Two young boys wandered through the field of clover. It was a bright sunny day in the countryside, and in the manner of twelve year-olds, today was an unending span of time in which to delight in mutual camaraderie. They talked of the tyranny of younger sisters, they discussed the meaning of the different shapes of clouds that drifted high above in the bright sky. They laughed at tales of the antics of the new-born lambs that had recently arrived in the sheepfolds.
Their friendly banter was suddenly broken by a blood-curdling scream that sounded from the far side of the village.
“Crazy Costenes is loose again!” young Josiah gave voice to the moment of recognition that occurred to them simultaneously. “I wonder what he’ll do this time?”
It had been happening more often lately. ‘Crazy Costenes’, as he had been dubbed by the community, normally lived among the tombs, but some times he wandered closer to town. Most people conceded that evil spirits possessed him. He would often appear, stark naked, in the middle of the street, terrifying the younger children, and embarrassing the older people. Taking the situation in hand, the men of the community would corner him by the sheep pen, and bind him with ropes made of green hemp. They would hold him there until the howling quieted, then the constable would escort him back to the tombs. In an effort to halt the repetitive scenario, last month the constable had asked the blacksmith to forge a chain with which they could secure Crazy Costenes to the rocks of the tombs at certain times of the month, especially full moons, when the spirits seemed to be particularly violent. The following day, he had appeared in town once more, with the manacles still attached to his left ankle. What more could they possibly do to rectify the situation? The townspeople were at a loss for any further suggestions.
It had been an eventful night indeed. In all his years as a fisherman, Peter had never experienced a storm of that magnitude. Even now, as they approached the shore, the disciples of Jesus were breathing great sighs of relief. Peter’s stomach was still queasy, and his knees felt like rubber. His fisherman’s cloak was still drenched – he wasn’t sure whether it was from the seawater, or from the sweat of sheer terror. He looked over at John, and noticed that his friend wobbled slightly more than usual with the rocking of the boat in the shallow waters. He caught James’ eye as the boat lurched, and ground to a halt in the coarse gravel beneath the shallow waters. It wasn’t long before they had secured the small craft, and were reclining, exhausted, each on his own rock, out of reach of the lapping waters of the lake.
“I’m glad that night is over!” Peter gave voice to the sentiment that they all felt but were afraid to speak. “What really happened out there, Master?” he asked in consternation, as a sense of failure mingled with the relief that washed over each of them.
“Oh ye of little faith…” Jesus chuckled, repeating the phrase that had caused all of them to spend the last hour in much soul-searching.
“Master!” a voice broke into their time of communion, preventing any further explanation of the prior night’s events to the disciples. They turned to see a man wearing only a loincloth, running toward them. His arms and legs were scarred, his feet were bare and blistered, his hair and beard were unkempt and matted, and his eyes were wild with unexplained terror. “Jesus, help me! Have mercy on me!” he continued to plead as he collapsed in a heap at the Master’s feet.
As they turned to acknowledge the newcomer, his voice suddenly changed – becoming more of a glutteral snarl. "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"
Before he could utter another word, Jesus turned to the man and, with a voice of authority that the disciples recognized, He demanded “Come out of him – you unclean spirit!”
"What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!" the spirit growled with renewed hostility, refusing to relieve his host.
“What is your name?” the Master’s voice was softer now, filled with evident compassion for the afflicted one.
“My name is Legion; for we are many!” it was obvious that the evil spirit was in control of the man now. Over the next few moments, the disciples detected a variety of different voices escaping from the man’s lips, but the message was always the same. “Please do not send us from this place!” they pleaded, “we belong here! This is our domain! You have no authority over us! It is not yet our time!” Each voice seemed to have a different excuse to prolong the man’s agony.
“And what shall I do to you?!” the Master asked in exasperation at the varied demands of the spiritual host.
The man’s gaze became fixed on a herd of swine that were feeding on a plateau above the lake to the west. “Send us into the swine!” the dominant voice pleaded. “Yes, into the swine! We will go to the swine!” the variety of voices now insisted.
