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Out of the Tombs
Forget everything you thought you knew about Jesus.
It’s a bright clear day in Galilee, and this man — this friendly, intense and, in ways, mysterious Jesus — gets off a boat in a place called Gerasene, right on the lake.
As usual, he’s got his friends with him, friends who sometimes get him, but more often don’t. They stick with him anyway, because this whole thing seems to be about something other than achieving untouchable intellectual precision and understanding. Something.
The group comes ashore, and a man meets them. The man is crazy, they say. Or worse, possessed. So deeply taken up by evil, death and pain that he lives in the most appropriate place: among the tombs. With the dead, because he might as well be. Jesus takes a look. Asks a question.
“What is your name?”
“Legion!” is the answer.
Many. An army of evil, killing the soul, draining it of life and hope.
And Jesus drives the demons out — into a herd of pigs. They run off a cliff. They’re gone, those demons. The man is free. He puts his clothes on, he’s at peace, he’s ready to live again, to climb out of the tombs, his prison and his chains. He meets his fellow villagers.
They are petrified.
The villagers, the witnesses to this transformation, turn to Jesus and beg him — to help them?
They beg him to get out. Leave, they say. Go back across the lake. Please. So he does, but only after taking the formerly dead, now fully alive man, eyes wide open, aside and telling him, “You go, too. Leave these tombs and go back home. Go tell what God has done for you. Do it now.” (Mk 5:1-20)
What’s wrong with these people? They saw death turn to life, evil to joy and promise, and they respond — with fear? They beg the one who brought that life, who drew this poor guy out of the tombs into the sunlight and freedom, to leave them?
Given the choice between pain and joy, they choose . . . pain? Why?
Why. Good question. Great question.
Why do we do this? Because, you know, we do — all the time. We say we want to be happy and at peace, we really, really do . . . but when the hand reaches out to us . . . we turn away, close the door, and tell him to go back across the lake. Please.
This book is about Jesus. It’s also about the man living in the tombs, the villagers, and us.
You want to be happy, and so do I. Is it possible? Or, more importantly, is it possible to find a happiness that lasts, that we can’t lose?
Is it possible to climb out of the tombs and stay out?
Jesus, obviously, says yes.
Why are we so afraid of that yes?
A lot of the time we think of our relationship with God as something that’s just about the future. We’ll be more serious about it when we’re a bit older, or when we’re settled in careers, or married and have kids. In the future.
We’ll have plenty of time, we say.
Time for what?
Time to waste, time to take wrong turns, time to be disappointed, used up and thrown away by the world, again and again and again? Time to scramble after the approval of other human beings, submit to the pressures they place on us, and time to feel awful about ourselves when we don’t meet their standards? Time to explore the geography of that graveyard, to memorize the position of each stone, as we wander from this crushed hope to that shattered ideal to this broken promise?
Please notice that Jesus didn’t tell the possessed man to wait. He lifted him up, healed him, and brought him back to life right there and then.
That’s real life. For you, right here, right now.
If you dare.
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