The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much G-d has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. -Luke 8:38-39
There are so many things on which I could make little comments in these verses that it's tempting to me to expand this post into two. I may still do that, as it's incredibly hard for me to leave this series with only 9 installments, but I also have some other things I want to share with you, and it's hard for me to do that with this series weighing on my mind, saying "But you need to finish meeeeee!" I hope that it's been as enlightening for you as it has been for me as I've studied this passage.
So, here we go... as far as I know, the last part:
I'm going to start with a tidbit, something worth noting. Please re-read the first ten-words. Suddenly, our Demon-Possessed Man has a new handle. In spite of living a significant portion of his life one way, this one incident completely redefined him, and history makes a point of noting that. So the next time you feel like you're too stuck in your patterns or that no one will allow you to change (or you're doing that to someone else), remember that this man, who was, I'm sure, far more extreme than you, had his moniker changed for all of time in a mere 14 verses. (Moral of the story: Don't get stuck in your opinions of anyone, including yourself.)
Now, on to the crux of the matter, the confusing way I left you last time. (Sorry about that.)
Jesus leaves us when we ask.
But He doesn't.
But He does.
At this point, we've got two very legitimate, very weighty verses competing. In the red corner: Luke 8:37 (Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.) In the blue corner, the double-headed, most quoted option out there: Deuteronomy 31:6 / Hebrews 13:5 (Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.) And, just for you, I'm going to leave out any contextual, devil's-advocate-type argument I could make here. You're welcome.
These two verses, I'm sure, cause a lot of stress for those who look at them lifted from their passages. Because, in this form, they really do seem to be contradicting each other. But I'm here to tell you today that they're not. They are resolved in the verse I highlighted today.
Again, today, we see begging. But this time, Christ does not give into it. In fact, we see more of the response I was expecting Him to give the demons. He tells the Man from whom the Demons Had Gone Out to leave. To go away. But He also gives the Man FWTDHGO an important instruction more: "Tell how much G-d has done for you." Essentially, Jesus tells the man to go back to the city and share his testimony. Christ has been asked to leave, and He complies, but He leaves His messenger, a bit of Himself with the people nonetheless. We may ask Christ to leave, but he will always leave us with some of Himself, aching for us to accept Him.
But let's turn to the MFWTDHGO for a moment. This guy knew what he wanted. He had been drastically changed by Christ's intervening love. He wanted desperately to drop everything and follow Him right then and there, leaving it all behind and trekking across the country after Christ. He begged Christ to let Him, and Christ said, "No." Speaking as one who has heard that "No," that moment is devastating. It's confusing, it's painful, it's crushing. It feels like betrayal. Yet the MFWTDHGO picks himself up and follows orders. I can't help but think that this was a little easier for him, since he had seen the people reject Christ and knew that He needed a voice there still. But we often aren't given the big picture while we're still given the command that goes against the deepest desire of our hearts. That's hard.
We have these life-changing, mountain-top experiences, and all we want to do is cling to them. We are given new insight into the Word, and all we want to do is study more. We find peace, and all we want to do is dive into its depths. But this... this isn't the way G-d works. That is an entirely self-driven religion, and Christ-following has to do with everything but the self.
We cannot see the big picture, know what G-d knows, or understand G-d's reasoning (usually). We have to admit this, because this is the first and most crucial step of trust. If we can admit this and cling to His goodness, then and only then can we trust Him and say as Christ says a mere 14 chapters later, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42 KJV) Ultimately, this should be the cry of any Christ-follower. This is the fullest sacrifice of praise, to cry out the the pain and despair of broken personal dreams and scream NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE! Until we can do this, we are nothing but self-seekers. Once we cross the line, we are called, we are sent, and we are crucified with Christ.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. -Mathew 16:24-25