Summary: And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs ...
Are you a Star Trek fan?
Don't be embarrassed. I'm not going to make fun of you.
Admittedly, I am not a Star Trek fan and, yes, I do recognise that Star Trek has a fan-base made up almost entirely of computer nerds and guys who really should have stopped reading comics by now BUT my mate Scottie (who was once catechist at our church) was such a fan that he spoke fluent Klingon (or spoke some Klingon anyway) and he is one of the toughest men I know, so there must be something in it ... I guess.
Anyway, while I can't pretend to be a fully-fledged Star Trek fan, I can tell you that there was one aspect of the series that I do remember and that inspires me still when I think about it, and it was the mission statement of the Star Trek Enterprise - the mission statement that was a part of the title sequence of every episode of the original Star Trek series:
"Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before."
It has a powerful ring to it, doesn't it? What though, you might ask, has it got to do with today's Gospel reading? Well ... the answer is in Luke 8:26:
"Jesus and his disciples sailed on over to the territory of Gerasa, which is across the lake from Galilee."
That's the Good News translation, at any rate. In our pew Bibles I think you'll find it says that he sailed over to the "region of the Gerasenes", though, depending on your translation, it may suggest that it was the Gadarenes that He visited or possibly the Gergasenes.
Were these all one and the same place, you ask? The answer is 'no'. The Gadarenes and the Gerasenes at least were different places and so it seems, rather, that there was a bit of confusion over exactly where it was that Jesus was visiting. And why do you think that was? The answer is because Jesus, as was His habit, was going boldly where no man had gone before!
We're not sure exactly where he did go. Indeed, I think you'll find that in Matthew's version of this story (in chapter 8) it says "Gadarenes" whereas in Mark (chapter 5) is says "Gerasenes" and in my NIV edition of Luke's version it says "Gerasenes" but has a marginal note pointing out that some of the earliest manuscripts also suggest either Gadarenes or Gergasenes.
Mind you, while there are various guesses as to exactly what village Jesus ended up in, there is complete unanimity over it's general geographical location. It was, the Gospel writers agree, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which evidently, for a good Jew was like saying that it was on the far side of the Black Stump.
On this west of Sea of Galilee you had familiar towns like Capernaum and Nazareth and other familiar villages with God-fearing, law-abiding people. On the far side of the lake you had places like the Gerasenes and the Gadarenes or the Gergasenes and a whole lot of other places where strange people lived and God-knows-what went on!
So where did Jesus land according to the Gospel reading? We're not sure but we do know that He was going boldly where no man had gone before!
Not literally, of course, as there were certainly plenty of men and women already living there, but they were strange people (so far as the average Jew was concerned) with strange practices. Jesus was going boldly where no self-respecting Jewish Rabbi had gone before. These people were not Kosher. They looked different, dressed different, worshipped different gods and had strange ways of doing things!
It reminds me very much of my first visit to a Mosque! Who are these strange people with their unfamiliar customs? That will teach me to go boldly where no self-respecting Christian clergy-person has gone before. Obviously these are not God's people, with their odd dress and incomprehensible language, and certainly we do not expect to find Jesus working any miracles here!
I imagine that the disciples of Jesus were radically uncomfortable when Jesus landed their boat in that hard-to-pinpoint region on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. And if they were indeed nervous about what sort of creatures they might meet in that unfamiliar land, their worst fears would have been entirely realised when the first person they encountered was that unholy eastside ambassador, known locally as Legion!
As Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a man from the town who had demons in him. For a long time this man had gone without clothes and would not stay at home, but spent his time in the burial caves. When he saw Jesus, he gave a loud cry, threw himself down at his feet, and shouted, "Jesus, Son of the Most High God! What do you want with me? I beg you, don't punish me!" (Luke 8:27-28)