Have you ever performed a good deed and received anger in return? Despite your best intentions and efforts, was your gift despised and twisted to punish you? These disturbing experiences test our faith. To experience our pain, Jesus also suffered undeserved anger in Matthew 8, where He handled both the rejection and the consequences bestowed upon those who rejected His gifts.
When Jesus came into the region of Gadara, He performed the miracle of healing two demon-possessed men (Matthew 8:28-34). Jesus intended this healing gift to be a blessing as well as a demonstration of His power, but the Gadarenes rejected the gift immediately. To them, demons vanquished did not represent a gift. Instead, they felt as though their property had been stolen.
The Gadarenes considered their abundance of animals as a gift, and Jesus had just stolen that gift from them. They were so upset about losing their pigs in Jesus’ healing process that they ordered Him immediately to leave the region. In their minds, turnabout was fair play – Jesus drove out the demons and the pigs; now they would drive Him out of their territory.
Moreover, in addition to the anger they felt for their loss, the Gadarenes may have feared repeat performances by our LORD. Ironically, Jesus tried to bless them spiritually through the physical healing of a man. Jews were defiled by raising pigs and this was Jesus’s way of liberating them from their sin. Perhaps they wondered what else Jesus would deny them through His miracles.
Jesus must have felt that overwhelming feeling of disappointment we all feel when our gifts are rejected. He had meant no malice, only good. He had performed the miracle with the best intentions toward the demon-possessed men as well as the other townsfolk. We, too, feel upset when we feel as though “no good deed goes unpunished”. In this story, our LORD Jesus shows us the normal way to react in such situations as well as the peril in rejecting His gift, because rejecting Him will bring eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41).
In response to the Gadarene’s displeasure, Jesus left graciously. He stepped into a boat and crossed over to Capernaum, His own town. Despite Jesus’ disappointment and anger over the way He was treated, He did not display these emotions or, more importantly, take retribution on those who rejected Him. He had the power and authority to punish those who came against Him without cause. Instead, He was able to forgive instantly and to move on.
How easily and justly He could have brought a curse on them! He had infinite power to “get even” for the Gadarenes slighting Him. However, in His grace, He did not retaliate. Without angry resentment or harsh words, Jesus left quietly for another place. His judgment and punishment would be reserved for after the Gadarenes left this life.
The haunting aspect of this story is that Jesus left Gadara not just for a time, but for the rest of His Earthly visit. We never read about Him returning to their coasts again, perhaps not surprisingly. Jesus’ actions serve as a powerful warning to us – those who drive Christ from them have rejected a magnificent gift. He may never offere this gift again. We reject Him at our peril.
It is not normal to reject the gifts of Jesus cavalierly. Woe to those who refuse the gift Jesus Christ brings to man. He will depart from us if we reject Him, at least for a season. We run the risk He will never return to our hearts again if we reject Him. Those who reject Christ bring untold miseries up themselves by rejecting His precious spiritual gifts. Even if we return to Him, we will have missed an irreplaceable season of blessing.
Jesus came to save, to heal, and to cure, not to kill or destroy men’s lives. It is normal for Him to bring gifts to us just as He brought the gift of healing to the demon-possessed men. It is not normal, even dangerous, to reject the gifts Christ brings, especially the gift of eternal life (John 3:16, Revelation 20:14). Recognize that all things, both pleasant and unpleasant, are gifts from Him and are meant for our ultimate good. Don’t make the mistake the Gadarenes made by rejecting the incredible gift of Jesus Christ.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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