“Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear.” – Luke 8:37
One day an antique collector was walking through a strip mall parking lot. In front of one of the stores, he saw a mangy, skinny cat lapping milk from a saucer. When he got a little closer, his face lit up. You see, he was an antique expert, and he had a strong hunch that that saucer was very old and worth at least a thousand dollars. So, he decided he was going to play it cool and get himself a great deal on that saucer. He casually walked into the store and asked the owner if he could buy the cat for $5. The store owner replied, “I’m sorry, but the cat isn’t for sale.” The collector said, “Please, I need a hungry cat around the house to catch mice. Tell you what…I’ll pay you $50.” The owner said, “Sold!”
As the collector headed for the door, he turned and said, “Hey, since I paid you $50, I wonder if you could throw in that old saucer. The cat’s used to it and it’ll save me having to buy a new one.” The owner replied, “Sorry, buddy, but that’s my lucky saucer. So far this week it’s help me sell 17 stray cats.”
It’s kind of sad when someone has more interest in a profitable saucer than compassion for a suffering animal. But it’s a full-on tragedy when people have more compassion for pigs than for people. And Luke 8 shows a sad example of a whole town that told Jesus to take a hike, because their priorities were all out of whack.
In Luke 8:27, Jesus’ disciples had just survived a terrifying storm as they crossed the
Sea of Galilee with their Lord. And as soon as
their boat reached dry land, a crazy, naked man came running up the beach
toward Jesus, screaming and carrying on. The disciples must have thought, “Out
of the frying pan, into the fire!” Luke tells us in verses 27-29 that the man
hadn’t worn clothes for a long time. In all likelihood, he had been running
around naked for years. The man hadn’t lived in a house for a long time.
Instead he lived in the tombs, surrounded by decaying corpses. The demon had
seized this man many times and driven him into solitary places. And at times,
he would have superhuman strength and break the chains that the townspeople had
put on his hands and feet to restrain him.
But at the sight of Jesus, this wildman flung himself at Jesus’ feet, begging not to be tortured. Jesus knew he was dealing with a demon-possessed man, and as it turned out, many demons lived in him (v. 30). The demons “begged [Jesus] repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (v. 31). The Abyss is just a taste of the eternal
described in Revelation 20, and even Satan’s demons didn’t want to go there. If
you have any doubts that Hell isn’t a nice place, that should convince you. Lake of Fire
The demons asked to go into a herd of pigs nearby, knowing that even living inside a pig’s brain was much better than living in the Abyss. So, Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs, and they left the man and entered the swine. For the first time in years, the man was freed from his suffering! The pigs, meanwhile, rushed into the
Sea of Galilee and drowned. And for the people of the
town, THAT was the big headline—NOT the amazing salvation of the
demon-possessed man, whom they found “sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in
his right mind” (v. 35). Instead, they were afraid of Jesus’ power … and upset
about the waste of a herd of livestock. And verse 37 is one of the saddest
verses in the Book of Luke: “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes
asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So [Jesus] got
into the boat and left.”
Think about it: The people in the town loved their pigs more than they valued the soul of a man. Money was more important to them than mercy. And, most tragically, they’d rather have Jesus leave than stay. Some might excuse them for their actions, because—after all—they were really, really scared. But that’s no excuse for being really, really stupid. Being scared is no excuse for having no compassion. It’s no excuse for grieving for your pigs more than you grieve for a man who’s experiencing hell on earth. And being scared is no excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ.
But there is a silver lining. The healed man was now a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. He asked to go with Jesus, but instead, Jesus told him to do something very important: “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (v. 39). So, Jesus’ work wasn’t over when he sailed away from Gerasenes. This new follower of Jesus Christ with his amazing testimony returned home and shared the good news of salvation. It’s likely that hundreds of people were introduced to Jesus through this one man whose life had been radically transformed by Christ.
When Jesus’ disciples first saw the demon-possessed wildman, they probably wondered if there had even been any point in surviving the storm they’d come through to get there. The same is true of us today. We may not be able to see what awaits us on the other side of our present storm. But if we trust in Jesus, we can be confident that what he does next is going to be amazing. So, hang in there, Christian. And walk by faith.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.