As I was first reading our gospel lesson for this morning, there were a couple of moments in this story that stuck out to me as being kind of odd. Despite the fact that this is a wonderful story of Jesus performing a miraculous healing, it is filled almost from beginning to end with fear. In fact, the stage is already set with fear right before we even get to this particular passage. Before this encounter with the Gerasenes, in the same chapter of Luke, the disicples get into a boat with Jesus to cross the Sea of Galilee – and what do you suppose happens? A massive storm comes up – and just as they are all preparing to die, Jesus wakes up from his nap and tells the storm to cool it. In response, the disciples are amazed and afraid.
Then they reach the other side of the sea and step out of the boat into Gentile territory. And literally just as they are stepping out of the boat, they are accosted by a naked man, with iron shackles clanking on his wrists; he falls down before Jesus and starts shouting wildly. After a brief confrontation, Jesus casts many demons out of the man. And when the people of his city come running – all his neighbors and family – they find this man clothed and in his right mind and sitting calmly with Jesus. And then they are afraid. And when the story is told again of what Jesus has done for this one man, the entire country of the Gerasenes is seized with such great fear that they ask Jesus to leave.
It’s not exactly the reception you would expect for such an incredible miracle of liberation! You’d think people would be lining up around the block to have Jesus heal their own maladies. So what is everyone so afraid of?? Is it just that people were so awed and amazed by Jesus’ incredible power over demons that they were afraid of him? I mean, maybe. But it seems like maybe there’s more than that going on here.