Do you like scary stories? If so, you'll love this one. There are all kinds of creepy things going on within this tale. A graveyard scene. A legion of demons. The rattle of chains. Crying. Running. A man possessed and out of his mind. Drowning pigs. Let's face it, nobody could make up such a tale, and yet it has all the proper ingredients for a Halloween special, huh?
What I wanted to point out in this particular passage, however, is a couple of things that are often overlooked. These things are perhaps the scariest, most dreadful parts of the story, yet we often grow so consumed with the "tales from the crypt" that we lose sight of the real reason for dread. It doesn't lie among the tombs. It has nothing to do with the chains or even the demons for that matter.
Notice with me when fear actually entered the story. It wasn't when the man was possessed. It wasn't when he was crying out in the night and cutting himself. It wasn't when he was out of his mind and breaking chains asunder. No, it was when the people saw him sitting there clothed and in his right mind. When things were as they should be, the people became afraid. They had grown complacent with the way things were. They were comfortable with their discomfort over this man possessed. In essence, they had cast him out and forgotten about him. It makes you wonder if the man's tears were over his possession or over his state of being outcast. No one cared about him. No one came to see him. People avoided him at all costs. Then, when Jesus stepped in and made things right, they became afraid. I guess people back then were just as scared as change as we are today.
That's bad enough, but now, notice with me the most horrifying event of all to take place that night in the graveyard. And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. (vs.17) They asked Jesus to leave. It wasn't enough to cast out the man who had been possessed. No, they cast out Jesus too. They took down the "Welcome" sign and sent him on his way. Nowhere in this passage does it mention the people's elation at the man's healing. Nowhere does it discuss their thankfulness for the miracle that Jesus wrought. Nowhere do we see love or compassion from this group. Kind of makes you wonder who was really possessed that night, doesn't it?
I have said and done some bold things in my life. I've disobeyed God. I've questioned Him. I've doubted Him. But never in my life have I even thought about saying, "Go away, and leave me alone." On the contrary, I find myself praying, "Come closer, Lord. I need you." I truly cannot imagine asking the Son of God to go away. Can you?
But you know what? He did just that. They asked Him to leave, so He did. He honored their request. He packed up His miracles and took them elsewhere. Did the people ever regret their request? What did it feel like when the presence of God departed from them? I'll bet there was a chill in the air, and it had nothing to do with their surroundings. Did they ever realize what they had done? I wish I knew.
There are a lot of terrifying things in the world--things that go bump in the night. But the most terrifying of all is to deny Christ, to push Him away. He deserves so much more than we could ever give Him, yet all He desires is our heart. Like the maniac of Gadara, lives are still being changed by the Son of God. He can take a soul that is possessed of pride and self-will and turn it into one who is clothed in His righteousness and equipped with a "right mind"--the mind of Christ. One man that night accepted His offer; all the others turned Him away. What will you do?