by Dr. Lani Wilson
Good day, those who pray and fast. We are mindful of the earthquakes and hurricane-after-hurricane, storm-after-storm, genocide-after-genocide that are gripping the planet; and these are just the ones we know about, right? Certainly, every generation has its catastrophes and injustices, but it does seem that there is a simultaneity about it all now. Fear flows through America now as a flowing stream, a poisonous excess. The world responds to what this country does, and it is no accident that persecution grips the world Even the natural world seems to be responding to the poisoned leadership that marked the beginning of 2017.
Fear is perhaps the second most powerful emotion; enough to possess an entire people and surrounding region. The first is love.
Later, a great many people from the Gerasene countryside got together and asked Jesus to leave-too much change, too fast, and they were scared. So Jesus got back in the boat and set off.
Luke 8:37 (TMB)
The people are scared to death, and they don’t want this scary abnormality happening in their territory. They ask Jesus to leave immediately. Jesus doesn’t argue. He prepares to leave,
And all the people from the region surrounding the Gerasenes asked Yeshua to go away from them because they were overcome by great fear. So He got into a boat and returned.
Tree of Life Version (TLV)
I think in pictures and it is always helpful for me to see where Jesus actually lived and moved while He was on the earth. We know this text about Jesus’ liberation of the demon-possessed man from this Lukan text.
Gergesenes means "those who come from pilgrimage or fight." Many New Testament manuscripts refer to the "Country of the Gadarenes" or "Gerasenes" rather than the Gergesenes. Both Gerasa and Gadara were cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee and the River Jordan.
Of course, we know that Jesus, in His typical fashion, went to all the people and places where there was the greatest condemnation and fear. “Rabbi, what were you thinking!?’ is what I hear his earliest followers gasping to themselves. Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to go east in His first public miracle to this condemned, wild man who violated ancient laws that the Jews held to be life-threatening. This particular healing miracle bespeaks the world as we know it today. Entire populations of humans being systematically tortured, murdered, and driven to desolate places left to die; driven away by their own kind, culture, color, country: Rwanda. Somalia, Myanmar, Japan, China, America. Is there any distinction between colors of evil?
Fear is a powerful weapon. I had fearless parents: A mother to defied her family and culture to marry a man who her people could not accept, who was as independent as a woman could be with no formal education; a father who left everything and everyone he knew to settle 7,000 miles away and stand up to racism and death-threats every day to rise in service to the very same federal government who threatened him. One has several options when faced with threats:
1. Try and negotiate.
2. Join the oppressing force.
3. Back down and surrender.
4. Stand up in defiance.
5. Scapegoat someone.
7. Is there another?
What could be the seventh option?
For even when we came into Macedonia, our body had no rest at all, but we were troubled in every way – struggles from the outside, fears from within. But God, who encourages the downhearted, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.
II Corinthians 7:5-6 (NET)
The Message Bible says it this way:
When we arrived in Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out. Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts with the arrival of Titus.
“The fights in the church and fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles.” This interpretation of passage speaks so much to what is happening within the Body of Christ locally and nationally. Non-denominational churches are pulling at mainline congregations for many reasons and one of them is the dissention that is eyeball-rolling disturbing. But it is obviously not new. If we petition God to reveal Himself to us we will see that there was always corruption, injustice, and petty narcissism, and favoritism rampant in human organizations: That is humanity. What distinguishes each of us and all of us is how we respond.
Those folk in the surrounding area, probably akin to our Bay Area, asked Jesus to leave because they were terrified, scared, full of fear. What freaks me out about this entire pericope are these words from the New Century Version (NCV) of verse 37b:
So Jesus got into the boat and went back to Galilee.
Jesus left. He got back into the boat in which He travelled to liberate a wild man, a man left to die among the dead, a man feared by his own people because of illness, a homeless man, filthy and despised, useless, a wastrel, an unnecessary human being. Jesus left because the people were afraid. It sends chills through my body whenever I think “Jesus left.” We see His majesty. We feel His love. We witness His power. And still we fear.
In the Second Corinthian text above Paul says that it was the arrival of Titus who brought reassurance through love and concern sent from the church at Corinth. Is this the “seventh option?” in the list of possible response to threat, to fear? Exactly what does that look like? With fear in the very air we breathe pulsing through us sometimes ever so subtly and on some days, not so subtly, which option do we choose?
The seventh option has to be The Christ: Confront the crippling evil of fear with Love. The Greatest Love is The Christ. I do not want Jesus to get “back into the boat.”
Then all the people who lived in the area of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them. They were filled with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
Luke 8:37 (NIVR)
This New International Readers’ Version is the most chilling of all: “So he got into the boat and left.”
Jesus, don’t leave us when we choose any of the other seven options. We choose You. We choose to confront great evil with the Great Love Who You are. We cannot run because we end up back where we started, facing ourselves. The fear on the inside outweighs the fears and troubles on the outside. Make us more like You as we confront the evils of today, even as they try to crush, rule, and divide us. You were victorious over our greatest fear, death and showed us that it is nothing, it is an illusion. Death is just the door to the other side of life and You are Life itself, one with the Only One, the only God. We beg You to grow brighter in our lives, in our very countenances, as the world seems to dim. Make us the Light that you birthed us to be by Your death and resurrection. Make each of us a Titus, bringing hope, concern, love, reassurance, and You to a cowering planet. Help us to hold on until You do what You must to restore Yourself to us. We will fight to stand to the end.
You are Hope and therefore, we will NOT fear.