The man was possessed.
Sometimes he was in his right mind, sometimes someone else was in his mind. “Unclean spirits” is how they are described by Mark. “Legion” is how they described themselves. And for those who know the story, they turned pigs into lemmings when Jesus told them to leave the man.
It’s easy to think about the economic impact of 2000 pigs going over a cliff and understand why the people from the town were mad at Jesus. They were the people who knew the pig owners, the people who lost their seasonal ham and their morning bacon. They were the people who had risked their lives trying to restrain the man and who watched him, time after time, break chains like a rabid dog. They were people who once may have cared about him, but now cared more about pigs. Because they had given up hope that he would ever overcome what possessed him.
It feels like a familiar story, where we simply replace “unclean spirits” with something less supernatural but equally consuming. People we love, or once loved, possessed.
I’m thinking that being possessed was terrifying. And I am realizing that we have the story because of two people moving toward each other. One person was Jesus, crossing a lake to a region where a Jewish rabbi would likely not go, what with pigs and gentiles. The other person was the man, drawn perhaps in equal parts by his own deep desire to be rid of the possession and by “Legion’s” moth-like attraction to the light that can destroy.
The man ends up sitting at Jesus’ feet, sober-minded and clothed. Not because someone told him that you can only be in church dressed a certain way. Because Jesus saw a man who needed to be dispossessed.