Sometimes it helps to understand a biblical passage better by writing ourselves into the story. We all know this story and are well familiar with the cast of characters. There’s the demon possessed guy, the legion of demons (at least 1,000), God and the disciples, the keepers of the swine, last but not least, the town’s people. It’s not that everyone else is unimportant to our story but it’s this last group I’d like to concentrate on this morning; see things from their perspective.
Everyone in this passage reacted to what went on around them pretty much as we might have expected, everyone except this last group. Theirs’s was a totally unexpected reaction that might be our own if we’re not careful.
THE EVIDENCE MADE THEIR REACTION UNEXPECTED
15 Then they came to God, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
What was the evidence they encountered?
1- He was sitting. Previously he had not been a sitting man. He was a roaming man. He roamed through the cemeteries and could not be still because he was demon possessed.
2- He was clothed. The farther away from God we get the more of our clothes we take off. He went around naked because he was demon possessed and about as far away from God as one could get.
3- He was in his right mind. No one had ever seen him like this. They had gotten used to seeing him and hearing him howl at the moon or whatever it is that demon possessed people do. Ever look at someone and think that there may be someone else in there with him? They knew he had once been under the power of someone or something else and that power had been broken.
How would you react to evidence like this? The people asked God to go away.
THE LORD’S COMPASSION MADE THEIR REACTION UNEXPECTED
19 However, God did not permit him, but said to him, ”Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”
We’re used to happy endings aren’t we? No one likes a bad ending to a book or a movie. When we get one it makes us wish we had never bought the book or purchased a ticket. A first time reader of this passage might actually feel the same. There was no happy ending for most of the people in this story. Things worked out well for the demon possessed man but the town’s people certainly missed the grandest opportunity of their lives.
We too often describe much of our lives not in terms of what we’ve done but by the opportunities we’ve missed. The same God who delivered a demon possessed man and restored him to his right mind desperately longed to take compassion on the crowd but they wouldn’t have it.
These people missed a once in a lifetime experience. They could have shared in this man’s happy ending but they would not.
THE MARVEL OF OTHERS MADE THEIR REACTION UNEXPECTED
20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that God had done for him; and all marveled.
How others responded to the news of this deliverance makes the outcome of this story all the more strange. The word ”to marvel” in verse 20 describes someone who is in complete awe over something that is indescribable – something that cannot be explained, such as a miraculous act. Some marveled and were in awe of God over this man’s deliverance and some were terrified and asked the Lord to leave them.
Why? Why does one man who is demon possessed see God from afar and run to Him for deliverance? Why does one group of people stand in complete awe over the work of God while the other asks Him to go away so their lives can get back to normal? I don’t know.
All I do know is that only I have any say about how I respond to the Lord’s presence. Not running to Him – not allowing myself to be delivered and changed by Him just doesn’t make any sense.