Fearing Divine Interruptions

Fearing Divine Interruption

Matthew 8:21-34

“And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”

 

            When Jesus crossed over to the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, he entered the region of the Gadarenes.  When they arrive, they immediately encounter two individuals who were possessed by two demoniacs who were extremely violent and had superhuman strength.  Even when the local leaders tried to bind them with chains and shackles and stop their reign of terror in the region, they would break free.  As a result, they were both feared and ostracized by the rest of society.  Ironically, these individuals under the control of demons readily acknowledged that Jesus was the son of God. They admitted Christ’s authority over them. But even in their recognition of Jesus as God, they showed their contempt for God in recognizing that they faced judgment for their rebellion.  They are fully aware of their ultimate destination being the eternal torment of Hell.  Seeking to avert this judgment, they ask for an alternative, that Christ instead allow them to enter the herd of swine feeding nearby.  

            Jesus responds with a simple command, “Go!”  It is important to note that he does not command them to enter the pigs. Instead, he merely commands them to leave the men.  The focus of Jesus was not on the pigs and what would happen to them but on the deliverance of the two men, so he commanded them to leave.  While Jesus was not surprised they entered the swine, Jesus did not command them to do so. At first glance, it may seem unkind of Jesus to allow them to do so since it would impact the farmers who owned the pigs.  But we must remember that pigs were regarded as unclean and were one of the animals the Old Testament law forbade the Jews from eating.  

            After the death of the pigs, herdsmen immediately ran to the city to proclaim the news.  But the focus of the message was not on the deliverance of the demoniacs but upon the destruction of the pigs (verse 33).  For them, the big story was what happened to the herd rather than what happened to the demoniacs.  

            Verse 34 presents the surprising conclusion to the story.  After these two demoniacs had terrorized the region for a long time, one would naturally assume that they would rejoice that these two men were finally delivered from such a terrible plight.  However, instead of praising God for the deliverance, they rejected Jesus and begged him to leave their region.  In their response, we see their spiritual condition.  They were more concerned about their financial prosperity than they were about the salvation and deliverance of people.   Instead of joy, they responded in fear (Luke 8:37).  For them, Jesus was not a deliverer but a threat, someone who interrupted their lives and brought financial setbacks.  They thought more of their pocketbook than they did of people.

            While we quickly condemn these people for their callous concern for the demoniacs and their selfish focus on their financial prosperity, how often do we fall prey to the same misguided priorities?  We give lip service to God but are more concerned about our prosperity than people.  When we make decisions, rather than focusing on what is best for others, we focus on what is best for our pocketbook.  We worship God—but only if he does not interrupt our lives too much.  We desire a God who serves us but not a God who interrupts our world.  

            However, for the demoniacs, the interruption was their salvation.  While the people went out of their way to avoid them and wanted nothing more than these tormented men to leave.  Christ had compassion and was liberated from them.  This challenges us to examine our priorities.  Do we see people tormented by drugs, mental illness, and sin as inconveniences to avoid or people we should show compassion to?  Are they people to reject or people to redeem?  Christ, by his actions, gives us the answer.

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