There is a curious story in the gospels about a group of people who witnessed a wonderful miracle and then begged Jesus to leave their region! You would think they would want Him to stay for awhile and help with more problems. But they begged Him to depart.
Then and now, why do people send Jesus away?
Jesus had traveled by boat to a region that was rife with demonic activity (the story is thrice recorded in Mark 5:1-20, Matthew 8:28-34, and Luke 8:26-39). Parenthetically, if you are a skeptic about things spiritual or demonic, bear in mind that this story is (a) inspired by the Holy Spirit, (b) told and believed by Jewish writers, Matthew and John Mark, (c) told and believed by the Gentile writer, Luke. I suggest to you that the worldview of the Bible may be more accurate than yours or mine!
So, when Jesus crossed the lake and landed on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the record says He was met by at least one man who desperately wanted to be delivered from the host of demons which possessed him. This cadre of demons was numerous, such that the man had so lost his identity that he had renamed himself “Legion.” The legion, realizing Jesus was able and ready to cast them into the “abyss,” asked Him to at least let them be embodied in a herd of pigs. Jesus granted this, and the herd ran wildly into the lake and drowned.
This brings us back to the curious response of the villagers. They have seen one of their tormented citizens (surely a relative of some of them) restored to his right mind, and their city cleansed of multiple demons. Why then did they beg Jesus to leave their region? Luke tells us the reason:
When the people gathered around the man who had been delivered, sitting at the feet of Jesus, “they were afraid” (Luke 8:35b).
Then the whole multitude asked Jesus to depart from them, “for they were seized with great fear” (Luke 8:37b).
Are we sending Jesus away?
An African-American woman emailed her white pastor on a Saturday following yet another police shooting of a black man: “Dear pastor, you know that I love our church, and I so appreciate you and your family. But this week has left me so hurt that I need to be in a church where I receive some comfort. So you won’t see me tomorrow because I know you won’t mention anything about the trouble my community is experiencing.”
A Muslim woman had been searching for spiritual reality in her life. She had expressed real openness in talking with some friends who are Christians. But recently she went out to her car and found, written in ketchup, “MOVE.” Contrast that with a Facebook post by a friend of mine: “My dear Muslim friends, you are welcome in my home. You are welcome at my table. As for me and my family, as followers of Jesus, we love our all our neighbors and are thankful for you. We stand with you. Please don’t be afraid. Even though many evangelicals voted for Trump, we will remind them (and him) to read and obey the teachings of Jesus (in the Bible) that commands us to welcome strangers and to even love our enemies. So, we will pray for President-elect Trump and support him in good policies. We will also stand up and fight his bad policies. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…We love because He has first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19.
A man stands at the back of a crowd that has gathered peacefully. He holds us a sign that reads, “God hates fags.”
A white pastor has worked and prayed for a long time to increase the diversity in the congregation. In one sermon recently he mentioned “white privilege” and several long-standing members stood up and walked out.
Is our fear sending Jesus away? In my next post, I suggest six observations from Jesus’ encounter that may offer some insight.
[photo credit: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com]