The Naked Man – pt. 38

Gustave_Doré_-_Dante_Alighieri_-_Inferno_-_Plate_65_(Canto_XXXI_-_The_Titans)

Mark’s throat suddenly felt dry, so he stooped to lift his cup of wine from the table. As he sipped from the cup, he took the opportunity to compose his account of what happened once the disciples reached the other side of the lake. Savoring the last few drops, he replaced his cup and then looked around the courtyard.

“When they came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes, as soon as Jesus had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met him, a man whose dwelling place was among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. And constantly – night and day – among the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out and gashing himself with stones.”

Rachel, who had been unusually quiet the past few nights, spoke up. “That poor man. Living all alone in the most unclean of places. I can only begin to imagine his torment. What happened?” Mark continued. “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God, do not torment me!’ For Jesus had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’”

“Do not torment me?!” Yiftach said. “After all the suffering the unclean spirit had caused that man, the spirit asks Jesus to spare him?” “Indeed,” said Mark. “But Jesus was having none of that. Once again, an unclean spirit tried to exert power over Jesus by naming him. But this time Jesus puts an end to their striving. He asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said to him, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ And he began to entreat him earnestly not to send them out of the country.”

“I can’t see Vespasian’s legions responding like that.” Engrossed in the story, no one had noticed Yiftach’s companion slip quietly into the courtyard. Yiftach half rose at the sight of his friend, who hesitated before walking across the courtyard to sit beside him. He laid a hand on Yiftach’s shoulder for a moment and then turned his attention back to Mark. “Gerasa, you say? I’m sure the few remaining residents of that town would love someone like your Jesus to show up and take on the troops Lucius Annius left behind.” He spat on the ground before turning to address the assembly. “I suppose the Gerasenes were inspired by our revolt to try and throw off the shackles of Rome themselves. But when Annius and his legionaries were done with them, they left behind a thousand young men’s bodies to rot in the streets before setting the town to the torch and then marching on to squelch any residual rebellion in the surrounding villages. Poor fools.” He shook his head. “So, did your Jesus drive this ‘Legion’ out of that man?”

Mark nodded grimly after this account of the recent and brutal suppression in Gerasa, which had come to mind as he had composed the story. He continued. “Now, there was a big herd of swine feeding there on the mountain. And the demons entreated him, saying, ‘Send us into the swine, so that we may enter them.’ And he gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.”

Yiftach’s companion grabbed a cup of wine, saluted Mark with it and said bitterly, “I’ll drink to that. We could use another Moses. Pharaohs or caesars, they’re all the same: we need G_d to sweep our oppressors away. Would that those Romans out there,” he gestured towards the city walls, “suffered the same fate as those pigs.”

“What happened to the man once the demons left him alone?” asked Rachel. “I imagine the townspeople were delighted he was finally delivered from his torment.” Mark offered a wry smile, as he responded, “Not exactly…”

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