The tomb is meant to be a burial place for the dead; it is not a habitation for the living. Jesus made a perilous journey to meet a man who was so bound by tormenting spirits, tomb dwelling seemed the only fitting place to be. Until “Jesus stepped ashore”!
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present the account through almost opposing lenses. Luke calls the region “the Gerasenes” which means “alien, stranger or foreigner”or more specifically “a stranger drawing near.” Matthew, on the other hand terms it the region of “the Gadarenes” which means “rewarded in the end.”
A Stranger Draws Near
Only one person in the entire region came to meet Jesus welcoming Him. Everyone else treated Jesus like an alien, a stranger or a foreigner!
“When Jesus had stepped out on land,
there met him a man from the city who had demons.
For a long time he had worn no clothes,
and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.”
This was neither his original home nor his original condition!
We don’t know how long his existence was relegated to the tombs; only that it was “a long time“. A long time
without family or relationship,
crying out night and day,
cutting himself with stones,
naked and exposed to shame,
rejected and ridiculed,
bound and chained.
It is no wonder Jesus was willing to endure the severest of storms to come and to release this man from bondage.
Most of us would have caught one glimpse of his condition and scampered right back into the boat paddling hard in the opposite direction. Not Jesus! Then too, most of us are impressed by crowds. Not Jesus!
For this one man, Jesus came!
Though an entire city was close, only one man welcomed Him!
Among the Tombs
What causes a man to trade a home for a tomb? This isn’t normal human behaviour, after all.
“…(For many a time it had seized him.
He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles,
but he would break the bonds and
be driven by the demon into the desert.)
Though no earthly chain could hold him, this poor man was completed bound by the demons that inhabited him. Up until this moment, they had complete control.
When Jesus stepped in, everything changed!
All around us are people “out of control!” Daily we encounter hurting people who hurt people. Our lives and neighbourhoods are affected by those who have long ago forgotten personal worth or identity. Behind closed doors many are driven by drugs, addictions and lust. They appear to be alive, but reside within personal tombs of death.
For these Jesus comes!
The Pigs Nearby
“A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.
The demons begged Jesus,
“Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”
The imagery is more than symbolic! Jesus allows the demons to enter the pigs who quickly make a suicidal dive into the nearby lake.
The saddest part of the story is about to unfold. The people of the Gerasenes were perfectly comfortable to have a demon possessed man among them, naked and screaming in agony night and day. However, they were totally unprepared to allow Jesus, The Healer, Deliver, Tomb Raider, and Bondage Breaker to stay one moment more.
“…they came to Jesus and found the man
from whom the demons had gone,
sitting at the feet of Jesus,
clothed and in his right mind,
and they were afraid.”
As twisted as a living man dwelling in the tombs is, the reaction of the locals was even more so. Rejoicing over the man’s deliverance would seem to be a more appropriate response.
Pigs were considered “unclean”. Their delight in wallowing in “mud” representing the human tendency to enjoy and cling to our pet sins. Jesus came into their region to free everyone who lived there. Only this destitute and demon possessed man responded. The rest preferred to “enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
Jesus came to release them all from sin’s cruel bondage! They preferred the swine, instead!
Only One Man
Only one man from the region of “the Gadarenes” was “rewarded in the end.” He was the only one — unnamed but completely changed.
“And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes
begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone,
for a great wave of fear swept over them.
So Jesus returned to the boat and left,
crossing back to the other side of the lake.”
The evidence of Jesus’ authority and transforming power sat before them, gentle, calm and dressed. Perhaps up until this moment, they could look at him, aiming their pointed fingers while wagging condemning tongues, “We’re not as bad as he is!”
But standing before Jesus, the Truth and Deliverer, they were without excuse. No other man, except this one, was willing to fall on their knees and surrender to Jesus as Lord.
“You are already clean
because of the word I have spoken to you.”
One man received The Word and was cleansed. Every other person treated Jesus as a stranger. rejecting Him. Out of fear, they clung like pigs to their own filth.
When Jesus came, only one received the reward of surrender.
Jesus stepped ashore!
He raided the tomb of death, restoring dignity, value and life. He broke the bondage of sin and shame, releasing its prisoner to everlasting freedom.
Grateful the man pleaded with Jesus to allow him to come with along. Jesus lovingly refused.
“Jesus did not let him, but said,
“Go home to your own people and
tell them how much the Lord has done for you,
and how he has had mercy on you.”
Jesus restored him to his home, family and relationships. He sent him back into his community with purpose and value. There is no greater testimony to the mercy and grace of God than a transformed life.
Reluctantly, the man obliged! Though his heart longed to stay with Jesus, his mission was to his world.
Jesus steps into lives again and again, giving opportunity for freedom. What is my response? Will I consider Him a “Stranger drawing near” and refuse? Or will I welcome Him, allowing Him to do whatever He desires in my life, ultimately being “rewarded in the end“?
Jesus never stays where He is not wanted
“…So he got into the boat and left.”
“On the other side of the lake
the crowds welcomed Jesus,
because they had been waiting for him.”
Today I ask, “Which side of the lake am I on? Which side of the lake are you on?”
Jesus is stepping ashore!
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