Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
Sometimes the angels must be dumbfounded at what humans say and do. Sometimes they must shake their heads at our dangerous foolishness.
The plea, “Oh come, oh come, Immanuel” rose from the voices of God’s people, the Israelites, for millennia of Old Testament time. He finally came. He was standing before them. He had come to rescue them. And what was their response?
They pleaded with him to leave.
In our mind’s eye, we can picture the attending angels saying, “What?” Why in heaven would these people want Jesus to be nowhere in their life?
The answer is not found in heaven. It comes from the pit of darkness. But to those people, it must have seemed like a good answer. We want to know why.
Jesus had spent the night crossing the Sea of Galilee, where he rebuked wind and waves to still a storm. Upon reaching the shore, a frightening scene unfolded. A man came running to him from out of the tombs. He was a wild man. Not even chains could hold him. Day and night, he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
We might have thought he was crazy. He wasn’t. He was possessed by a herd of demons.
Confronted by Jesus, the demons begged him to not send them away. “Send us among the pigs!” they pleaded. A herd of them was nearby.
He did. And the 2,000 pigs rushed down a steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
The pig keepers told the townspeople and those people rushed out to see what had happened. They found Jesus sitting down with the scary man, who was now dressed and in his right mind.
This frightened them. Thus, “Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.”
We wonder what they were afraid of. Did they fear Jesus would use his supernatural power against them? But couldn’t they see how he had used it to deliver this suffering person from hellish power?
Were they afraid Jesus would cause them to lose money? After all, the loss of thousands of pigs must have hurt someone’s pocketbook. Were other herds of pigs at risk if Jesus stayed?
We must ask why those pigs were there in the first place. Weren’t swine declared off-limits to God’s Old Testament people? From Mount Sinai didn’t God command them, “The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses” (Deuteronomy 14:8).
So why were these people pig farmers? Did they like the taste of the meat? Did they like the taste of the money?
We don’t know. What we can be certain of is that they did not like Jesus being with them.
It makes us think of times when we might not want Jesus present in our lives. Might that be the times when we know we are planning to do something he would not approve of? Could it be the times when we are angry with him because he did not allow us to have something we desperately wanted—or the times when he did not prevent something we hated?
The victim of the devilish torment had a different reaction. He pleaded for permission to go with Jesus. He knew the wonder of divine deliverance.
We are like him, are we not? Don’t we know the wonder of being rescued from the powers of darkness? Do we not know the blessings that Jesus has brought us? Do we not plead with him to stay with us always?
To ever tell Jesus to get out of our lives would not just dumbfound angels. It would just be plain dumb for us to do.
Prayer: Abide with us, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.