Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
The story of the demon-possessed man is, like many people, one of my favorite Jesus stories. It has everything I am looking for when I think of who Jesus was: Boldness, authority, compassion, mystery, and a deeper meaning to name a few. And there are surely countless sermons/messages on this story, as it is recorded in every Gospel and details change very little if at all. For years and years I read this story with amazement with a reflection of how awesome Jesus is when I can hear the demons begging to Him. But recently this part, seen above, calls a different portion of the story to reflect on for me.
Response. So much of life is a reaction. Something happens, and we get a choice on how to respond to it. Some of those ‘things’ are mundane and hardly worth remembering, others are frightening and even life altering. It is both puzzling and natural thought as I read these people’s response to what they heard of Jesus’ acts. These people didn’t even see it, they only heard and were still afraid. Why? My thought is that Jesus interrupted the system, like He typically does. And these people were uncomfortable, even afraid, when they just heard about something so drastic like demons going into pigs. No doubt, that would be terrifying to witness. It is simply interesting to see that in this story, unlike others, we don’t see people recognizing Jesus’ authority with awe; we see fear.
Jesus also has a choice in response here. He chooses to walk away. To honor their request. We don’t know if He said anything to his disciples or the people. The text says he got into the boat and left. It is so powerful on both sides. Those people, it is you and I so often. We see what Jesus can do and it scares us. It isn’t comfortable. We seem to be doing fine and don’t need demons cast out of us. So we say “Jesus, please leave us alone. Where you go demons must follow close by. That is a war that I want no part of.” And knowing Jesus, there is another message here. How will you respond when you are met with this same criticism? We are called to be like Him, thus we will inevitably be met with similar circumstances. Maybe not casting out demons, but challenging the status quo. Will you respect the choice of the person, right or wrong, as Jesus does here and continues to do for so many people who choose not to follow Him?
For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him… 2 Chronicles 16:9
I see Jesus as a Watchman. He calls all. We all have a choice in how we respond. There is so much more to our stories than we let on to believe. And Jesus isn’t calling us to be perfect. As seen later in this story, the healed man asks to come with Jesus, but He says no. He tells him to go back to his home and tell others of what was done for him. It’s that simple. To realize how God has shown up in your life time and again. That man had no training; he knew no scriptures. He experienced. He simply experienced and that is enough for Jesus to say ‘represent me’. How will you represent?
“Nothing else really matters.
Only to love Him and do what He tells me. I don’t know quite why it should be so, but it is. All the time it is suffering to love and sorrow to love, but it is lovely to love Him in spite of this, and if I should cease to do so, I should cease to exist. “
– Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places