If you’ve ever been caught out in a storm, you’ll have experienced the power of nature. Whether it is lightning, thunder, gale force winds or high seas, it can be very confronting. It’s something immensely powerful and you have no control over it. It could cause you some real damage and there’s nothing you can do but wait it out. Or maybe you’ve been in the presence of someone who has a lot of power and you’ve felt intimidated by it because you know it could be used against you if you do something to upset the person. Great demonstrations of power have this ability to make us feel helpless and we don’t like it.
In our reading today we see this strange reaction to witnessing power firsthand. The good people of Gerasene were tormented by a man who Luke tells us was possessed by many demons. He lived outside the town, wore no clothes and was a danger to himself and others. At times they had caught the man and chained him up but he always escaped. After he is cured by Jesus, the townspeople come to see him sitting calmly, clothed, at the feet of Jesus. Rather than respond with joy or amazement at this complete transformation, they are fearful and ask Jesus to leave them alone. It can be confronting to be in the presence of such power. Rather than welcome the presence of God among them, they want Jesus to go away.
Is this reaction because we are not the ones able to control this power? In the presence of Jesus, we feel powerless. We like to think we are in control of things and don’t like to be reminded that there are others who have more power than us. If we can’t have this power, then we don’t want anyone else to have it. But that’s because we know we can’t be trusted with it. Jesus however uses His power to feed the hungry, cure the sick and challenge unfairness. Instead of seeking to send that power away from us, perhaps we should be inviting it nearer. Then we see it work in our lives, in our communities and in our churches to make life better for all. It can transform lives, a power not just used to benefit the few, but the many. Or do we prefer a distant God, remote from us, one that seems less powerful, less likely to challenge our status quo? God’s presence among us brings changes that we are powerless to stop; maybe we need to embrace this fact and work with it?