I knew a guy named Crazy Bob. Well, I didn’t really know him; I knew of him! He was a sort of local legend in my hometown of Stillwater, OK. Crazy Bob hung out at the library and liked to jump on people’s car (hence the “crazy” moniker). Supposedly, he was a Vietnam vet, but my knowledge of him really came from my fellow middle-school kids, so I can’t say how much of what I heard was actually true.
Crazy Bob was considered kind of a funny figure around Stillwater; but in Matthew 8, we see some local legends that probably inspired a lot of fear in their town. Matthew 8 records Jesus’ ministry as he heals those that are sick, and even calms the storm as He and his disciples are in a boat. When he arrives in the country of the Gergesenes, two demon-possessed men come out to meet Him. The Bible tells us they are “exceeding fierce” and come out of the graveyard…similar to the maniac of Gadara, who terrorized the townspeople. I can only imagine that these two men acted much the same way; in fact the Bible says they were so fierce that “no man might pass by that way”; these demoniacs were so feared and dangerous, that no one could even walk in their territory! In a darkly hilarious account, Jesus allows the demons to leave the two men and possess a herd of swine…which they promptly kill by causing them to careen headlong into the sea and drown.
Now imagine what these townspeople were thinking; Jesus is here, who has been healing and helping those in every city he comes to. Surely there were people who needed healing in that town! Would they not be glad to see Him? Wouldn’t men be grateful that someone had come who could heal their infirm wives, mothers, children, and fathers? Not only was Jesus healing, but He had just cast demons out of these men who had been terrorizing them. Surely they gave Jesus a grand reception!
Well, no. They didn’t. Matthew tells us that after the first and last Annual Swine Swim, the whole town comes out and asks Jesus to leave! What about the good he had just done the town? Doesn’t matter! What about the sick who needed to be healed? Don’t care! They just wanted Him gone!
What a strange response! Why would they react in that way? Perhaps because Jesus interfered with them. After all, that herd of swine was owned by somebody, and they probably weren’t happy to lose them. Maybe the rest of the town was afraid of what Jesus could do, and certainly didn’t want to be the next to lose something. They were probably used to the demoniacs and had learned to live with it; and I suppose being rid of them wasn’t worth it if it caused them some inconvenience. They were perfectly happy the way they were, thank you, and they really didn’t need some preacher coming and messing everything up.
Sounds familiar to me; in the area I live, that’s the attitude of a lot of the people here. They have a good job and a nice home, and they just don’t have room or time for Jesus. Do they have problems? Sure. Spiritual needs? Yes; but they would rather just live with them than let Jesus shake up their lives.
Sadly, we as Christians can be the same way; we can get comfortable with where we are, and become unwilling to draw closer to God. Do we want a relationship with God? Sure! Do we want to grow and see victory over sin in our lives! Yeah, of course! But not if it means spending more time praying and less time watching TV (guilty); or if it means giving up money, or potential career advancement by going to church instead of putting in a few more hours at the office.
Maybe we’ve gotten used to our sin and confronting it would be painful; so we would rather Jesus just keep His distance while our relationships fall apart around us. Maybe we are comfortable with our level of service, and drawing closer to God just flat out takes more commitment than we are willing to give!
Well, like the townspeople, we can ask Jesus to leave; or to keep His distance, and He will probably oblige; but we will miss out on the amazing things He can do in our lives. He can give us victory over sin, if we’ll let Him; He can give us joy and peace, if we are willing to let Him interfere. The townspeople could have seen Jesus do amazing things; but it came at too high a price for them. Let’s not let the same be said of us!