Reader: “The entire town came out to meet Jesus. . .”
Response: “and told him to go away and leave them alone.”
Scripture: Matthew 8:14-17; 28-34
When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said,
“He took our sicknesses
and removed our diseases.”
When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons met him. They came out of the tombs and were so violent that no one could go through that area.
They began screaming at him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?”
There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”
“All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.
Reader: “The word of the Lord,”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You have undoubtedly read this passage many times. But what is going on besides a mere narrative of a another day in the life of Jesus and the disciples? Let’s look a little closer. Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever instantly in this case. Sometimes his healing is over a longer period of time. Jesus has power over disease, but the “high fever” responds to Jesus much as a person would answer a command. Did you notice, Jesus absorbed her fever into himself when he touched her? Look at Isaiah’s words, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” In this case, Jesus did it literally. The mother-in-law responded with gratitude by preparing a meal for Jesus. Word got out about Jesus’ presence in town and many demon-possessed people came to be delivered and with a simple command, the demons left. Whether by touch or by word, Jesus’ authority extends over sickness and the world of demons. Following Jesus’ stilling the storm, (his authority over the elements), Jesus arrived at the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Here we have the encounter with the demoniacs. Did you notice the men’s response when Jesus arrived? Their word . . . “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God?” Jesus always referred to himself as the Son of Man, until the very end of his trial before the religious leaders when they asked him point blank, “Are you the Son of God?” And he responded, “You say I am.” The reason being, I believe Jesus was pacing the full revelation of himself in order to preach repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven before the final confrontation. He needed the disciples to get the full picture, which they didn’t! The demons speaking through the men’s voices knew of their coming judgment and damnation. They bargained with Jesus for a delay in their final doom. They asked to be sent into a herd of pigs, the vilest of unclean animals to the Jews, and an occupation unlawful for Jews. At his command the demons entered the swine. The pigs’ herdsmen spread the news of what had happened. The entire townspeople came out to meet the man who had brought this deliverance. Their response to Jesus was interesting to say the least. You would think they would be glad for what happened. But no, the opposite occurred. They asked him to leave! Don’t you wonder why? The presence of God in their midst made them uncomfortable. They wanted the status quo to remain, as do we. Things and people have a certain place in our lives. We know where we stand. Everyone knows their place in the scheme of things and needs to stay in their place. When something dramatic happens to someone, that changes all the relational dynamics. Power shifts. We like the way it used to be, especially if we had the power. Since Jesus was the cause of upsetting the social structure, he needed to leave. Two demon possessed men were now in right mind and body, they were normal. The people weren’t quite sure how to relate to them. Before Jesus did any more upsetting things, they asked him to leave. Many people around you these days respond to Jesus the very same way. They hear the manger story, but make sure he stays the baby in the manger, not the Lord of creation and Lord of their lives. When Christmas is over, they ask baby Jesus to leave them alone and stay in the manger.
Music: “Lo, How A Rose” Pacific Chorale
Lord Jesus, Ruler of all that is seen and unseen, grant that we would have the courage to not run away when you get close to us. Your call to our lives is transformational. We admit we resist. We like to be in control and we like things to stay the same, that way we don’t have to change and go through unsettledness. We know where we stand and where others stand. We like comfort. Where there is a change, we want to be the ones to control it at our pace. We confess as we study your word and listen to your indwelling Holy Spirit that you are ever calling us to conformity to your Son. Put simply, it means you call us to change. You do not always do what we want or expect. At times your ways are very unsettling and upsetting as in casting out the demons and sending them into the pigs. In those kinds of instances, give us courage to embrace you and not ask you to leave us alone. May this be a day of greater conformity to your image that you may be glorified in every moment. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp