As I study the gospels, I realize more and more the importance of Isaiah. Everything Jesus did was to fulfil Isaiah’s prophecies.

“But John [the Baptist] forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? / And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”—Matthew 3:14-15.

From the beginning, Jesus fulfilled prophecies by healing the sick and casting out devils.

“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”—Matthew 4:24.

But why did he heal the sick? What did that have to do with saving people from their sins? Yes, it was a show of compassion; and that alone was reason enough. Yet it wasn’t something he did in passing, on the way to accomplish his main goal. Rather, the healing of the sick was his goal.

When he sent out his apostles, as sheep amidst the wolves, he told them, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”—Matthew 10:8.

Even after a long day, he was always ready to cleanse people of the evil within:

“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: / That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”—Matthew 8:16-17.

We’re told why he healed the sick in that last verse: He did it to fulfil Isaiah’s prophecy. But that’s not all. Isaiah was the one who explained Jesus, painting a picture of him that reminds me of the people he cleansed, especially Legion.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. / Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. / But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”—Isaiah 53:3-5.

Jesus wasn’t accepted by the established authorities. Instead, he was born in a manger (Luke 2:7), prophesized by John the Baptist, who lived in the desert and ate locusts (Mark 1:6), rejected by his own townspeople (Mark 6:3), and crucified by those he came to save.

This makes me wonder about my tendency to not only reject evil, but good as well. I live in the middle, wavering between compassion and sin—both, mainly, when it suits me. I feel as justified in sin, as I do when I am noble. I don’t want to surrender my way of living, my choice. This is why the townspeople rejected Jesus and Legion.

“And when [Jesus] was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, / who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: / Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.”—Mark 5:2-4.

This is Legion’s time in the wilderness. When Jesus was isolated for 40 days and 40 nights, he had God with him, or, rather, he was with God: I think that’s an important distinction.

God is infinite, because God is all things, within and without. So God is always there: with you, me, the animals, the trees, and so on. It’s just that sometimes we are not with God. At that point we are sinning.

Jesus showed what that time in the wilderness is like when one has compassion. He went to the desert to find God; Legion went to get away from people. Or maybe they drove him out; the story is unclear on that point.

We do know they tried to put Legion in chains.

“Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him.”—John 18:12.

But they couldn’t tame him.

“But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled.”—Mark 15:5.

So Legion went to the wilderness.

“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”—Matthew 4:1.

The big difference, as noted, is that Legion “…was driven of the devil into the wilderness.”—Luke 8:29.

This is where sin comes from; it is when we remove ourselves from God, when we ignore the connection we have to everyone and everything, and the responsibility of compassion that comes with this familial bond. While in the wilderness, Jesus put his faith in love; Legion chose fear.

“And always, night and day, [Legion] was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.”—Mark 5:5.

I’m reminded of the Revelation, after the opening of the sixth seal:

“And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; / And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”—Revelation 6:15-16.

And that reminds me of Adam and Eve:

“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”—Genesis 3:8.

Jesus did not go into the wilderness to hide from love and compassion, but to seek it; Legion went there to deny it. And when we have denied love, committed this ultimate crime of the soul, then we can’t stand to acknowledge our weakness. So we hide, even from ourselves.

“But when [Legion] saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, / And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.”—Mark 5:6-7.

This was the first time (in the book of Mark, at least) that Jesus was called the Son of God. How odd that someone so full of pain and self-loathing, as Legion, was the first to recognize this miracle.

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.”—Luke 10:21.

That’s one of my favorite verses. Those who have compassion are able to accept the sins of others, as Jesus did when he took on the sins of the world.

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29.

And those who live in darkness can see the light a mile away.

Legion begged Jesus not to torment him because Jesus had said, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. / And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.”—Mark 5:8-9.

We are many, we human beings. There are over seven billion of us. We all want the sustenance we need to feed our sensations. Sometimes others must starve so that we can feast. When we allow our advancement to degrade others’ quality of life, we have sinned. It’s a double-edged sword: I get cut, or you do. Is it any wonder that we can’t help but sin?

“Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. / And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.”—Mark 5:11-12.

This is an amazing passage that shows the symmetry of Jesus and Legion.

“But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”—Leviticus 16:10.

The pig is considered an unclean animal in Judaism. Their Passover sacrifice was either a goat or a lamb.

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; / But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”—I Peter 1:18-19.

This is about acceptance. Jesus accepted the sins of the world. When we don’t accept the sins of others, when we refuse compassion, and choose to put our faith in fear, then we have sinned.

Legion did not accept (or forgive) the way others treated him. He broke his connections and isolated himself. He suffered suicidal ideation and extreme depression as a result. The very presence of one who embodied compassion tormented Legion.

If we aren’t careful, we’ll grow accustomed to our pain, and learn to feed off of it, until nothing else satisfies us. At that point, like Legion, we’d prefer to live in the tombs, in the wilderness, with the unclean swine.

“And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.”—Mark 5:13.

I’m reminded of Moses:

“And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.”—Exodus 14:28.

And Noah:

“And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.”—Genesis 7:23.

And, ultimately, God:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”—Genesis 1:2.

Even in the worst of times, we can choose compassion. We can choose to do to others as we would have them do to us, instead of doing to them what they did to us. Forgiveness destroys sin like a great flood. This is the wrath of God, which drowns the legion of sins within us, leaving only the inner love, the center of our being, the great ark of our lives.

“And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. / And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.”—Mark 5:14-15.

The man who had the legion—and I like that phrasing—was healed! But, in a strange twist, we see that “the devils” went out not only into the swine, but the townspeople as well. They had rejected evil, but now, out of fear, they rejected good as well.

“And they began to pray [Jesus] to depart out of their coasts.”—Mark 5:17.

Would you really want to have the ultimate in good role models around you all the time? What about when you felt the need to flip off that rude driver, or have a beer (or 12), or not tell the cashier that they’d charged you too little? We want to be free to sin when we deem it appropriate; I sure do, at least.

This is what makes us susceptible to sin. We are never evil all the time, day after day. I am good one minute, thoughtless the next. Sometimes I know that I’m being a jerk. And I go right ahead. But I am also noble and courageous when the situation demands it, or when I feel like it. So the thought of pure good or pure evil is so impossible in my perspective, that I’m likely to reject both.

Yes, this means that I can, now and then, reject what is good…because it creeps me out. That’s why Jesus’ fellow Nazarenes rejected him, and why the people of this Legion story were afraid of Jesus, and wanted him to leave.

The reason we sin is because we exercise the right to reject what is good. Sin can be cast out, even though it’ll hop into the next available person. Of course, it doesn’t need to hop; it’s always there…but so is God.

People don’t need to express compassion in order for us to feel it. Instead, we feel it when we choose to.

We must remember that the perspectives of good and evil are just that, perspectives. They come from us. Our big brains are always working, defining, judging, and looking for loopholes, understanding, and forgiveness for that which we can’t help but do.

Advertisements