Reclamation feels like death

In Matthew 8 there is a story where Jesus frees people from spiritual oppression. Due to the aftermath of this help, the people of the town nearby ask Jesus to leave them alone.

It is odd to think that a group of people that personally experience such power would have such a response. They beg the author of life and the greatest source of love to walk this Earth to get farther away from them.

Often I think “modern” (especially American) Christians look at this story and cry out at the folly of these short-sighted humans. That they were hard-hearted and stiff-necked and unwilling to receive what was freely given.

I find that arrogant at best, but more likely dangerously simplistic. If you can’t see yourself in biblical stories then your reading is likely off, not the story nor its characters.

I’m pretty sure if I was in the same situation as those villagers and I witnessed what they had witnessed, I would have turned Jesus away. I gain too much from the status quo to accept the fundamental shift in the nature of reality Jesus’ presence and actions point(ed) to.

Making silver statues of Artemis has done my family well and brings prestige to my city. (Acts 19)

After working so hard to build wealth, giving it all away is too great a cost. (the rich young ruler)

Preserving order and predictability in the Jewish homeland turns away the iron grip of the empire. (some Jewish leaders in Jerusalem in Jesus’ time)

I would have turned Jesus away and so would you, because Jesus reclaims people and at first that feels like death. As you shed selfish ambition, hardness of heart and darkness of purpose, you will drown pieces of yourself in your baptism.

Those parts of you will die. But the promise of God is that darkness is always temporary.

What is left after death is fostered, amplified, and delighted in. Don’t settle for a life that wasn’t meant for you. Don’t give up on life before you taste of its glorious first fruits.