BY STEPHEN D. EDWARDS - CANADA
I looked up toward the sea below the great hill as the wind swept the clouds over my head. I was not myself. The people of Gergesa had deemed me unmanageable and left me chained there, but I broke the chains by smashing them on the rocks. I used to disrobe and run among the pigs of the farm nearby.
I often found mysterious cuts on my arms, legs and torso. I still have the scars and can show them to you if you wish. Many days I looked at my skin and thought I had been whipped and flogged everyday all day long.
After a year and a day of living among those tombs, I saw Jesus with an entourage of followers behind Him. I ran to Him and knelt at His feet hearing myself say, “Jesus Son of the Most High God, what have You to do with us? We beg You do not torment us.”
Jesus replied, “Come out, unclean spirit!” Then He asked me, “What is your name?”
My voice replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many. I implore You not to send me away from this country.” Then I saw the herd of pigs on the hillside and my voice demanded, “Send us into the pigs.” The unclean spirits left me and entered the pigs. The whole herd of pigs ran down the steep bank into the sea and drowned. The herdsmen ran into the city. Soon people came to see what had happened.
The people saw me sitting there clothed and sane. They became afraid. The small crowd of witnesses retold the whole story including how the pigs ran down into the sea. They begged Jesus to leave the region.
I asked Jesus if I could join Him, but He did not allow me to go telling me, “Go back into the city and tell all the people there about what God has done for you and how He had had mercy on you.”
So, then I did go into the Decapolis and told of how Jesus had delivered me from a troop of unclean spirits. Everyone I told was amazed whether they had known about me before or not.
Having obeyed Jesus, I decided that I had to try to find Him so that I might join His followers. As He and the disciples arrived by boat to the region, I realized He must have come from the other side of the sea, so I thought to walk around it. And that is why I’m here, Mary.”
I turn my attention to Mary sitting here in the shade of a huge sycamore tree near her brother Lazarus’s home in Bethany, each of us resting on a root of the tree. Mary says, “Your story makes the problems I had seem so small. I had seven demons inside me. If it was not for Jesus’ deliverance, I would still be as debilitated as you were.”
“Oh, what happened, Mary?”
“I was quite poor and began to hear voices,” she tells me. “I thought one of them was God, so I listened to that voice. It told me to go to the sea where the fishermen bring in their catch and take a fish. Thinking it was good to do, I stole a fish from a fisherman near Magdala where I lived with my family. I took the fish home, and we had a good dinner. I did the same the next day and the next and the next. I did this until one day the fisherman caught me stealing another fish and asked me why I was taking fish without paying for it. I said, ‘God told me to do this.’ He said, ‘That cannot be.’ So, I ran home.
“The next day, the fisherman was there when I took a fish again, but this time there was a rabbi with him. The rabbi asked, ‘Why are you taking this man’s fish?’ I told him I was obeying God. Then he said that was wrong, because God could not possibly tell a child of Abraham to violate the eighth commandment He gave to Moses. Then he cried out, ‘I command this evil spirit leave this woman in the name of the true living God.’
“I didn’t know what happened to me, but I left the fish where I found it and turned to the fisherman to say, ‘I’m sorry for what I have done. Please forgive me.’ He said, ‘I forgive you.’ I walked home and told my family everything I had done, because I did not tell them I had been stealing the fish.
“A few days later, I returned to the shore and stole a fish from another fisherman. After that I felt worse than I did when I had the first demon. This time it was more like nothing could work well even if I put my best effort forward. I retreated into my home and did not speak to anyone.
“Then one day my brother Lazarus came home and found me in my reclusive state. He grabbed my hand and led me out of the house. I asked him, ‘Where are you taking me?’ He said, ‘Jesus is healing the blind and the deaf near the sea. He can heal you.’”
“Mary, did Jesus heal you?
“He did. He commanded all the demons to come out,” she says. “They came out one by one–seven in all–each causing me to convulse.”
“Mary, that is great cause for celebration!”
“Yes. I’m grateful for all of it too,” she replies. “But I have a question for you. Did you ever think while among the tombs that your life could be any different or did you think the three hundred demons in you were your lot?”
“I did think that I was doomed to be possessed forever. I thought I would suffer like that for many years, but I too am grateful that Jesus came and changed all of that.”
“Yes. He saved both of us from death. But what happened yesterday was completely unexpected. Seeing Lazarus exit his tomb four days after he’d died gave me a different kind of joy! After all. He is my brother.”
I respond, “Yes that definitely shook my ground as well. But it is scary that the Pharisees now want to execute both Jesus and Lazarus because they think they’ve been causing a raucous mess of things in Israel.”
This is the darkest Sabbath in all of the history of Israel, because Jesus was crucified yesterday. Mary and I among others ruminate over the confusing disturbance of Judas’ betrayal, the mockery of the Council’s trial and His appearance before Pontius Pilate.
Mary says, “I miss Jesus so much already, and I can’t believe it’s over! Jesus was everything in my life and now He’s gone.”
“I feel the same way, Mary. I even believed Jesus would be the leader who overthrows the Roman oppression. Mary, I’m going back home tomorrow so I need to sleep now that the sun has gone down.”
“I don’t know if I can sleep right now, but let us try. I will stay in this corner of the room where the women are in this upper room. Find a place on the other side where the men lie. I will be going with some of the women to the tomb tomorrow morning to tend to Jesus’ body.”
The sunlight nearly blinds me when Mary enters the room. I ask her, “Mary. How did it go?”
Mary turns to the disciples and says, “We found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Jesus’ body was not inside. There were two men there in bright white clothing and shining brighter than the Sun. They asked us, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen.’”
Peter immediately runs out the door and John follows. They return less than an hour later confirming that the tomb is empty, but do not know what it means. James locks the door fearing that the Pharisees or Roman guards would come looking for us as if we were hiding Jesus’ body.
The next person I see is Jesus just as He says, “Peace be with you.”
Stephen D. Edwards lives in Edmonton, Canada and began writing in his teen years, but lost the passion for it. After gaining freedom from depression, he wrote a memoir titled The Branch and the Vine to share his experience to help those who suffer. The memoir is available at Kobo and Amazon. With his passion reignited, he now writes Christian themed short stories and novels to encourage and inspire. Edwards’ most recent work has been published in Agape Review.”