How Often Are We Wary of God’s Presence? Are We Demon-Possessed or in Our Right Minds?

Jesus exorcising the Gerasene demoniac, from the Hitda Codex manuscript; Wikipedia.
Jesus exorcising the Gerasene demoniac, from the Hitda Codex manuscript; Wikipedia.

Luke 8:26-39 tells the story of Jesus casting out a host of demons from a man. The demons begged Jesus to have mercy on them by not sending them into the abyss, but rather a herd of pigs. The people in the vicinity begged Jesus to leave their region because “they were seized with great fear” (Luke 8:37; ESV). The formerly demon-possessed man—“sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind” (Luke 8:35; ESV)—begged to depart with the Lord. He was the only one not wary of Jesus, but rather aware of his glorious goodness. Jesus consented in the first two cases (of the demons’ and people’s requests), but in the third case, he instructed the man to stay behind and proclaim “how much God” had done on his behalf. So, the man went about declaring “how much Jesus” had done for him (Luke 8:39; ESV).

I can understand why the demons were afraid of Jesus. I can also appreciate the fear of the people in that region. I can even appreciate that the disciples in the previous story of Jesus stilling the storm might have been afraid of him: “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25b; ESV). But should such fear so overpower us and disturb our thinking that we beg Jesus to depart from us, as in the case of the people in that region?

The winds and waves obey Jesus, as do the demons, as does the formerly demon-possessed man. How about us? How do we respond? With awareness, or wariness? Do we want to follow after Jesus, like the formerly demon-possessed but now right-minded man, or do we beg Jesus to depart, like the people in that region?

No doubt, the people were afraid because Jesus alone had power over the demonic forces: the demons had not only terrorized the man, but also the surrounding area, as no chains could bind him when the demons were aroused (Luke 8:29). Surely, the people in the surrounding countryside were also afraid because Jesus had permitted the demons to embody a herd of pigs, which then rushed down a steep bank and drowned themselves in the nearby lake (Luke 8:33). While the same Jesus who cast out demons, stilled a storm, and elsewhere supplied miraculously abundant amounts of food could easily have restored their fortunes, they likely thought it best simply to cut their economic losses and try to get rid of this imposing figure of unbelievable supernatural force.

Some have struggled over the destruction of the herd of pigs, which is understandable (Refer here for a treatment of Jesus’ view of animals, and here for mention of how the account might bear on Roman oppression). I also struggle over the lost opportunity of the people in that region whose wariness led them to beg Jesus to depart. They did not share any of the formerly demon-possessed man’s awareness of the amazing power of Jesus. He was finally in his right mind, but had they lost their minds? How could anyone beg Jesus to depart?

How would we respond if we were in that situation? The disciples in the previous account concerning the stilling of the violent storm (Luke 8:22-25) did not beg Jesus to let them go their separate ways once they reached shore, though Peter had earlier begged Jesus to depart from him upon witnessing a miraculous catch of fish. Peter had come to realize Jesus’ greatness and his own unworthiness (Luke 5:8). Nonetheless, Jesus called Peter to follow him, and Peter obeyed.

Whether Jesus tells us to follow him after performing a miracle, or stay behind as his new disciple to proclaim his miraculous grace in our region, will we obey? Or will we beg Jesus to depart from us and go our separate ways when we witness his miraculous power? If the latter, it would probably be good if we get our heads and hearts examined. Don’t let devastating natural, demonic or economic forces make us so wary that it keeps us from being aware of God’s miraculous power to turn things around, bless, and redeem. We should take our cue from the formerly demon-possessed man. After all, he was in his right mind.

This is the third of four posts addressing the theme of awareness and wariness. Refer here for the first post and here for the second post. The second through fourth posts engage accounts in Luke 8.

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