The People’s Response: “Please leave us!”
Despite the miracle of healing and the swine phenomenon, all that they had heard, the scene was no doubt very quiet and ordinary by the time the people arrived. In my mind, I hear the gentle sea winds blowing amidst the casual rolling of the waves and the low sound of gentle conversation.
We are not told how many of the city’s population actually came to see Jesus, but we are told that there were enough to make a crowd. Maybe they broke the quiet of the landscape with noisy murmuring as they came upon Him; but in my mind I rather believe they grew quiet. The absence of the once-foraging herd bore silent witness of the truth of the herdsmen’s claims. There before them sat the man “clothed and in his right mind” with Jesus and the disciples, just as the herdsmen had said. There was a lot to take in.
It is impossible for me, so removed in time and culture, to know what must have gone through their minds when they saw the truth with their own eyes; but we do have a record of their summary reaction. At some point, they saw or heard enough to draw their own immediate conclusion about Jesus.
“Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (v.17)
Fear of Change and Loss. It is observed by some that the loss of the pigs was an economic loss to the whole city. That would have angered many, certainly. If Jesus did this once, he could do it again, for there were most likely others in similar condition to this man. The city was building its wealth in the seaport trade of local and foreign goods; they were up-and-coming in the world. In Jerusalem many were fearful of upsetting the economic and political balance with the Romans. Here, perhaps, the people were also afraid of an upset in the balance they were enjoying. Would Jesus bring about their utter economic destruction? Who cannot relate to this fear?
Fear of Authority. But I believe it was more than the loss of the pigs. One commentary makes the point that the people did not order him, they entreated him with fervor. In that, I believe the commentator has struck upon a truth: the people
a) had seen evidence of his higher Authority, and
b) they were very afraid of the whole implication of it.
First, this event upended everything they knew about spiritual powers. They were polytheistic, but here was One who had power over the spirit world. Their beliefs, their cultural identity, had just been shaken at its center, their dumb gods rendered subject to this Unknown power. We have been worshipping lesser powers? We have been lied to? Who can we trust now? What is truth?
Second, they were afraid of what they did not understand. Not knowing who Jesus is, they were no doubt very afraid of what might happen next. What kind of a man is this that has power over the spirits? In the great contest, they didn’t see compassionate healing, but power over the spirit world. They were used to appeasing the spirits with gifts and sacrifice. This man was greater; what would he require? An element of fear is awe. They had, in their ignorance of Christ, no reason to be hopeful that any good would come of this for them. It is one thing to have their former beliefs rendered subject, but Who is this that is come to take their place? Is this God mad at us? What does he expect of us that we have not already given to these lesser gods?
This was the root of their plea: “We don’t know or understand who or what you are. Please go and leave us alone!”
Fear of Holiness. We, too, as mortals shrink back from any proximity to holiness. We fear punishment because we know we are unclean ourselves. Blind to the healing, yet keenly aware of personal sin, we fear Jesus rather than love him. The Gadarenes would rather have the familiarity of their traditions and rituals than to know truth. They would rather retain their “lusts” than to be pure and clean.
Where do I stand?
At first, from my end as a young Bible reader, I could not understand why in the world the people would have sent away a kind, compassionate healer such as they had in their midst. It would appear from hindsight that if Jesus healed one, he could heal many more! It would appear that if he was the greater spiritual power, then they should and would fall in worship! It would make sense that it was a good thing that this man who once was dangerous and now was perfectly restored and a thing to be celebrated! But that is hindsight. Life has taught me more over the years about what it is to be fallible, to be human; sadly, I understand the Gadarenes more now.
In actuality, we are all fearful people, afraid of change and loss, afraid of what we do not understand, afraid of punishment at every turn. We are so entrenched in culture and habit that we will reject change, even if it is for the better. We are so afraid of being wrong that we will reject correction that would set us aright.
We are weak and forgetful creatures; even when we have known Christ’s love, our old nature wars with the new and we fall into fear again. We need him to invite Him to come in and teach us again. We need him ‘every hour’.
What are some things that we fear?
|Fear of Man’s Approval||Fear of Speaking|
|Fear of Man’s Rejection||Fear of Remaining Silent|
|Fear of Commitment||Fear of Activism|
|Fear of Abandonment||Fear of Reclusivism|
|Fear of Poverty||Fear of Death|
|Fear of Wealth||Fear of Life|
|Fear of Failure||Fear of Heights|
|Fear of Success||Fear of Depths|
|Fear of Isolation and Loneliness||Fear of Open Spaces|
|Fear of Social Fellowship||Fear of Closed Spaces|
|Fear of Sickness||Fear of God’s Holiness|
|Fear of Sustaining Good Health||Fear of Satan’s Evil|
|Fear of Bad Appearance||Fear of Belonging|
|Fear of Good Appearance||Fear of Not Belonging|
|Fear of Travel||Fear of Sustained Work|
|Fear of Seclusion||Fear of Sustained Inactivity|
|Fear of Pain||Fear of Fear|
|Fear of Numbness||The list is inexhaustible!|
What will I do with Christ? The very Christ who came to offer the confident hope of salvation, dispelling all fear, is the very Christ the people rejected. Will I, too, reject him today and ask him to leave me alone? Or will I come to Him in my fear and ask Him to search my heart, identify my sin, and touch my life with His for healing and restoration? Yes, even as believers, we need him anew today.
What about you? Will you invite His counsel and trust Jesus in the concerns that you are facing right now?
Here is a warning for each one of us: “Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat….”(v17-18). He will not force Himself upon us. The decision is ours.
Search me, God, and know my heart;(Ps.139:23-24)
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Dear Heavenly Father, I am a fearful and weak creature, saved by grace yet still on this earth with all its influence to sin. By saving me, you have given me power to overcome the temptations of the flesh. Yet my still-sinful nature shrinks from your correction and even from your beautiful holiness. I bathe in your beautiful love, but then sin gets hold of me again and I relinquish into it. My guilt drives me to avoid you and your Word when my heart longs for your peace. Overcome me, Lord; search my heart and know me and see if there be any sin in me. Correct me and bring me to wholeness as you did with this man. Let me never stumble another with my reticence to humble myself before you. Let all see you as Lord in my life. In Jesus’ blessed Name, Amen.
Join me in the next post as we view the intimate parting scene with the Strong Man of Gadara and His Christ.
© Sept 2019 by ReadPsalm119.com.
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, at BibleHub.com
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, at BibleHub.com
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, at BibleHub.com
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible,at BibleHub.com