Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the same response to Jesus' healing of the Gadarene demonic. When the people see the demonic restored and when they meet Jesus they all beg, plead, ask Jesus to leave the region. There is no celebration that a man has been restored to community. They do not seek more miracles from Jesus. They simply want him to get out of town and he does.
Now, this raises some questions for me. Why did they not want Jesus to stick around? Was it because of the pigs? 2,000 lost in one day would be a drain on their livelihood to say the least. Did they see Jesus as a threat to their way of life? What would happen if they had to stop raising pigs? How would they replace their lost income? Or, were they upset to see a man healed? Their local tourist attraction (we have a madman out in the tombs) has been lost. Whatever the reason, they pleaded with Jesus to leave the region.
The more I think about this the more I come to the conclusion that they were afraid of what it would mean to embrace Jesus. Because to embrace Jesus would mean a radical change in their lifestyle.
With Christ the world should be seen through different eyes, the eyes of God. People who normally are overlooked are now seen and valued. Economic and social distinctions should disappear. Sharing and caring should be the norm – the Good Samaritan is the rule not the exception. Different questions are asked. Widows and orphans are seen as people.
For them to keep Jesus in the region would mean that their lifestyle would be challenged. What if they did have to give up pig farming?|
Thought of that after our time with Ruth Fox (one of our ABC missionaries to northern Thailand). We have visited some of the places were she and her husband minister. We have tasted the ripe coffee berries that are being grown to replace the opium poppies. New hope has been given to these people and new crops have been found. The coffee is now of Starbucks quality. Also, clinics have been established to help them deal with their opium addiction. Christ has brought a change to the hills of northern Thailand!
Is this not the purpose of the Gospel – to bring change to the world? And, change is always difficult. They knew how to deal with a madman but they do not know how to respond to him in his right mind. They knew how to raise pigs. Jesus comes and challenges what they know, what they are comfortable and familiar with. Rather than confront who they are, rather than risk change – they ask, plead with Jesus to leave.
And he does! I wonder if there is a lesson or two for us to learn here. Change is scary. The Gospel cannot be forced on people. We have to first overcome their fears and their needs and then tell them the Good News.