Sailing Across The Sea
( Originally Published 1915 )
AFTER THE day of teaching in parables, when the evening came on, as the crowds were still pressing upon Jesus and giving him no time to rest, he said to his disciples:
"Let us sail across the lake to the other side." So they made ready the boat and took Jesus on board. Some of the people were so eager to be with Jesus that they also went into other boats and sailed with him. Jesus was very tired after his day of teaching and he lay down in the rear end of the boat, resting his head upon one of the cushions. In the steady motion of the oars and the gentle rippling of the waves, Jesus soon fell asleep, while the boat moved onward over the lake. Soon the night came and the disciples rowed on in the darkness.
On the Sea of Galilee, storms often arise very suddenly. The water may be perfectly calm for a time and then in a few minutes lashed into fury by the wind. So it came to pass while Jesus was sleeping. A great wind arose, the waves rolled high and dashed into the boat; but Jesus slept on peacefully.
At least four of the twelve disciples, and we know not how many more, were fishermen. They knew how dangerous these sudden storms might be; and as they saw the boat filling with water and beginning to sink, they were frightened. Coming to Jesus, they awoke him, crying out, "Master, Master, we are lost! Help us or we shall drown!"
The storm, with all the noise of creaking sails and roaring winds and dashing waves, had not awaked Jesus, but the cries of his frightened disciples aroused him from his sleep. He looked around. saw the dashing waves and said just these words:
"Peace, be still!"
At once the wind ceased, the waves smoothed down and there was perfect calm upon the sea. Then Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying:
"Why are you so fearful? Have you so little faith in me?"
They might have known that whether their Master was awake or asleep, they were safe if he was with them. They wondered at this new proof of Jesus' power, and said to each other:
"Who can this be that can speak to the winds and the waves and they obey his words!"
They were sailing from Capernaum in a direction southeast, and after rowing about seven miles, they came to the eastern shore of the lake, where was a village called Gerasa. This region was called "the country of the Gadarenes," from a large city, Gadara, not far away. It was a part of Decapolis, a name given to all the country on the east of the Sea of Galilee. The word Decapolis means "The Ten Cities," and because in that land were ten large Roman cities, the whole country was called "The Country of Ten Cities."
It must have been very early in the morning when Jesus and his disciples brought their boats to the shore at Gerasa. Just as they were landing, a man came running down the hill to meet them, and from his wild acts they saw that he was one of those wretched people who were under the power of evil spirits. This man wore no clothes; he would not live in any house, but stayed in the caves in the hillside, which were used as burial places. They had tried to bind him with ropes and chains, but when the evil power was on him, he would break all his bonds and even snap his chains apart. He stayed all the time among the tombs, crying, moaning and gashing himself with sharp stones.
This wild man ran toward Jesus and fell at his feet. As soon as Jesus saw the state he was in, he spoke to the evil spirit within the man:
"Corne out of this man, you vile spirit!"
The spirit answered Jesus, crying out, "Jesus, son of the Most High God, what business have you with us? In the name of God, I call upon you not to make us suffer!"
Jesus saw that this man's state was far worse than e'en most of those who were ruled by evil spirits. He said to the spirit, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," answered the evil spirit; meaning that in the man was not only one, but many of the evil spirits, a whole army of them, for the word "legion" means an army.
The demons, or evil spirits, begged Jesus not to send them far away. On the top of the hill was a herd of many hogs feeding. The Jewish people were not allowed to keep hogs nor to eat their flesh, so this drove of hogs must have belonged to foreign people, whom the Jews called Gentiles.
The evil spirits asked Jesus if when they left the man, they might go into these hogs.; and Jesus allowed them. Then the demons or evil spirits went out of the man, leaving him lying upon the ground, naked but well. They went into the drove of hogs, and the hogs instantly became wild and could not be controlled. They rushed in a great mass down the steep side of the hill and into the water. There they were all drowned, about two thousand in number. The men who kept the hogs ran to the town near by, and told all the people what had happened; how the demons at the command of this stranger had left the man, had gone into the drove of hogs and had caused them to drown in the waters. The people of the city came out to see for themselves what had taken place. They saw the man in whom had been the fierce evil spirits, now sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, calm and peaceful.
These Gadarene people evidently knew nothing of Jesus and the many good works that he had done.
They were filled with dread of his power, and scarcely looking at the man whom Jesus had helped so wonderfully, thought only of the hogs which they had lost. They begged Jesus to go away from their land and not to come to their town. Think what blessings Jesus might have brought to them, in curing their sick, giving sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, besides the good news of his teaching! But with no knowledge of these good gifts, they asked Jesus to leave them.
And Jesus took them at their word. Sadly he turned away, went down to the beach and stepped into the boat.
The man who had been set free from the evil spirits begged most earnestly to be allowed to go with Jesus. He may have feared that the people of the city would be angry with him because the demons in him had killed their hogs; or he may have thought that the evil spirits might come back to him if he was left alone, without his mighty helper near. He knew that he would be safe if he were with his Lord, and he asked again and again that he might go away with Jesus, wherever he might go.
But Jesus would not grant his prayer. He said to the man:
"Go home to your own people, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has taken pity on you."
The man went through all the country of Decapolis and told everybody whom he met what great things Jesus had done for him. When they heard this, they all wondered, and no doubt many wished that they had welcomed Jesus instead of sending him away.