We skip two important stories between last week’s sermon on the four soils and this week’s sermon on the healing of two women. The first story is when Jesus calms the stormy sea in Mark 4:35-41. The second story describes Jesus’ encounter with a demon possessed man in Mark 5:1-20. Both stories display Jesus’ power over the forces of chaos and oppression in the universe.
The sea represents chaos in the ancient world. I believe Mark includes this story for two reasons. First, Jesus is crossing the sea from the Jewish region to the Gentile region on the other side. This is a foreshadowing of the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Second, Jesus is shaking things up and predicting the end of the age. This induces a great deal of chaos in the minds and heart of his followers. When Jesus calms the storm it is a symbol and reassurance to us all. It’s like Jesus says, “I got this.”
The second story is fascinating on many levels. Today, I simply want to share this quote from a very helpful commentary.
Jesus asks the spirit what his name is. He discloses not so much a name, but a corporate presence: legion. While some might argue that this reference is not obviously political, it clearly gains meaning in a place under Roman domination. A legion represented some thousands of troops. The region was under varying forms of occupation, depending on whether the locals were inclined toward revolt. It is interesting to note that one important, well-known legion posted to Palestine had as its symbol a boar’s head. The idea that the spirit would then request not to be sent away from the region but be allowed to enter two thousand pigs feeding nearby would seem to be both humorous and insightful when one reflects on the legions’ reputation with local populations. The upshot is this: if not political, clearly the scene is evocative of the struggle of life under Empire. Interpreters may wish to reflect on how the demonic is not just some realm of pious superstition, but also reflects the deepest struggles and aspirations of people who live with evil and can sometimes only imagine how to be rid of it. – David Jacobsen in a Commentary on Mark
How might we reflect on the spiritual powers of Empire at work in our world today?