28When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" 30Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31The demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." 32And he said to them, "Go!" So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. 33The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. 34Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
There's a certain logic to the townspeople's asking Jesus to leave. The fact that there were swineherders in this region meant that this town was not a Jewish town since it was not kosher to raise pigs nor eat them. Not being a Jewish town also meant that they did not have messianic expectations. So when Jesus came into this town, the townspeople did not have any ready-made categories to understand him after a whole herd of pigs slid off the steep bank into the sea.
What kind of man is he? A dangerous man certainly. A man with strange powers or influence if the episode with the pigs was any indication.
Please leave, they begged him. And that sounds about right.
The townspeople were disturbed without being edified. They were confused without any insight. The swineherder -- whoever he was who lost his pigs -- must have been more than bewildered; he must have been steaming angry. There goes his whole investment and livelihood! I'm sure there was no swine insurance to recover the damages.
So, the folks in this town did what was reasonable and honest: Jesus, please leave our neighborhood (lest you destroy more things).
This reaction is not entirely absent still in different parts of the world today. Jesus is not understood. And when this Jesus shows up in power, rather than being edified, people get disturbed and scared. Thank you, no, Jesus, we don't want you in our hearts. Please leave us alone.
Even among churchgoers the Jesus that they do not know can get unsettling. The Jesus they know and like fits into their understanding of what's expected. Outside this box of expectation, all bets are off.
Yet, we know Jesus is Jesus. Meaning, he will be who he will be. Just as YHWH told Moses, "I will be who I will be."
Recognizing this reality of Jesus frees us from having to put him in a box of what he can and cannot do. An open, authentic Jesus (for there is no other) is the one we seek to follow and love. Have we experienced all that Jesus, our Lord, is and will be? Surely not.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, much like the townspeople in the story we panic when we come across the unfamiliar. We get uncomfortable; we get frightened. We lose our sense of control. We can no longer keep you in our box of theology. We confess our sin of unbelief and fear, not welcoming you fully as you are in our relationship with you. Please forgive us. We pray for ourselves that we will get to know different aspects of who you truly are in the coming days and months. Jesus, stay with us. You are welcome, even welcome to take our pigs and have them ... end up in Pete's smoker. In your name, amen.