John’s life looked like a Jerry Springer episode, complete with tantrums, blaming, lies, sarcasm, self-pity, and the inevitable trail of broken relationships. But unlike the television show, there was no chanting audience to egg it on. Nobody thought it was funny. It was the drama no one wanted.
This “John Doe” was a wild man. He hadn’t particularly planned to be that way. At some earlier time he’d begun to live a let-it-all-hang-out lifestyle. Now after so many years of doing whatever he wanted and daring anyone to challenge it, he couldn’t be any other way. He felt driven by forces beyond his control.
His behavior often dipped into bizarre extremes that shocked even him. During those times, John hated the things he did, and wished he could change. But then he’d return to “normal,” and wonder why everybody else had a problem with him. They were apparently the ones with the hang-ups.
Meanwhile his family pleaded with him, prayed for him, and in more desperate moments, threatened him. Nothing worked. After years of suffering emotional abuse at his hands, his exasperated relatives drove him away.
He was glad to go. They were fools, anyhow.
The restraint he hated was gone. John went into free-fall, refusing anything considered good or decent. His appearance and attitudes darkened. His bank of friends dried up. No one dared take him in. Homeless, he started living in a cemetery, where he spent his days and nights in acts of self-mutilation.
One afternoon, a stranger made his way to that cemetery. John ran out to meet him and dropped to his knees, saying, “What do I have to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
A chorus of evil spirits in John spoke up, just as they had done for years. “Legion is my name,” they said, “For we are many.”
The demons were afraid. They had felt comfortable possessing and abusing John for a long time. Yet it was only then, as they stood before Jesus, that they felt true fear. They knew He was the Lord of all, with irresistible power and authority.
The urge to flee His presence was overwhelming. “Send us to the hogs that we may enter into them,” they said, indicating a herd of swine feeding nearby. As Jesus gave them permission, the spirits deserted John and entered into the animals. Immediately the hogs went mad and charged down a slope into the sea. They could not tolerate for two minutes what John had so long endured.
Later the liberated man sat clothed and sane, next to His Savior. His anger and irrational drives had dissolved. Freed from the awful darkness, he felt human again.
Jesus told him, “Go to your house, to your own people, and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.”
John set off for those whom he had alienated, except this time without drama or rancor. Dressed, calmed, and kind, he would truly be a sight for those who had seen him last. But even more strange, more wonderful, was the story he had to tell of a man named Jesus.
It would be a story he would tell for the rest of his life.
This story occurs in the Gospel of Luke 8:26-38.