Jesus, Go Away!Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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 story of the Gerasene demoniac is surely one of the strangest in the Gospels. It opens our eyes to a world that is largely unknown and frankly unsettling. Moreover, this story challenges us to examine our own reaction to Jesus. Are we welcoming him into our lives? Or are we saying, in effect, “Jesus, go away!”?
The story begins in the region of the Gerasenes on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. As soon as Jesus disembarked from the boat that carried him here, a man possessed by demons approached, shrieking and falling before him. A spiritual battle ensued, which ended with Jesus casting a whole legion of demons out of the man and sending them into a herd of pigs. The possessed pigs plunged down a hillside into the lake, where they drowned.
The herdsmen who witnessed this event spread the news to the people living in that area. Soon, they gathered around Jesus and the man who had been set free from the demons. He was “sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane” (8:35), thus serving as a vivid demonstration of the saving, healing power of Jesus.
Yet how did the Gerasene people respond? Did they bring their sick to Jesus so that he might heal them? Did they open their hearts to hear the good news of the kingdom of God? No, on the contrary, they “begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them” (8:37). On one level, they may have been afraid that Jesus would send their herds into the sea. Yet, on a deeper level, they we afraid of how Jesus might impact their lives.
I have never actually begged Jesus to go away and leave me alone. But I know there are ways I do this all the time. My ways are subtler, and for this reason perhaps even more insidious. At times, my honest prayer might be: “Lord, yes, do in me the things I want you to do. But don’t mess with my whole life. Heal me, Lord, but let me remain the lord of at least part of my life.” Thus, the story in Luke 8:26-39 challenges me to consider how open I really am to the Lord.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to this story in Luke? Are there things that perplex you? Can you relate to the people who sent Jesus away? Why do you think they were unwilling to engage with him? What scares you away from being fully sold-out as a disciple of Jesus?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, first of all, I want to thank you for your healing, restoring power. Thank you for setting the demoniac free. Thank you for giving him new hope. Thank you for all of the ways you have delivered me...and still are delivering me.
In my head, I know that your ways are always best. I know that your will for me leads to the most full and fruitful life. I know this, yet, like the people in the story, I can hesitate. I realize that opening myself fully to you threatens my comfortable status quo. As you heal me, as you empower me, as you use me for your purposes, my life will never be the same. The truth is that I am both drawn to you because of this and also a bit scared.
By your Spirit, help me to welcome you into my life, all of you. May I open all that I am to you, boldly trusting you. May I never send you away from me, even in small things. Jesus, be my healer. Be my helper. Be my Lord! Amen.