The miracles of Jesus

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Battle with evil


 

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 Battle with evil

On the shores of the Sea of Galilee is a place associated with one of Jesus’ most remarkable miracles. Today this town is called Kursi, but in Jesus’ time it was known as Gerasa. It was not a Jewish town; in fact devout Jews weren’t supposed to come here. Yet it was here that Jesus is said to have encountered a man possessed by horrifying demons.

The Gospels say he was a man named Legion, and he lived among the caves and tombs here. Legion was a man tormented by evil spirits. In the Jewish world of the first century the possessed were social outcasts, forced to live beyond the boundaries of their towns and villages:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Mark 5:6-13

Exorcisms still happen today, but they are controversial. Some claim these people are not victims of demons, but rather of what we would term depression or mental illness. For them, an “exorcism” is not a supernatural phenomenon at all, just the moment when a burden is lifted.

But whatever happened on that day in Gerasa, the miracle had far greater significance for those who witnessed it than the release of a poor soul from bondage. There’s a clue in the strange fate of the demons. They are said to have entered the bodies of a herd of pigs grazing nearby. The shocked animals then rushed down the hillside into the sea. And this would have made perfect sense to those watching.

First century Jews knew the ancient scriptures, so they would know that the sea was the home of Satan. If the pigs were possessed by evil spirits, then of course they would plunge into the sea. The demons were returning to their natural habitat.

At Gerasa, it seems, Jesus took on Satan’s minions and won. For the disciples, this victory was full of meaning. They knew there was only one power strong enough to deliver the final victory over evil, the most potent force for good in the universe – God himself.

So, by taking on the demons of Legion and banishing them to the sea, was Jesus suggesting he was God?

This page is an extract from The Miracles of Jesus by Michael Symmons Roberts, which accompanies the BBC TV series.
Main image: copyright BBC / Religion 2006

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About this module

In his own time, Jesus was famous as a miracle worker. The miracles shocked those who saw them – not because of the spactacle, but because of the dangerous message they carried about Jesus. In these pages we follow the new BBC series, The Miracles of Jesus, and try to decode three miracles to find out what they were all about.

This section of Rejesus is based on The Miracles of Jesus by Michael Symmons Roberts, which accompanies the BBC TV series

Images copyright BBC / Religion 2006

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arrow Introduction

arrow Jesus' miracles

arrow Who is Jesus

arrow Battle with evil

arrow Return to Eden

arrow Read the miracles

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