Friday, July 16, 2010

The Story of Legion in Three Acts

On Sunday I was reminded of how all good storytelling follows the same known structures when my pastor talked about the story of Legion in three acts. I’m going to expound upon that somewhat. As storytellers, we know that in the three act story we have three acts with the second act split in two. The first act is the status quo world, but it is a world that has problems that need solving. The second act is an upside down version of the first world. In the first part of the second act, the protagonist has taken action to move out of the problem world to this new world. In the second half of the second act, the villains appear to have success again. Thing in the third act we create a world where the problems are resolved. You can think of this a down-up-down-up in terms of how the protagonist feels about it. Of course, in a tragedy, we could have an up-down-up-down situation. But let’s look at how Legion’s story fits.

Act One: Demon possession

The story occurs in more than one place in the Bible, but my pastor spoke from Mark 5. In verses one through five we see Jesus and the disciples approaching the country of the Gadarenes and finding a man living among the tombs. This man, Legion, was possessed by many spirits and was essentially like a wild animal. He was very strong and no man could bind him. He would cry out in the night and cut himself with stones. He wore little if any clothing.

As you can see, the story begins with the problem. Now, I should point out that this problem is told as what many would call backstory. I think it would be more correct to call it flashback because it is necessary for us to understand the situation before we can understand the significance of the rest of the story.

Act Two: Worshiping Jesus

This act is broken into two parts and we see both of them in verses six through seventeen. But first notice the upside down nature of this act. In Act One we see a man who appears to have no regard for people and obeys no man. They can’t even bind him with chains because he just breaks them. But in Act Two we see a man who comes before Jesus and worships him, which is quite the opposite of what we might expect.

Part One: Spirits into Hogs

In verses six through thirteen we see what we might call the fun and games section. If we were telling people what this story was about, we would say it’s about Jesus casting unclean spirits into a bunch of hogs. That’s exactly what happens here. The demons worship Jesus and begged him to allow them to go into the hogs. They may have feared he would send them someplace worse. But he did as they requested, they came out of the man, going into the hogs and the hogs became mad and ran into the sea.

We end this part on a high note. Legion is no longer demon possessed. Things are looking good, but as midpoints go, this is a false victory.

Part Two: The Pig Farmers Aren’t Happy

We’re still in that upside down world, but Part Two is where the villains strike back. Now Jews had no business raising hogs and they should’ve been happy that Legion was normal again, but in verses fourteen through eighteen the pig farmers go get their buddies and they’re ready to run Jesus out of town. But when the people get out there, they see Legion sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind and they are afraid. It wasn’t in their power to run Jesus out since it was obvious that he had cast out the demons, so instead, the townspeople go to him and beg him to leave. And Jesus agrees to do so.

Act Three: A Preacher of the Gospel

Act Three of a story merges the worlds of the previous two acts. It is also where our heroes dig down deep and find a solution, even after it appearing that all is lost. It appears that Jesus won’t be able to reach these people because they want him out of their country. But look what happens in verses eighteen through twenty. Legion wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t let him. Instead, he told Legion to go home and tell his friends what the Lord had done. So, Legion does as Jesus said, telling of the great thing Jesus had done and all men marveled.

We see this merge in that Legion is still where he was, but now he has learned something from the upside down world. He is no longer worshiping at the feet of Jesus, but he is worshiping by preaching the gospel. The people who would not listen to Jesus are listening to Legion.