Friday, January 15, 2010

The Script That Went Wrong

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.  And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"  Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them.
 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine."  And He said to them, "Go!" And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.
The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs.   And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. 

This passage always puzzles me.  It just does.  It always has for different reasons at different times.  I opened my Bible again at the beginning of this week on a day that I really wanted to hear from God, and this is what passage was next.  I must confess that I was a little disappointed.  Why this passage?  It makes no sense to me.

On the surface, is a great story.  Big scary, demon possessed men.  Raving mad.  Scaring the whole town.  Jesus appears.  One word and they’re gone.  For extra excitement, throw in the whole herd of pigs running off into the horizon and jumping to their deaths in the sea.  Makes for a great story.

But what is the point?  Besides the fact that Jesus is big and strong.  Ok, point taken.  Yet it is a strange story.  It doesn’t fit the pattern of miracles.  This is the normal pattern:

Need + Jesus = Wow, Praise, + Glorifying God.

This one just doesn’t fit the pattern.  Something goes wrong.  There is the clear need.  Jesus comes.  Wow, one word, and problem solved!  We’re just getting ready to hear the praise and glorifying God, and something goes wrong.

The happy music stops, the picture screeches to a stop… what is going on here?

These people aren’t happy with the miracle.  Instead of being thankful, they come out to Jesus and beg Him to leave.
The other day, I began to write down the questions I had:

1. Why does Jesus listen to the demons and do what they ask Him to do?

2. What happens then to the demons after the pigs commit mass suicide?  Are they free to roam again?

3.  What about the poor pig farmers who just lost their livelihood?  Hardly seems fair.

4. What happened to the previously demon-possessed men?  There is no mention of them – no word from them, no reaction from them, no future, nothing…  They are acted upon, but they themselves actually have no part in the story… what happens to them?

5.  Ok, the herdsmen play their part well as if they did indeed read the script.  Someone is always supposed to go running and telling the news.  But… what happens?  Did they carry a grudge for the loss of their pig herds?  Was it the way they presented the news or was it the people in that town themselves?  Next on the cue cards should be the village running out to welcome Jesus and bring their sick and tormented to Him?  They don’t.  They come out to meet Him, and beg Him… not to come in…. but to leave!  Please, please don't come in our town!

What is going on in this story?  It doesn’t make sense.

Often I sit and write in my journal what I am learning from a section that I read.  But I read this passage and sat blank.  What is there in this?  I had nothing.

Finally, I gave up.  I told God I had no idea why He wrote this story.  All I had was questions.  So I wrote down all my questions, told God I’m thoroughly confused, and closed my book and walked away.

A few days went by, and as I worked, I wondered about this passage, sitting quietly in moments my hands were busy but my mind not.  As time went by, a few things came into my mind.

I wondered about the response of people.  Why was their response like that?  Does much depend on people's response?  It is an interesting question as we seek to share the gospel with others.  Even Jesus, even approaching a city with a terrible problem, even by performing an impressive miracle, even then the response of the people was total rejection.  Utter, total failure of reaching that town.  What does that say to us when we feel like we failed?  When a ministry outreach does not go like we thought it should?

I kept turning the story over and over in my head.  Then I began to become a little tense over some of the guests due to arrive this week.  One is our team leader, and my heart is still raw over the things he has said about me.  Now, you wouldn’t know it from how I act.  I work well around him, do things for him, and he is so oblivious that he likely thinks we are great friends.  Quite the contrary, I have to restrain myself when I am around him.  I am nice to him because that is who I am, not because of who he is.

So I was tense, and still turning this story over in my head.  So, one day I sat down with a cup of tea and wondered, “Why, Jesus, were these people so scared by You that they were more willing to have their demon-possessed men terrorizing them than You?  They treated You like You were a crazy man, a threat to them.” 

Then I was still.  Jesus Himself was so misunderstood that people told Him to go away.  They’ll live with their crazies and their demon-possessed people rather than have Jesus come.

I still don’t understand this story completely.  But this I learned - people’s responses are different, and we are not responsible for people’s response to good news or good deeds.  And even Jesus was regarded as a dangerous threat.  People acted as if He were worse than insane maniacs.

So this week, I sit in meetings with this person.  I work with him.  I continue to serve him just like I serve all the others that pass through my life.  I noticed he has a rip in a suitcase, and I brought my needle and thread to sew it up over coffee break.  I will fix that because I do that sort of thing.  I am not responsible for his response.

And I rest in the comfort that Jesus Himself was regarded as worse than a crazy person.  He understands.  He knows what it means for me to be here today and to smile and serve.  I serve God.  I also look up at Him and say, “hey, Your kid did this.”  I leave it to Him to deal with His kid.  I’ll keep reminding Him, maybe.  And He’ll keep telling me He understands.  He’s been through it.  I'm not alone, even in this.

1 comment:

Angela said...

I love it when He does this kind of thing. Thanks for sharing what He showed you.