Commentary on the Gospel of
In Ancient Athens, the State would choose some men from societal margins and keep them. When a crisis threatened the society, it would cast lots, select one of them, strip him naked, parade him through the streets where everyone assembled to abuse him, and sacrifice him outside the city. He was ‘pharmakos,’ meaning poison and cure. By absorbing the evils of society—which were a legion—he became poison; by his death, he became their cure. (Recognize similar dynamics in pharmacology?) The man among the tombs absorbed the legion of societal evils and the society lived a ‘normal’ life at his expense. Jesus liberating him upset the carefully calibrated societal balance: who would now bear for them their inner demons? To whom can they cast off their own sins and pretend to be virtuous? But Jesus returns the healed man to them, to help them own up their demons and find healing in God’s mercy.