Jesus and His disciples got into a boat and sailed across the Sea of Galilee from West to East, from Jewish territory to Gentile territory, to the country of the Gadarenes. When Jesus stepped out onto dry land, He was met by a certain man from the city. He was naked, or nearly so. He didn’t live in a house like a normal person, but he lived in the house-like tombs of the very rich. This guy had attendants, guards, trying to keep him from hurting himself or others. He was so fierce that he had to be constrained with chains and shackles, but because of his super strength, he was able to break the chains and charge off into the desert. What was wrong with this man? Demons. St Luke tells us that the problem was demons. Not mental illness, although mental illness can play a role, but not this time. He had demons, lots and lots of demons. When Jesus demanded their name, they answered “Legion” because there were so many of them! How many? Well, a legion is a Roman military unit comprised of between 3,000 and 6,000 soldiers. The latter, 6,000, is the most frequent number cited. 6,000 demons! Can you imagine? What kind of home must this demon-possessed man have come from? What kinds of sins must he have fallen into? What kind of choices had he made to attract so many fallen angels to infect and infest his poor body and soul? We don’t know, of course, but St. Paisios the Athonite says there are two kinds of people, bees and flies. The bees always seek the sweet flowers, fragrant with the aroma of Christ. The flies are those who always seek the filth, the dung in life. Evidently, the Gadarene demoniac was the latter, rather than the former. Right?
But wait! What else is going on here? The Gospel says: “when He (Jesus) stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time.” WHAT?? I thought the demons drove him into the desert, the wilderness! I thought the demons would work frantically to drive the demoniac AWAY from Jesus, not toward Him! Well, they did, or at least they tried, but God, Who loves us no matter how sinful we are, or how stuck in the manure we are, always seeks to draw us to Himself if we show even the most sub-atomic particle of faith. What does the Prophet Isaiah say?
“Seek ye the Lord, and when ye find him, call upon him; and when he shall draw nigh to you, let the ungodly leave his ways, and the transgressor his counsels: and let him return to the Lord, and he shall find mercy; for he shall abundantly pardon your sins” (Isaiah 55: 6-7 LXX).
You see, everybody on the scene only heard the voice of the demon-chief Legion, but Jesus heard the heart of the demoniac. How do we know that? We know it because the Gospel told us that Jesus had commanded the demons to leave even before the demons ever spoke a word! It was because he struggled to get to Christ that the demoniac was delivered, not any request made by the demons!
Getting to Christ is always hard, isn’t it? It’s always a struggle to get close to Jesus because our spiritual enemies throw all of their power, all of their tricks, all of their temptations against us in order to drive us into the desert of separation from God.
It is obvious that deep within the demoniac there was a cry for healing, a cry for deliverance, a desire that compelled him to drag himself to where Jesus was landing, against all the power of 6,000 demons! How? By the powerful grace of Almighty God. It was God Who turned a sub-atomic particle of faith (and longing) into a powerful force against evil. We have to marshal our own mustard seed-like faith too, in order to get close to our Sweet Lord. And where is Christ “landing” for us? Where can we find Him? We can find Him in Church, in the Sacraments, in our Prayer Corner, in our family, in our job, in a homeless person, in the cashier at the store, or in a beggar. The truth is, Jesus is everywhere, but we must wrestle against the sin and the darkness that is within us.
St Seraphim of Sarov says:
“In spite of our sinfulness, in spite of the darkness surrounding our souls, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, conferred by baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, still shines in our hearts with the inextinguishable light of Christ ... and when the sinner turns to the way of repentance the light smooths away every trace of the sins committed, clothing the former sinner in the garments of incorruption, spun of the Grace of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.