11 June 2010

Jesus Helps Those Who Need Help and Strikes Fear in Those Who Don't

Luke 8:26-39

When anyone sees Jesus in action, there will be a reaction.  The positive reaction generally comes from those who have had their lives profoundly changed by what Jesus has done for them.  The negative reaction generally comes from those who do not like or can not deal with how Jesus has changed the world around them with those same changed lives.

What a shock it must have been for the disciples when they landed on the southeast shores of the Sea of Galilee.  A crazy, naked man came charging at Jesus.  I wonder what they thought of this man.  I wonder if by now they smiled at such a man coming at Jesus since they had seen him heal and help all kinds of people.  "Well, let's see what miraculous thing our teacher will do now!"

We are told a bit about the man's history.  For the town's protection, no doubt, the townsfolk would help the man as best they knew how.  They tried to guard him and imprison him without success.  He lived among the dead and behaved more like an animal than a human.  It is quite disheartening meeting people that I feel are beyond help.  I start to despair and wonder what God will do for such a man.  We are reminded, however, that the light of Jesus shines brighter when it is applied to a truly dark situation.

Again we see that demons are not at all confused about Jesus' identity as they call him "Son of the Most High God"They fall at Jesus' feet, begging him not to send them "back to the abyss"Once again we are reminded what happens to angels and men who reject the rule of the King.  There is a lot about demon possession that I don't understand.  Was Jesus being merciful to the demons by affirming their pleas to not be sent into "nothingness" and sending them into the herd of pigs? 

What a strange sight for those who tended the pigs.  First, they see the local crazy charge a stranger who just landed.  I wonder if they lurched to help or whether they hung back for fear of their own safety.  I'm sure nobody quite knew what to expect from the naked lunatic, but nobody anticipated what really happened.  Who knows whether they heard the conversation between the demons and Jesus, but it certainly was a shock to suddenly see their herd rush away and kill themselves.

Did they understand what just happened?  Maybe not, but they certainly had a chance when them and others came back to the spot and see the naked crazy man was no longer naked or crazy.  "When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid."  

Normal can be defined as what we are used to. The biggest obstacle for all of us who try to personally help people is to convince them that life can be better.  When someone lives with or around any kind of dysfunction for long enough that dysfunction becomes what is normal.  We learn to adapt and cope and are convinced that it simply can't get any better.

Then, Jesus shows up.  Our pigs drown themselves and our former local crazy man is all dressed and sane.  The locals have a chance to process this and they simply can't.  We are told they told Jesus to leave because they were overcome with fear.  Were they lamenting the loss of the pigs, some food and profit?  Were they happy at all for the man?  Why were they so afraid to the point of asking Jesus to leave?  We're not really sure.  All we know is that Jesus shows up.  All they know is being changed and they simply can't handle the change.

What also jumps at me in a story that has many things surprise me is that Jesus never stays where he isn't wanted.  He doesn't argue.  He doesn't plead his case that he has come to proclaim good news.  He doesn't start preaching to the locals, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  He simply got into the boat and left.  Jesus never goes where he isn't invited and he never stays where he isn't wanted.

But, that doesn't mean that he leaves the local people to their fate.  Of course the man wanted to stay with the man who saved his life.  Wouldn't you?  But the last remarkable reaction in this account was when Jesus answered, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."  Apparently he didn't have to know all the teachings of Jesus to follow Jesus.  He didn't have to personally be around Jesus for a set period of time to tell others about Jesus.  He simply had to understand how much God had done for him through Jesus.  After some of his family and those who had known him and perhaps tried to help him had the chance to process the change Jesus had made, they could listen to his testimony and put their own faith and lives in knowing the one, true God and the One He had sent. 

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