Then all the people of the region asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear (Luke 8:37).
Fall began this week – at 11:40 a.m. on Monday to be precise. When the garage doors open in the morning there’s a chill in the air that bears witness to the new season and makes the folded and stored away beach chairs look odd and unfamiliar.
The cool air of the week has also been tainted with an element of tension, even fear. The financial news and the activity of the markets coupled with the scarcity of gas in Atlanta have left an edgy feel to the week. Though vaguely defined, the word “normal” keeps coming to mind. It’s what we yearn for – a return to normal.
Maybe that’s why the people of Gerasa asked Jesus to leave them (Luke 8:37). As Mark tells it they were slightly more urgent in their request. They begged Jesus to go away. The presence of a changed life, a shattered soul reassembled, dressed and in his right mind – this was not a cause for celebration or worship. The people were afraid.
We can understand fearing the demons, but why did the merciful kindness and powerful authority of Jesus evoke fear? Jesus casts out the demon. The people cast out Jesus.
Perhaps the normal they knew had been disturbed. A demon-possessed man in the area isn’t something the chamber of commerce puts in a brochure, but it isn’t a problem as long as he stays among the tombs. At least they knew where he was. They knew not to go there. It’s like thinking that everything is fine as long as the prostitutes and drug dealers stay downtown. We just don’t want them in our neighborhoods.
When Jesus spoke peace to the demoniac all hell broke loose. Once loosed it entered a herd of pigs and drove the pork market straight in to the sea. Floating carcasses washed ashore and everyone freaked out a little over what that meant for the local economy. A neighbor made well didn’t get as much press as pigs made dead.
Jesus had disturbed the balance of things. Like it or not, that’s what Jesus does.
Jesus’ presence is never benign. It demands response. Jesus shows up and disturbs what we know as normal. He shifts the balance of things and ushers in a new reality. We can either embrace this reality, or we can insist in living in a reality of our own making. Either way, we must respond to Jesus.
We can respond by rejecting Jesus. We do this with outright hostility. Sometimes we reject him by our casual indifference. The result is the same.
The other choice of course is to follow him. We can obediently go where he sends us. This may not be easy. The demoniac was sent back to his village and home, a place where people knew his story and had watched his out of control life. But he goes, obedient to the one who had spoken the word that restored him to life (Luke 8:39).
When Jesus shows up, he changes the balance of things. But at the same time he himself is the center that anchors us. That’s what we need, especially when “normal” is hard to find. Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
These are anxious days, Lord Jesus. How quick we are to seek our security and well being in something other than you and your word. Strengthen our faith, we pray, that we might live as confident people – not fearful. Help us to follow where you lead and go where you send, ready to tell the goodness of the Lord. Amen