We know from Elijah’s story earlier this week that our own fear can send us running. But here in Luke, we hear how fear can also chase off what would free us from fear. The Gerasenes, having witnessed a miracle, promptly ask Jesus to leave.
And in the midst of it all, the man who has been restored is lost again. He has not belonged in his community for many years. And he begs to find community amongst the disciples.
Perhaps the man feels fear himself, since his own restoration is the impetus for the community’s fear. Will they focus their fear on him in Jesus’ absence? Could he find safety with Jesus? But Jesus does not take in the man, does not pull him aboard the boat with a pat on the back and an embrace. Instead, Jesus sends him back into the community that exiled him.
This moment echoes Elijah’s story: The Lord sends Elijah to continue his work as a prophet. Elijah is equipped only with his experience of God. Jesus sends the Gerasene back to his community, equipped only with his story of what Jesus has done for him.
How vulnerable he must have felt, watching Jesus’ boat disappear into the horizon. How exposed—even more than when he walked the tombs naked and suffering. But he turns anyway and goes throughout the city proclaiming the good news for him and for all.
The power of a true story sets us free from our own inward-facing fears and from our fear of others. A true story of mercy and healing cuts through cynicism and fear in ways that a heroic tale cannot—by connecting humanity to our true identities in God rather than portraying us as gods.
Jesus, don’t allow me to hide in fear. Send me back to the world to tell my true story. Amen.
The fact that we trust in God does not guarantee that life will be easy. Believers suffer discouragement as well. Elijah is a powerful prophet of God who faces profound discouragement. He looks around and sees faithlessness and desolation, as does the psalmist wrestling with his own sense of despair. In both cases the person’s spirit is revived—by divine visitation to Elijah and by the psalmist’s self-talk about the truth of God’s faithfulness. The New Testament readings take us in a different direction. Paul speaks of the freedom we have when we are in Christ, heirs to all of God’s promises. The Gospel writer tells of another kind of freedom, the freedom experienced by a man delivered from demon possession.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-15a. Recall a time you ran to a silent place. How did God send you back into the world?
Read Psalm 42. The author asks us to imagine the words of this psalm coming from the mouth of Elijah and the Gerasene man. Consider how these words might be yours as well.
Read Galatians 3:23-29. How does your faith in Christ help you to embrace the freedom that comes from lack of division rather than to flee in fear?
Read Luke 8:26-39. What true story do you have to tell to the world of what Jesus has done for you?
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