Do we want Jesus to be only conveniently present?
The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. – Mark 5:14-17
Maybe you’ve wished for things that turned out to be to your detriment. Perhaps the answer to your prayer turned out to be something you didn’t really want. Once we get the new car, the job promotion, the home of your dreams, or the opportunity to travel far and wide, you discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it may be a nightmare.
I wonder how Jesus felt when the crowd begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone. I wonder whether they had any idea of what they were asking for. I wonder if they ever rued their request.
For my part, I consider it the saddest request Jesus would ever receive. There are some competitors in this category. A mom comes and asks that Jesus seat her boys at his right and left in his kingdom. The disciples ask Jesus if they should call down fire on some who did not receive him as he was heading to Jerusalem. Satan asks Jesus for permission to sift Peter like wheat. Sad. But none so sad as asking Jesus to leave us alone. Don’t bother us anymore.
Sadly we all do this from time to time. I want something I know is not godly, and I ask Jesus to leave me alone while I indulge my sinful desire. You forget – so you say – and give into gossip. You know you should be more careful with your money but you take your credit cards to the mall (in pre-COVID days!). The piece of cake that should go untouched disappears with the last smudge of chocolate icing on your napkin. The eye candy fascinates you but you just can’t stop looking.
We want our own way all too often. We want Jesus conveniently present. Doing his good thing at our bidding. Healing. Comforting. Encouraging. Affirming.
But let’s not invite him to the bachelor’s party, the office Christmas party (again, pre-COVID), or the trip to Vegas. Then we’ll settle for conveniently nearby in case we get into trouble.
Thankfully this is not the end of the story. For even as Jesus leaves, he commissions the now healed man to tell the story of his healing and grace to his household. We’ll begin there tomorrow. But we’ll end with Jesus’ initial call, “Repent! For the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Larger Context of this Event
So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.
6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”
9 Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” 10 Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.
11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. 12 “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.”
13 So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. – Mark 5:1-17