When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
Matthew 8:28-34 (NIV)
Every time I read this story, I get so confused.
It’s not a difficult story to follow. In fact, it’s very simple.
Jesus and the disciples made it through the horrible storm we talked about last week and have landed at their destination across the lake.
Two demon-possessed men come to meet Him. The demons in these two men start questioning Jesus. Essentially they’re saying, “What are you doing here? It’s not time to send us to Hell yet. You’re early!”
I find it amazing that these demons recognize who Jesus is immediately. And they know what their future is. And they also know Jesus has authority over them and that He’s probably going to kick them out of their present home (the two men) because they don’t belong there and Jesus loves putting things back into alignment.
So the demons request that Jesus send them into a nearby herd of pigs.
And Jesus obliges.
The pigs go crazy—naturally—and commit suicide by jumping into the lake and drowning.
The guys responsible for taking care of the pigs run back to town and tell the townspeople what happened—to the pigs and to the demon-possessed men.
Now remember, the townspeople had not been able to travel through this particular part of town because the two demon-possessed men were so violent.
And now they aren’t.
Hallelujah! Praise God!
As a result of the report from the watchers of the pigs, the entire town heads out to the tombs.
So what did they see as they approached?
I imagine they saw Jesus and his companions. And I imagine they also saw the two men—men they had been afraid of earlier—now walking around in their right minds. The two men were probably still amazed at what Jesus had done for them. They were probably still thanking Jesus and possibly discussing going back home for the first time in a long time. Possibly dreaming what it will be like to lead normal lives again—get back to work, be respectable citizens, enjoy being husbands and fathers.
Can you imagine how it would feel to get your life back after that kind of experience? To not have people afraid of you anymore? To not be shunned? To not hate yourself and what you’ve become?
How liberated they must have felt!
And here come their fellow townspeople. Coming out to celebrate with them.
Or so they thought.
The last verse says, “Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”
There are a few other ways I would have expected that last sentence to end.
For instance, they pleaded with him to come stay in their town a few days and heal some other people.
Or to heal the other people right here, right now.
Or teach them like he had taught people across the lake.
But, no. Instead, they asked Jesus to leave their region.
They didn’t want Him anywhere near them. He was disrupting their status quo and ruining their economy.
I understand. Pigs died. I get it. And apparently that was somebody’s livelihood. Or it could have been the town’s main livelihood.
But seriously. What is a herd of pigs compared to two men getting their lives back?!? Two families getting their husbands and fathers back? A town getting two productive citizens back? How can you compare the value of a herd of pigs to the health and dignity restored to these two men?
I’m sorry but I’m confused.
But that’s not unusual these days.
A lot of things happening in our country right now confuse me.
It has become very apparent that there are several things that many people in this country consider a lot more important than human life. And sacred vows. And righteous living. And justice. And truth.
And it’s obvious there are things that some people value more than being honest. Or merciful. Or gracious. Or honoring. Or respectful. Or faithful.
In a lot of different regions of this country (education, government, media, business, entertainment, etc.), Jesus was asked to leave a long time ago.
And now we’re living in the aftermath.
So what are we going to do about it? It’s up to us.
“If MY PEOPLE, who are called by my name . . . .” II Chronicles 7:14