And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. (Mark 5:15 ESV)
And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. (Mark 5:17 ESV)
THE LORD PROMISES GOOD THINGS for us — hope and a future — if we would trust Him, but so often, we shrink back into the familiar, afraid to take the next step.
What holds us back?
The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) describe an encounter Jesus had with demons in the area of the Gerasenes region, where He dispatched a legion of evil spirits from torturing the town madman and sent them into a nearby herd of 2,000 pigs, who rushed down a steep bank and were drowned.
The outraged and frightened herdsmen ran to tell the townspeople what had just happened (“Come quick!” they might have said. “You won’t believe this! You know that deranged dude? And the pigs? Well, you’ll just have to see this.”), and the townspeople immediately ran to the side of the lake where Jesus was teaching His disciples. Once they arrived, they begged the Lord to leave.
AS WE READ THE ACCOUNT, safe and comfortable in our armchairs, most of us cannot imagine how the townspeople could have begged Jesus Christ, the Son of the Creator, to leave their village, when He had just demonstrated God’s amazing grace by healing the town madman.
Yes, the once raging maniac who terrorized the town, whose evil rants easily broke restraining chains, and who roamed among the tombs howling at the moon, was now sitting docilely by the side of the road, fully dressed, and in his right mind.
Okay, so the villagers lost the pigs (they weren’t Jews, so having pigs was okay), but maybe it was their shame that led them to shut out the Light, but it still strikes us as odd that they preferred the squalor of ignorance to the joy of redemption.
They were afraid, and they failed to trust.
ARE WE THAT MUCH DIFFERENT?
How often do we, as Christians, shrink from opportunities where we can serve the Kingdom?
The line to cross — then and now — is to accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to believe in him and to seek His will.
Sadly, most people we know, who are nonbelievers, are like the townspeople, shrunken in fear and unwilling to trust.
Yet, many of us who are in Christ face daily battles with our own fear, whether it’s to offer a direct testimony to a co-worker, or to admonish a family member who’s clearly departing from a biblical lifestyle, or offering prayer for a friend. We may wonder whether the time is right, whether the offer will be accepted, or how the gesture will be received.
SOMETIMES IT’S NOT SO MUCH that we hesitate to help. Our entire being may scream with the desire to pitch in. It’s just that a rebuke here and there from those we seek to help may lead us to excessive caution, not wanting to antagonize when, we rationalize, the timing just might be better some other time.
There often is good reason to tread slowly. Doesn’t Scripture admonish us at times to “wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14 NIV)? Surely, it does; but Scripture also commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NIV), so, clearly, there is a tension between caution and action.
The key to resolving this quandary is to follow God’s will in our lives for that moment. That can be accomplished only by staying in prayer (I Thess. 5:17) and being obedient to God (1 John 5:3).
We need to know, too, that we will fail at times, either in making the effort to step out in faith or in the manner in which we act. God can use our failures to build character if only we persevere (Rom. 5:4) and not allow discouragement to overwhelm us (Joshua 1:9).
THE STORIES OF REAL PEOPLE in the Bible are meant to teach us something about ourselves, whether it’s nailing Jesus to the Cross, making golden calves, or begging Jesus to leave our village.
We don’t see ourselves actually doing those things, of course, but when we disobey the Lord, worship our possessions, and leave God’s Word on the bookshelf, we are no different from those we read about.
Yes, it’s always easier to criticize the unbelieving actions of those we encounter in God’s Holy Word, but those stories were not given to us to make us feel better about ourselves.
They were given to us to show us … us.
Thought for the Day: Are we ever guilty of asking Jesus to leave?
PRAYER: Lord, we recognize your kingship over the universe, the universe of your creation, yet too often we fail to believe, to show even as small a measure of faith as a mustard seed, and so fail to experience the full measure of joy that You offer through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. Forgive us our weakness and turn our hearts from fearful hearts to trusting hearts. In Jesus’ name we raise our prayer. Amen