The title of this entry is a quote by Tolkien and it happens to be one of my old favorites. Today’s scripture reading, Matthew 8:28-34, is also one of my old favorites. There is so much that can be taken out of this passage! It says:
28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.
This is such a beautiful story. It reminds me of the strong love and abundance of grace Jesus has for His children. It reveals His nature to us. This reading always makes me wonder how long those men were in that condition. It’s so terribly sad. The men in the story, their souls, were tormented day and night until the very moment Jesus set foot before them and cast the demons out. In the Gospel according to Mark (Mark 5:1-20 and also Luke 8:26-39) the demoniacs would “scream among the tombs and gash themselves with stones.” The men had broken chains around their bodies and their clothes were torn, and on top of that, they lived among the dead. That’s a terrifying picture to imagine. It’s not surprising that the villagers were afraid to go near them. Personally, I would be terrified, but that’s my own weakness showing.
It is so amazing that even in that state, when no person in their right mind would go around them, Jesus was not afraid to go to them. Why would the Man who calmed the stormy sea not calm the suffering souls of the men? Jesus is never afraid to reach out to us no matter what state of sin we are in. It is his nature to love. There is never a “too far away” from God. Those men, in my opinion, were pretty much as far away from God as a person can get, but even in that state, the grace of God was still abundant. It reminds us that we just need to open our hearts to him. How could a Father not help his child suffering in the most unimaginable way? The demons feared him. Jesus’ presence, his name even, repealed them. The devils hold on our soul, but our sin, is never too great for God to cleanse.
Along with the beautiful message of hope this story ends in a sad way. After Jesus had performed this great miracle, He was asked to leave. It’s amazing how even in the moments in life where the presence of God is so relevant in our lives we still turn away. We see love incarnate and we reject it. Saint Augustine of Hippo once wrote, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” We search and long for love and we don’t know what to do with it when we find it. That is the human condition.