Last week in Israel, I stood on the shore at Capernaum where Jesus told His disciples, “Let us go to the other side.” (Luke 8:22). (See picture).
On the other side of the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus and His disicples found a man, demon possessed, naked, screaming and living in the tombs.
The locals tried to shackle him because they were afraid to even pass by, but he had broken the shackles.
You know the rest of the story. Jesus casts out the demons into a heard of swine and the story ends with the man, clothed and in his right mind. (Mark 5:1-20).
As I stood on that beach last week in Capernaum, I thought of all the reasons Jesus had not to go to the other side. They are reasons any religious Jew would have found sufficient not to go. Here are five of them:
1. It was the country of the Gerasenes. This was Gentile country, the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee called the Decapolis. It was not only mostly Gentile, it was very Hellenistic (Greekified), which was particularly offensive to a religious Jew.
2. Pig herds. Jews have nothing to do with pigs. The meat is not considered kosher, and Jews were and are taught from their youth to despise the animal. (Leviticus 11:7-8, Isaiah 65:2-4). Not only was there a pig on the other side, but a herd of them.
3. Tombs. This man was living in the tombs, which was as offensive, if not more, than living with pigs. Jews were taught that if they touched a dead body, even a coffin, they would be rendered unclean. (Numbers 19:11, Isaiah 65:2-4).
4. Naked man. Jews were not like the Greeks. They were considerably more modest. This man had been running around naked, which would have been reason enough to avoid him.
5. Out of his mind. The Jews often equated mental illness with a curse. This man was screaming day and night, living in the tombs, near pigs and he would cut himself. (Deuteronomy 14:1, 28:20).
Realizing all this makes this story all the more remarkable. Jesus was not the only one who heard this man screaming day and night. We learned last week that when the sea is calm and the prevailing winds blow, from the beach on Capernaum you can hear people from the other side of the sea talking.
Likely all the people in Capernaum had heard this man screaming day, but only Jesus had the courage and compassion to go. GS