Jesus’ most graphic healing takes place way off the path. He sails for a remote cemetery, finds a man who barks at the moon and cuts himself with stones, and with one sentence, banishes a horde of demons. The fowl spirits infiltrate a herd of pigs. The pigs drown. Ungrateful townspeople run Jesus out of town. The healed man goes home with a brand new start (cf. Mark 5:1-20).

Thanks to the commentaries, you have a multitude of ways to interpret the details of this story, along with all the miracles of the Bible.

It is a fable, not an actual miracle. The Bible writers were gullible fools (or worse), and we can never really know the actual facts of this story. “Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a rock, and the sun is a hot rock.”

It is a condemnation of an entire society, since every problem at its root has a social cause, not an individual one. The townspeople worry about their business more than the plight of one man, and in their way, they all keep him from getting well.

It is all psychological. In other words, the story tells in imaginative language about the hidden devils in a man’s own mind. He didn’t really shriek into the night or cut himself. That’s just how he felt inside. He changes because Jesus listens to him.

The right word can heal a person, a relationship, a whole village.

It now becomes my great privilege to annoy someone by writing that each one of these schools of thought yields a trove of wisdom.

Aesop’s Fables tell truth, even though they are made up.

Systems butcher individuals by the thousands.

You never know what someone else is thinking until he tells you.

“Death and life are in the power or the tongue.”

And so it goes with the depths of truth to be plumbed from a single story.

My take? Thank God for those who spend the days of their lives helping to heal the broken. Literally, thank God. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

THE REV. EUGENE STOCKSTILL is pastor of Ebenezer and Myrtle United Methodist churches in Union County.

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