By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 8:28-34
28 When he 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. 29 Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 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 lake and perished in the water. 33 The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
Today the demons come to Jesus. He didn’t go looking for these two men. Making his way through the town, he comes to other side and they come to him. Then they seem to want to pick a fight, coming to him but then talking as if he has come to disturb them, then telling him what to do. All Jesus says in this lesson — one of the more powerful stories from the gospels — is in one word: “Go.” I almost see him shrugging as he says it.
Jesus has all the power, yet confronted with these demons — beings created through him who chose rebellion — he just doesn’t react. He’s not angry, he’s not even particularly authoritative. He lets them expend what they have to say and lets them do what they have themselves proposed.
It’s not easy not to react — to disobedient children, annoying coworkers, other people’s crankiness — because we don’t have all the power, and we know it. And it’s scary. We feel we need more control, and so we act as though we have a lot more than we do. Even if we end up getting our way, we make ourselves unhappy. Not to mention the people around us. Here Jesus shows us a better way. He doesn’t take the bait. Even though he has every right and every authority, he only gives a calm — almost careless — assent. That’s all it takes to perform this exorcism.
We may not have that kind of power, but he does. And when we rest in him as a strong rock, then we don’t need to needlessly react, any more than he did.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Gambella (Episcopal/Anglican Province of Alexandria)
The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast