When Jesus came to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And he said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.
When the Gadarenes saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.
There is a well-known saying which has its origins in Aesop’s Fables: Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true. This saying formed part of the collection of morality tales that are credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564BC. Given their age, the Fables would have originally belonged to the oral tradition of storytelling and were probably not collected together until some three centuries after Aesop’s death. Aesop’s Fables were initially addressed to an adult audience, covering religious, social and political themes. But, their accessibility has led to their often being used to educate children in the ways of the world. However, there can be no doubt that the maxim: Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true, is closely related to the account of Jesus’ visit to the country of the Gadarenes in today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel.
If we think back to birthdays, Christmas and other occasions when we traditionally receive gifts, we will all remember moments when the long wished for present leaves us feeling disappointed. Sometimes that ‘perfect’ gift may even leave us in a less happy place than had previously been the case. Goals and dreams are important in our lives, but they never have the capacity to lead us into a place of complete satisfaction. A desire to be happy is not wrong, but happiness in this world in more about the journey than the destination.
Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus brought healing and an end to fear, but at what cost? Perhaps the Gadarenes, like others in the gospel narrative, had hoped that the physical presence of Jesus might bring them the gift of healing and wholeness but, when confronted with reality, did they see Jesus’ power as a greater threat than that posed by the demoniacs? Did the Gadarenes place the value of the herd of swine above a relationship with Jesus and his Father in heaven?
The challenge for us is to consider where we might see ourselves in today’s reading. Like the demoniacs we are certainly in need of healing but, are we ready to pay the price, are we ready to turn away from worldly riches and security in order that we might tread the path of faithful and trusting discipleship?
Let us pray that we might rejoice in the healing we are offered through the power of Jesus Christ, and that we might not place worldly considerations in the way of our receiving and rejoicing in that power.