Fear builds when people are bullied, and fear causes paralysis of the spirit.
Remember the story about Jesus driving the demonic spirits out of two raving men? The evil spirits entered a herd of swine, and they drowned themselves.
When the people from the area heard what happened, they begged Jesus “to leave the territory”. Why were they afraid?
Lutheran Professor Cam Harder gives us background to the story.
The ancient historian Josephus reported on how Roman soldiers had invaded this pastoral region to the southeast from Galilee. They ransacked, plundered, raped and enslaved the people and the land. Then they forced the people to produce food for the Empire.
The two deranged men who met Jesus were victims of their brutality. They could no longer make a living for their families, and they lost the right to speak out as responsible citizens. All of this drove them to madness.
When Jesus challenged the demons that possessed the men, and made them flee, the news quickly spread. But, instead of being grateful for the healing gesture, everyone cowered in fear and told Jesus to “go away”.
What if the Romans got wind of this? Would their punishment be even more severe this time? Because of the cloud of fear, they were certain it was better to remain as obedient slaves of the Empire than be thankful for the healing of the two men.
I appreciate Harder explaining this difficult scripture passage. But I wish he and the story had gone on. What did Jesus do next?
Do we have fears that grip and immobilize us? Can we see how corporate powers have over-taken our communities and our lives? How they bombard us with advertising propaganda and compel us to buy everything in sight? Does this forced compulsion cause us to close our ears to any who might show us a better way? There is much to ponder about our own lives as we reflect on this story.