OK, so here we are at the other side of the lake. Now this next series of events were always kind of weird to me. It seemed like an out of place story with no purpose, but that was before I received a useful piece of background information. So here is what happens. Jesus and his friends reached the other side of the lake safely. Jesus had calmed the wind, the waves, and they had reached their destination. When they arrived, they were greeted by only one man, and I am sure this man was not the welcoming committee that the disciples had anticipated. He lived in and among the burial caves, or our version of a cemetery. He was crazed, wandering day and night, separated from his family and the society who lived there in that area. The story tells us that people tried to hold him by chaining him up, but he couldn’t be contained. That he cut himself, so he was quite possibly a danger to others and definitely to himself. We come to find out that the man is possessed by not only one demon, but by many. So, this is the only man that came to see Jesus and his friends when they arrived on the other side? Did I mention that he was naked? After a short conversation with the demons, Jesus heals the man by sending the demons into a huge herd of pigs. The pigs, not enjoying the presence of demons in their little pork bellies, then run directly into the lake and drown. When that happens, the other people in the area finally come out and urge Jesus to leave. They did not know what exactly was going on, they just knew they did not want His kind of trouble. They overlooked the now healed and totally restored man, and had focused alone on the loss of a great commodity of pigs. At this point, Jesus and the disciples leave, but not before telling the man that he could not go with them. Jesus asked him to stay and to go and tell his family what the Lord had done for him. So Jesus leaves, the disciples are out of there and the healed man heads off to continue his life and tell people what had happened.
During the retelling of this story, a new nugget of information was dropped into my lap. In the sermon he talked about the “other side” not being a primarily Jewish area. It is not something that I typically think about immediately, the whole ethnic/cultural dynamic of the day. Just like today though, it is important. You see they had traveled to a region where there were Greek, Roman and Canaanite influences. If the settlement was predominantly Jewish, there would be no pigs. The light bulb finally went on in that moment, and that one fact was amazing to me! That meant that Jesus purposefully traveled to see people who were different from himself. Here was this Jewish man, one who had wisdom and was considered by many to be like a rabbi, and he wanted to go to the other side. He wanted to go where the people were not like him, where they had different beliefs, customs, another way of living and even different gods. Jesus though chose to go there, and not only that, He chose to heal. I was so encouraged by this story of the other side. They tell me, that I live in a world with many people who live on the “other side” from me. It seems like the older I get, the more we find ways to label each other. Ways to divide, categorize and set ourselves up against each other. I have to say that I fight doing that same thing. Not because I think that I am better than anyone else, but because of my own anger, pride and insecurities. Truthfully, it just makes it easier to not have to deal with differing opinions, values or the big R(eligion) word. The problem with staying on my side though, is that I miss out on knowing people, learning from them or seeing a different side of things. They may miss out on who I am and what my life can show them. I just felt that this was something that God had been talking to me about. No, not in an audible voice, but in what He shows me in this world around me. There are so many things that make up the divide between me and the other side, but now I know that it is a divide that is not uncrossable. And even more important, it should be crossed.