Swine, Catacombs, and Monsters- A True Story of Love and Deliverance.

 I see the waves splash up the sides of the small, almost toy-like, boat. The scent of salt and fish hanging in the air. 

There's a peace and calm among the men that's foreign to the typical sailers who traverse these mythically haunted waters at night. 

They've just seen this man they are following calm the storm around them with a single word and now they are about to dock among the cliffs and rocks of the notorious Alcatraz of their time. 

They've gotten exceptionally good at silently questioning the intentions of their adventures with Him. 

He shakes off the little rest He found in the back of the boat and climbs out onto the rocky terrain. They watch Him stand for a minute as if He's waiting on something they are clearly unaware of.

Out of the corner of their eye they see him. A shadow of a man leaping in the darkness of the catacombs. Half eaten shackles trail behind him and eyes so dark you can feel the haunting of night in them. How anything but death can emerge from there they are uncertain. And yet they aren't even sure it's the evidence of life they are seeing.

He shrieks and lets out an other-worldly sound that sends the birds scattering through the air. Even the rats cower in their hiding places as he groans and scurries across the abandoned tombs toward them. 

He looks in their direction and their hearts freeze with terror. Some of them still clinging to the edge of the boat, ready for a quick escape. They look at Jesus and see a calm much like that of the night before, when faced with the monsters of the deep. These monsters however, are more than an old story that has been passed around to scare children and was adopted by superstitious fishermen. 

These monsters are real and even the most religious who have been trained to battle darkness have fled after being leapt upon by the very same creatures they were called on to cast out. 

They look at Jesus and wait for His cue to head back into the safety of the little boat. But he doesn't even hint at retreat. Instead He stands and waits as this half-man, half-nightmare, rips through the sand toward them at an inhuman pace. 

His hair is so matted you can't tell where the threads begin and his own waste ends. There is no more white to his eyes and as he breathes you can hear a rasp in his chest that is clearly not human.

The monster man drops to his knees before Jesus and begins to let out an anguishing chant that must be worship, only in the language of what sounds like satan himself. 

The men's eyes shoot from one another as they stand shocked and horrified by this melody of darkness. The monsters in him begin to tremble. The men have never witnessed a sight so terrifying and confusing, and they remain frozen on the shore. 

The voices join in together and beg Jesus not to harm them. To hear so many voices come from the cracked lips of one man is more than these meagre fisherman can bear.

Jesus asks the man's name but He gets the demons name instead. Was He intimately trying to touch this long hidden man through the recognition of His long lost identity or was He crippling and humanizing the darkness to show His authority? Maybe a bit of both.

In his periphery He notices they are being watched. A man, with jaw dropped so low its uncanny, stands next to a herd of pigs that he'd just brought out to walk among the cliffs. Not many venture out this far in fear of the walking dead. 

Jesus glimpses the pig farmer and for a minute sees right into his mind. He sees recognition and terror on his face. Jesus' heart filled with compassion and knowing looks into his remembrance. Did he know the tormented man? Did they share a childhood? Did they come to these very cliffs to watch the boats bounce around the waves? Does he feel the sting of watching his old companion, maybe even brother, succumb to the darkness? Is he one of the men who frequently has to refasten the chains and drive this madman back to shadows?

Jesus in a few short minutes can see into the entire story and this moves him to deep compassion and love. In the same instant Jesus looks upon the imposters in front of him with anger and straight past them into the lost man with warmth and love.

With one word He sends this legion, these thousand tormentors, fleeing into the flock of unsuspecting swine. Within seconds, in the blink of an eye, the pigs are sent into a flurry of madness and begin to throw themselves over the steep cliffs to their deaths. 

No one speaks, no one can hardly breath from the shock of what's unfolding around them. The pig farmer falls to his knees in terror and then finds enough courage to run into town to warn everyone of the dangerous zealots.

 The disciples gawk at the red painted landscape below them where the pics made their final decent. 

All the while Jesus is fixed on the shackled man. The man begins to slump to the ground and Jesus seamlessly catches him and lowers him to rest. Jesus looks into the now almost hollow brown eyes of this free man and sits down beside him. 

He removes His own outer garment and covers the man's scarred body. The man begins to weep and presses himself into Jesus' shoulder. His body racks with sobs. A new clearness in his chest, a sign that the darkness has left for good, fills the air. As he cries, Jesus gently removes what's left of the chains and wipes away the mud from his cheeks. 

He lets him cry for a while then lifts him to his feet and carries him to the cold lapping waves. He takes him in and begins to wash away all the residue of his past life. The filth of anger and shame gets swept away in the salty waves. A baptism of love and remission.

 A rebirth. 

The disciples meet them on the shore with an extra pair of clothes for the man. It's been years since he's had even the dignity of clothing. Once he is dried and clothed he looks around to see colors he only remembered from his childhood and a silence that almost feels eery in his mind. 

He begs Jesus to take him into the boat. The thought of being apart from his saviour twists his insides. He knows he has nothing waiting for him beyond those caves. Everyone stopped waiting for a miracle long ago. 

Jesus takes this man's marred hands in his own, a strange reminder of a time yet to come, as he runs his fingers over the cracks and bruises. He must stay. The people here have built their walls and defences so high only this man can traverse them now. 

A foretelling of how our own stories of freedom and salvation may be the only thing to conquer some people's walls of unbelief and apathy. 

So Jesus sends him home to tell his story. He won't even need words and he will light up this dark coastal town. His life will bring Jesus to those shores and into those homes and around their fires at night. Jesus will no longer need a boat to get here but instead will be carried in the testimony of one man who was once a thousand. 


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