other order could be said to be ‘right’ too, in a sense. The local people were happy with it. They begged Jesus to go away: he had upset the arrangement of their world. That makes us ask: what are the arrangements in our life that seem ‘right’ to us (at least in the sense of being familiar), but which are far from right…?
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