Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gadarenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (ESV)
As I read through this story recently, I was struck by the fact that despite the incredible gift of freedom Jesus gave to the possessed man, and indirectly to the town as well, they asked him to leave them. In fact, it says they were 'seized with great fear'.
Fear of what, I wonder?
As I pondered, I believe that what they were afraid of was the cost, the sacrifice required to let Jesus into their town. He'd only been there for 5 minutes when he cost them an entire herd of pigs. What else would he pry from their tightly closed fists? They really didn't want to entertain the idea at all. They never stopped to consider what they might have gained in return, instead, all they envisioned was the potential for greater loss.
Jesus performed an act that brought complete freedom to this man in a way that no one before had been able to do. Not only did he free the man himself, but the entire town was relieved of the heavy burden of having to deal with the man's destructive ways. In addition, surely the man had a family and his family was now given great joy and hope in the return of a beloved son, or husband, and maybe father. To the town was returned one able-bodied, right-minded man who could now be a productive member of society.
But a herd of pigs was lost.
The townspeople weighed the cost of the man's and the town's freedom and considered the cost of that freedom too great, so they sent the Freedom-source packing.
Did any of them ever wonder what might have happened if instead, they'd invited him to stay and share His story with them? Did anyone regret that decision? What else might Jesus have done for that city if only he'd been invited?
What had been the cost of sending him away?
Gadera's plight is not so different from our own. Jesus told his disciples that they must count the cost of following Him. There should be no doubt that there is a cost. But isn't there also a reward?
It is true that Jesus will ask us to send some things that we hold dear straight over the cliff. But why would he do that? The question is, do we trust him to direct us in ways that will bring the most freedom? Yes, there is a sacrificial cost, but the sacrifice pays for something gained. Do you and I know what we are missing because we hold tightly to what we believe is our life?