When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them. So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with Him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.Luke 8:27-33
What an intriguing outcome to a fantastic climax to the story. When you look at the big picture of this story it is a wonderful outcome. A man who has been plagued for a long time by demons has been set free. A man who was known by everyone from around there and had been naked and living in the tombs for a long time has been set free. He has had a wonderful release. But the reactions of all concerned aren’t in accord with the outcome. Something is not right here. Something happened that was miraculous but the response runs contrary to what should have happened. Across the board with everyone who is connected with the events that took place in Gergesa they react in ways contrary to what ought to be expected. [I prefer to call the area Gergesa rather than Geresa or Gadara because I feel the facts fit Gergesa better than the others]. The herdsmen who saw what happened from the pigs’ perspective, the people from the town and the surrounding area who came to check it out and later all the people from the Gergasene region – they all have a negative reaction to what Jesus has done. Why is that? Let’s analyse it.
The herdsman only saw things from a distance, they stayed close to the pigs. Matthew 8:30 tells us the pigs were “eating in the fields not far away”. Well far, not far, it is all relative. But the point is the pigs were not adjacent to where Jesus and man met. There was a distance between them. The pig herders were with the pigs – that is what pig herders do. So they only saw the end result. They saw Jesus and the man talking at a distance. They knew the man and his behaviour. Suddenly he is fine, clothed and in his right mind and their pigs are dead. They don’t see any pigs and they hear all the accounts of what happened. They can’t look past the loss of the pigs to rejoice with the guy set free. Well, I figure they were not even “their pigs”. I think what happened is that after the event they high-tail it to town including stopping at the farms along the way and tell people the story. But I am sure they told what happened from their perspective. Meaning the spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs and they all rushed into the lake. I.e. It wasn’t our fault; if anything it was His fault (Jesus). The herdsmen and the townspeople, some of whom probably owned the pigs, wanted swine more than a saviour.
Thus attitude seems repeated across the board. When the townspeople rush out to confirm the details they find the man clothed, in his right mind and sitting at Jesus feet. Now that is amazing. Here is a total turn around of this man’s life. One would think that would make an impact. Such a dramatic change would surely spark interest at least; awe and wonder at best. But it does neither. Instead it makes every one afraid. But why were they afraid. I think there are four possible answers:
- They were afraid of commercial loss. They didn’t want any of this hocus pocus stuff to ruin their businesses.
- They were afraid of anything related to those who were demon possessed; it is unnerving.
- They were afraid of Jesus who possessed such power as to cause the spirits to enter the pigs.
- They were fearful of the demonic and don’t even want to go there. “It is scary stuff. Don’t even want to talk about that stuff. I don’t understand it”
The herdsmen and then all those who came were all afraid. The word used is the word [phobos]. Phobos doesn’t include the sense of awe. It is all phobias. All their phobias come to the fore. Perhaps connected with the four answers above or maybe for reasons of other fears. When fear-mongering gets started it is hard to stop and one fear leads to another. Phobias appear to be running rife through the assembled crowd. No one stops to think of the benefit and the positive side. Their perspective is all negative. The centre of the story was “that the demon possessed man had been healed”. That much was clear. But it was the spin they put on the truth that carried the day. It seems the price paid was too high from the on-lookers point of view. Who is going to recompense us for the loss of the pigs? We don’t want you around here Jesus. It is dangerous and costly. And so the unheard of happens and they ask Him to leave the area. Just go away! How ironic!
The demonic and dealing with the spiritual world can freak people out. It is a natural reaction. The whole demonic thing is fraught with misunderstanding and wackiness. It is so hard to get a good biblical handle on things. There are Christians who don’t want to even talk about it. They bury their heads in the sand and pretend these things don’t happen. There are those at the other extreme who are gung ho for rooting out the spirits and find them under every rock and cranny (note that’s cranny; not granny). We need balance and we need biblical truth on which to stand. Other wise we might suffer the same fate as the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14). But in actuality when we know Whose we are and what is our authority by result of adoption as His sons and daughters, we have nothing to fear. We are on the winning side.
There is another element to look at before we stop. The reaction of man concerned at the end of the story and Jesus’ response. The guy is found sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind. Sane again. Sitting at Jesus’ feet signifies awe and respect as well as the act of learning and being a disciple. This guy wants to learn all he can from Jesus. His response is in contrast to everyone else for miles around. Not only that, he asks Jesus if he can follow Him and be with Him. The sense in this verse is follow on-goingly. To be with Him continually and follow Him everywhere. It is motivated by devotion (maybe) or is it motivated by fear of the people who knew what he was and may not understand the “new man”. Hard to tell which or if it’s a combination of motives. Ask him when you see him. You will know who he is then so just ask him to tell you his story. I love hearing people’s testimony. Have you ever stopped to think that you will be able to hear the testimonies and the stories of people from the past in heaven. Now that is an interesting thought, isn’t it?
Take time to ponder why Jesus tells him to return to his house. Not the physical building which is his home but to his household. The wider connection of people who are part of his household. Set the record straight for them as to what happened. Spread the news of what happened to you. Interesting! Sometimes Jesus tells a person who has been healed, “don’t tell anyone”. Others times he tells them to share it. Now that’s an interesting study for you. Find the examples on both sides and study the differences and background to determine why some are told “share” and some are told “don’t share”. But that is for you to do not for me to tell you.
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.Anon
God is more interested in your tomorrow than your yesterday. He is most interested in your today.Anon
Remember you’re a W.I.P. – a work-in-progress!Bob Gass
Jesus came to pay a debt he did not owe for those who owed a debt they could not pay.Max Lucado
I’ve read the end of the book and we win in the end.Billy Graham