Minister’s Reflection – Feb. 13/20
Rev. Dave Crawford
“Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.’”
- Mark 5:9
Are you up for a little Bible humour? It’s long been argued that the story told in the Gospels of Jesus healing the Gerasene Demoniac, while filled with anguish, also contains ancient political humour. I’d encourage you to read the whole account – Mark 5:1-20. In a nutshell, Jesus is encountered by a demon possessed (mentally ill?) man who recognizes Jesus’ uniqueness and power. During this unusual confrontation Jesus asks for the evil spirit’s name and, as quoted above, the answer comes back, “Legion, for we are many.” Thereupon the healing begins, and Jesus casts the “legion” out of the poor man and into a herd of swine (unclean, forbidden animals for Jews), which then races down the hill into the sea, where the swine (and evil spirits) meet their demise.
The possibility of a play on words here is high! As you know, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, what is called “Koine” Greek, a particular, time-bound version different from ancient Greek. The term “legion” (actually a Latin term) occurs in the Gospels as “legeon”, for our purposes here a transliteral rendering of the actual Greek letters.
Historically speaking, how did the Romans refer to certain military formations? Legion was one term, describing a grouping of 6000 infantry (a “battalion” was about 2000). The 10th Legion had been stationed in the area near the Sea of Galilee since the year 6 BCE, and used the symbol of a wild boar on its standard. Thus when Jesus casts the “legion” of evil spirits into the massive herd of swine, there appears to be a not-so-subtle reference to the unwelcome Roman occupiers. The symbolism likely needs no further explanation for us, and would have required no explanation at all for ancient, persecuted, Roman-oppressed Jews. Jesus deals with the “legion” in decisive and somewhat humourous terms. An example of political humour to be sure – biting, critical, sarcastic humour!
That “Bible study” session may not leave us guffawing, or even smiling. Surely, however, we can imagine the winks between Jews in telling and retelling the tale with relish during the Roman occupation. It would have been empowering and healing for they who were oppressed.
I’ve written before on the importance of humor – its healing effects, its potential to soothe and even inspire weary souls. My belief hasn’t wavered. Here we are in the middle of February, and Spring seems far off, and the nightly news brings mostly just bad news! While our calling can never be to simply hide away from the world’s challenges, there is something of value in feeding our souls with laughter. But do we seek it, intentionally?
In the later years of my father’s ministry he began a new Sunday morning routine of telling a joke at the end of announcement time, before the start of worship. While a few criticized what they saw as the inappropriateness of this secular ritual, most looked forward to it, appreciated it. I’m considering trying it here at Crossfield United, starting this Sunday. Hope you can make it. Regardless, may we all find moments of levity, and lightheartedness, and boisterous laughter whenever possible, even in the middle of annual meetings, right George? You got me Sunday, and it was hilarious! Thank you!
Grace and Peace
“God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” – Job 8:21.