The people of the town were terrified. The most notorious, most erratic, most evil, most temperamental man in their region wasn’t that way anymore.
They had spent his whole adult life aware of this man. They assigned people to keep him out of town, to leave food for him. People tried to hold him down, tried to tie him up, tried to protect them from him, him from him, and they couldn’t. He broke ropes, broke chains.
At least when the fit was upon him. Which somehow wasn’t always. But enough that he was dangerous, enough that the people of the town were afraid. They reached an accommodation. He lived among the tombs, the caves, the scary spaces.
And then Jesus came and saw that the problem wasn’t his defiance, wasn’t his personality, wasn’t his intentional rebellion. He literally could not help himself. So Jesus told the thing in him to get out of him.
Which provoked a conversation. The man, or the demon speaking through the man, wanted Jesus to stop torturing them. Jesus asked who he was. “Legion” answered the demon, which was actually many. Jesus and the legion conversed, they arrived at a plan. Legion left the man for pigs, instead of oblivion. And then Legion and the pigs left the cliff and drowned.
And the people of the town, when they heard the story, were terrified.
I think that their terror was because Jesus had showed more power than the thing that had left them powerless. He destroyed the thing that had been destroying the man. Jesus took away the evil they had grown used to, and now good was more terrifying than evil.
The certainty of sheer uncertainty had been replaced by the uncertainty of containable goodness. And they asked him to leave. It’s not, actually, incomprehensible. We are often more comfortable with the bad we know than the good we don’t.
One of a few reflections on Luke 8:26-39.