“Go then!” the Master commanded, in a voice of relieved frustration.
A cacophony of grunts and enraged squeals erupted from the plateau, and all heads turned just in time to witness the herd of swine rush down the steep embankment to their demise in the muddy waters. A horrified silence descended on the group as they struggled to comprehend the situation that they had just witnessed. What happened? What should they do now? How does one proceed to clear the bay of hundreds of bloated pigs?! Not knowing what else to do the herdsmen ran toward the town to break the bad news to the owners of the swine.
“They’re gone!” the horrified voices exclaimed “into the bay! all of them drowned in the waters! There was nothing we could do to stop them!”
Costenes shook his head in a dazed wonder. He felt so very different. He looked up at the Teacher, and their eyes locked in a moment of mutual recognition. He smiled a rueful smile as he attempted to rise, but his knees didn’t have the strength to co-operate.
“It is enough, Son, sit a while and rest,” the comforting words of the Teacher calmed his nervous apprehension. He settled back into a sitting position, and drew his knees up as he circled them with his arms. Someone wrapped a soft cloak around his shoulders as his body shivered with the emotional shock of the preceding moments. In a peaceful tone, the teacher continued to speak words of comfort, and offer direction as to how he could once again become a member of the community. The quiet words of instruction were broken now by the excited voices of an approaching crowd.
“There they are! That’s Him! He’s the one!” the voices accused as the crowd drew nearer, “He destroyed all our pigs – just drove them into the sea!” Costenes now began to tremble in fear for the fate of the One who had shown him so much mercy. “Shall we stone him?” some of the more indignant voices suggested.
Suddenly, the approaching mob stopped in amazed wonder. There, sitting at the Teacher’s feet, fully clothed, and quite obviously rational, sat Crazy Costenes. How could this be possible? What power did this Nazarene have, that he could control people’s minds? Could He use this same power now to chastise them for the way they had treated Crazy Costenes? Fear began to grip the ring-leaders of the mob, as the potentially adverse consequences of their actions began to register in their minds.
“Please Sir!” the spokesman for the mob pleaded, “we do not wish to bring judgement upon our heads. We will do you no harm if only you will leave us now!”
“That’s right,” other voices echoed, “no harm…just leave…no judgement on us…” the consensus of the majority was painfully clear.
Without any objection, the Teacher turned silently, and led his followers in the direction of the boat they had left on the stony beach. Inexplicable fear gripped Costenes’ heart as he watched the retreating form of the Teacher and His disciples.
“Master, do not leave me!” he cried, as he placed himself between the Teacher and the boat. “There are so many others who need you! I need you!” he continued to plead, as he knelt before the retreating form of his Deliverer.
“There are others that need me as well,” the Teacher reasoned, “I must go to help them also, my son.”
“Then I will go with you!” Costenes pleaded, “there is no reason for me to remain here!”
“But you must return, my son,” the Master reasoned, “you must return to your family, to your people, and tell them about the great things that God has done for you. They need you to tell them, Costenes, how else will they know? Who else will tell them about the mercy of God?”
“I will tell them, Master”, Costenes called to the diminishing form in the boat. “Decapolis will hear about all that God has done for me!” With a wave of his hand, the Master turned to hoist the sail of the retreating boat, and Costenes walked slowly back toward the village. He would tell them – how else would he explain the change in his life? How else would he honor the one who had given him such hope? How else could he serve the God who had demonstrated such unconditional love?
Read more articles by Gordon Lang or search for articles on the same topic or others.
What an extraordinary and inspired story...but not a story. This is Real lLfe with Jesus.
It is more than just written well, it is more than just a story, it is more than just something else to read. I exhort you to keep on writing as YOU are inspired by Jesus.
Sometimes such articles and writings are so long and so on and on that they tend to lose people in boredom and non- information; but this had LIFE! Thanks Gordon. We all share because we care!
24 Feb 2003
At first I wasn't sure what to make of this, but as I read further, I was impressed by your great imagination. A familiar story made interesting--in fact, spellbinding--by your putting a feasible setting to this story of the casting out of Legion. Well done!