“The entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.” – Matthew 8:34, New Living Translation

This text is from the story of Jesus casting out demons and sending them into a herd of pigs, who promptly jump off a cliff. You can read the whole story in Matthew 8.

Why would anyone send Jesus away?

If you are into “little Jesus meek and mild” or Jesus as a love-gushing guru–you wouldn’t chase him off. If you are a maturing believer who has embraced his character and his mission for yourself, you would not send Jesus packing.

But sometimes an encounter with him can be a bit frightening. The work of God is sometimes threatening and unnerving. We have this convenient lie that we are always in charge and in control. Then Jesus comes along and does something that proves quite the opposite to be true. Then we would like Jesus to go away so we don’t have to deal with the power and potential of his presence.

Because make no mistake. Jesus will not be tamed nor controlled.

The ideas about Jesus that abound in the popular culture tend to make him “safe” and affirming of our prior dispositions.  We think of His love as acceptance of our choices. People often point to the story of the woman caught in adultery (John chapter eight) where he neither participates in her execution or adds his affirmation to her accusers as the true Jesus.  They miss the point that he was quite “tough” and challenging when he stared down the men who wanted her dead.  They also miss the point that he was not condoning her sin. He was exercising grace in freeing her from its consequences.  Why else would he say, “Go and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus is about life-transformation. He’s about asking the hard questions and calling us out of our denial into accountability.  He is about helping us be the person God created us to be and not letting us settle for the lesser people we often choose to be.  You cannot read the gospels without seeing that the same person who bounced children on his knee was quite capable of tough-love and prophetic confrontation.

People in power, people in denial, people in sin will always find Jesus initially quite threatening.  They will want to say, “If you can’t behave Jesus, then go away.”

Jesus doesn’t go away.

(C) 2010 by Stephen Dunn

This post originally appeared in LIFE MATTERS, my original blog which is written to carry on conversation with people in the culture about spiritual matters and life in general.

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