People, reading in the book of Matthew again is SO SO GOOD! In just these first 8 chapters alone, there is so much meat and so many truths and so much wisdom and so much JESUS. It’s really awesome… ya’ll should try it. 😉 But anyway, at the end of chapter 8, this little encounter with Jesus stood out to me this morning.
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Matthew 8:28-34
This is absolutely crazy… but maybe not for the reasons you think.
So there are a lot of nutty things going on here. Just to name a few:
- Demon-possessed men coming from a cemetery, who are extremely violent and shouting at Jesus
- Said demons begging to be sent into a herd of pigs
- Demon-possessed herd of pigs drowning themselves in a lake
Yes, all of that seems like an absurd scene from a modern spook film. But the craziest part to me isn’t the list I just mentioned, it’s actually what happens at the end:
Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Matthew 8:34
The people tending the pigs see all of this happen in plain sight. They recognize it, internalize it, and even go into town to recap the entire event to everyone else in detail. After hearing what happens, the entire town comes out to meet Jesus. Then the Bible says, “And when they saw him, THEY PLEADED WITH HIM TO LEAVE THEIR REGION.”
What?! Now THAT is what’s crazy to me!
These people are first-hand witnesses to the power and glory of God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, seeing an absolute undeniable miracle that happened right before their eyes. But instead of being awestruck at God’s power and yearning to know Jesus more and how He made all of that come to pass, they PLEAD WITH HIM TO LEAVE instead. They basically say, “Thanks but no thanks!” and literally tell Jesus to go away!
Why? Get this… they are more concerned with the physical loss of their herd of pigs and the effect on their town’s financial status and standing, than they are with meeting and knowing Jesus Christ. They’re also probably a bit freaked-out about how He supernaturally HELPED people. Wow.
You can probably see what I’m getting at and what God put on my heart this morning. When we’re on the outside looking in, this decision by the people may seem absolutely bone-headed and short-sighted. Many of us may say to ourselves, “Man, if I were there in that town that day, I would totally do the exact opposite and run to Jesus and be so in awe of Him and want to follow Him after seeing that!” But in reality, how many of US, self-proclaimed followers of Christ, are doing this exact same thing today?
How many of us are putting our comfort, our houses, our jobs, our status, and our financial security before Jesus in our lives? How many of us are experiencing God work miracles of blessing and provision in and around us, yet we don’t draw any closer to Him? God is telling us that we’re just like like the people in that story. We’re no different. We’re accepting His love, we’re taking in His blessings, we’re experiencing His power… yet after all of that, we’re holding on selfishly to our own material and worldly desires, and effectively telling Jesus, “I need my life to be a certain way. I need to control it so my family and I are comfortable. I need to make a certain amount of money. I need to live a certain lifestyle and maintain a certain status. Jesus, I’ve seen you work miracles in my life and in the lives of others… but… I’m sorry, it’s just not enough. Please leave… I am my own and need to do my own thing. Please leave.”
In a recent men’s group, one of my brother’s brought up Revelation 3:16 which says “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Brothers and sisters, these are the responses of a “lukewarm” Christian to encountering Jesus in their life. This is someone who claims to know Christ- who with their mouth says that He is the Son of God, died for our sins, and rose again on the third day. But guess what, the Bible says even the demons, the evil one himself, the beings that are fully AGAINST GOD, recognize the exact same thing (James 2:19).
Don’t be fooled. Satan is the great deceiver, the father of lies, and he wants you to think having head knowledge of who Jesus is, is enough. But God clearly tells us in His Word, that to have head knowledge of who Jesus is, does NOT differentiate us from the enemies of God. Not one bit. It’s a life of obedience to Christ that matters – that we love Jesus, put our faith in Jesus, give our lives to Jesus, obey Jesus, and abide in the words of Jesus, that will differentiate us.
Let’s not fall into Satan’s trap. Let’s not be like the people in Gadarenes that day, who had the opportunity to get as close to Jesus as possible, yet begged Him to leave because they were more concerned about worldly things and couldn’t fathom His power. Take a moment today, reflect on your life, and ask yourself this question: “Am I telling Jesus to stay or am I telling Him to leave?”
We must understand that if we are telling Him to stay, we must deny ourselves and proclaim, “Jesus, You and You alone, are my all.” The love and joy He will bring you in exchange for that will absolutely change you forever!
I pray to God right now that every one of you reading this post today is asking Jesus to stay. Don’t allow yourselves to be distracted by the things of this world. Don’t allow yourselves to be deceived by the lies Satan is waving in front of you.
For those of you doing this self-assessment and realizing, “Yes, I’m lukewarm right now (or, I honestly don’t think I know Jesus yet),” do NOT let that be the end of your story.
Jesus has destined you for MORE than who and what you are today, I promise you. But you have to accept the role of being His follower and disciple. You have to accept the position in His family that He is offering. It’s up to you.
After knowing and understanding all of this, don’t let the moment to entrust your life to Jesus pass you by, or that will truly be the craziest part of your story.
PS – I’m taking prayer requests as usual. Also, if you know you’re lukewarm or you feel like you really need to make the decision to accept Jesus and tell Him to stay in your life today, let me know and I can pray with and for you. When His Spirit speaks to you and tugs at your heart, don’t let that moment pass you by. Your eternity is at stake.
[From November 17, 2015]