Last Sunday, I talked a little bit about a pattern in the gospels–the people who really understand the mission of Jesus in the world are those who have felt his healing touch. Usually, those who merely witness these events miss the meaning of the miracle. They see grace unfolding right before them, but they get distracted from the central message of the gospel–the good news that the king has come and we are invited to be a part of his kingdom.
I gave a few examples of this on Sunday, but one of them reminded me of this poem by one of my favorite poets, Richard Wilbur. In Mark 5 and Matthew 8, the gospel writers tell the story of a man from the country of the Gadarenes. The man has been exiled to the tombs and is possessed by a legion of demons. Jesus casts these demons out and sends them into a herd of pigs, who immediately run over the edge of a cliff and into the sea. As the Matthew text explains, when the people of the city find out what Jesus has done they “begged him to leave their city.”
This poem, written in the voice of the townspeople, gives a fuller sense of why they were so eager to see Jesus leave. Reflect on this poem as you go about your week, praying that when Jesus’ kingdom breaks into your own life, you won’t find it an inconvenience. Pray that you might welcome his movement in your life and in our world. Enjoy!
Matthew VIII, 28 ff.
Rabbi, we Gadarenes Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions. Love, as you call it, we obviate by means Of the planned release of aggressions.
We have deep faith in prosperity. Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential. In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity Is palpably inessential.
It is true that we go insane; That for no good reason we are possessed by devils; That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain At all but the lowest levels.
We shall not, however, resign Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough. If you cannot cure us without destroying our swine, We had rather you shoved off.
PS: I stumbled across this poem in an interesting anthology of poems based on gospel passages. See the citation below to check it out!
Wilbur, Richard. “Matthew VIII:28ff.” Gospels in Our Image: An Anthology of 20th Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts. Edited by David Curzon. Harcourt, 1