Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. –Luke 8:37
A few years ago, my wife was asked to rehab an injured, young blue heron. Herons are large, beautiful birds with long sharp bills and lots of attitude. She put the bird in our guest bathroom tub and set to work caring for the bird. The bird didn’t realize she was trying to help. She had to wear a protective mask to keep the bird from poking out an eye. It reacted in fear whenever she tried to take care of it. But her love overpowered the bird’s fear and, eventually, she returned the bird to the wild. (This is a picture of release day)
This week, I’ve been struck by the attitude of the Gerasenes to Jesus’ healing (the Greek literally says, “saving”) of one of their own. One would have thought they would be grateful for Jesus’ saving act which both freed the man from his torment, and the community from their need to try to control him. Instead, like my wife’s blue heron, they react with fear. Rather than thank Jesus – they ask him to leave.
In pondering all this, I wonder, are there times when we, like the Garasenes, are afraid of Jesus and his power? Of his power to transform us through the renewing of our minds? Of his power to change us. Of his power to save us? Change can be a scary thing, and Jesus’ love can change us!
It’s easy, I think, to turn Jesus into a sweet guy who we can call on when we need him; to see him only as a kindly comforter. But, that’s not the Jesus we meet in the New Testament. Jesus embodies God’s love and compassion, yes. But Jesus also wields God’s awe-full and overwhelming power. He calms stormy seas with a word. He overcomes legions of demons. He defeats the power of death itself. And that kind of power can upset the apple carts of our lives, run our precious herds off the sides of cliffs, and knock over our sacred cows. Jesus’ teachings can challenge us, and sometimes, yes, even terrify us, especially when we are comfortable with the status quo -– as unsavory as that status quo may be.
Sometimes Jesus’ love and grace for us can feel like law to us, especially when his love for us challenges us to love in new and not-so-easy ways. Sometimes Jesus’ love and grace comes as Gospel, as good news for our weary, tormented souls. Often times, it comes as a little bit of both! When we feel challenged by Jesus’ teachings, we might be tempted to ask Jesus to leave. Or, we might just look for another church where they preach a less uncomfortable Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t occasionally strike fear in our hearts.
We can be a lot like blue herons. But the good news is that Jesus just keeps on loving us, and saving us and healing us, and sending us out to declare how much God in Christ has done for us. Peace,
Thanks for reading. Pray for those who are tormented to be comforted, and for all of us to be challenged by the powerful, life changing love of our Lord.