Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. Mark 5:17
It’s one of the stranger stories ever recorded about Jesus. He and His disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee and witnessed Jesus calming the winds and the waves (they still didn’t know who He was), when they were met on the other side by a crazy man who lived among the tombs of a graveyard and could not be controlled. Whatever the authorities of the town tried to bind him with — even chains of iron — he would break, and so he wandered the tombs, night and day, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When Jesus asked the man his name, he said his name was Legion, “for we are many.” Jesus knew the man was inhabited by demons, and the demons knew who He was and that He had the power to send them out of the man. But, not wanting to be disembodied, the demons pleaded with Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs that were grazing on the hillside. So Jesus granted their wish, and as soon as they entered the pigs, the whole herd ran headlong into the lake and drowned.
When the people of the village heard what was going on, they came out to see for themselves and found “the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid” (5:15). They were afraid? Doesn’t that seem strange? They were afraid to find a man who had been the terror of the tombs, dressed and in his right mind? Wouldn’t they have been relieved to have this menace healed and no longer a threat to their town? What could they have possibly been afraid of about that?
They were afraid of change. They were afraid of Jesus. They were afraid of a man who messed with their reality. They wanted the crazy guy screaming and cutting himself among the tombs, and they wanted the pigs back on the hillside. Just leave us alone. We were doing fine before you showed up.
I think that sometimes we forget that Jesus is dangerous. He changes things. Sometimes we prefer the former state, even if the latter is an improvement. Jesus was a threat to this town. They were less afraid of the demons in the tombs than a man who could change everything.
Are we facing a spiritual revolution? Are we facing major changes to our society in our culture and in the church? What if following Jesus means some radical changes in our reality? Are we willing to go with that, or would we rather have Jesus go somewhere else? It’s so easy to become set in our ways where we would choose our weaknesses, our foibles, our dysfunctions rather than to have Jesus heal us and expect to use us for something greater. Do we want to stay the way we were, or do we want something far better?