Jesus encountered many monsters in his travels. They were people who came to be known as the blind, the crippled, the deaf and the demoniacs.
There was no concrete and steel enclosure to house this one. He had an unearthly strength that could break free of restraints. He was a cutter. He lived among the tombs and was completely anti-social.
Where do the monsters go when there is no place in the community for them? This tortured soul lived on the edge with one foot always in the grave. He is the picture of disconnect. There are no meaningful relationships and no sane way to function as part of the community.
What inspired Jesus to come to this non-Jewish locale? This was an area that Jews avoided because it was inhabited by the ‘unholy dogs’ they called Gentiles. If this was an unclean place, the tombs were even more so. The demonized man was completely defiled and certainly regarded as an evil monster.
Who are monsters in our city? Who are we afraid of and expel from the community? If we do not know who they are, it is because we never knew them. We have sufficiently shielded ourselves from the ones who cannot be restrained.
As Jesus encounters the troubled man, he throws caution to the wind. Instead of telling the boys to rush back into the boat, he yells up into the tombs telling the evil spirit to leave this man. The mission of Jesus is not one of fearful retreat, but courageous advancement into darkness.
In the perplexing condition of good vs. evil, the will of the man and the will of the evil within struggle for dominance. This terrified creature runs to Jesus when confronted. The man that still existed bowed while the six thousand dark forces trembled in God’s presence. They had no control when real authority came on the scene.
I am not going to pretend to understand what happened next. The destructive forces needed to escape and ask to enter a herd of pigs. Suddenly there is a squealing stampede rushing down the hill. The pigs rush to their death by drowning.
What I find significant is the degree of torment that a human can experience. 6000 evil urges controlled this man and he was still alive. In a herd of lesser creatures, the destructive tendencies immediately resulted in death.
Maybe the most tortured soul still has enough of the Imago Dei (image of God) resident to keep going one more tortured day. Could it be that suicide is ultimately a statement of rebellion against the foreign invaders that have ravaged the soul? We may be wrong in always assuming that suicide is an act of defiance towards God. It may in fact be the human part demanding rest. We might best leave that judgment to the true Judge.
The French poet Charles Baudelaire said, “Oh, Creator! Can monsters exist in the sight of him who alone knows how they were invented, how they invented themselves, and how they might not have invented themselves?” [i]
There are no monsters in God’s eyes, only troubled men.