From today’s lectionary selection:
“When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear.”
The swineherds had just seen their flocks run off a cliff into the sea at the behest of Jesus, who was somehow seduced into showing compassion not only for the demoniac man but for a herd of demons, too. That’s what love will do for you, sometimes; it can be a real pig.
Of course they were afraid. Of course the townspeople were seized with great fear. The rich young man and his dilemma had nothing on them. They were now faced with the choice of celebrating the restoration to health of one man set against the loss of livelihood of many; they had paid a significant communal price for the health of an individual, who sat before them healed and renewed; and they did not know where it all might end.
Their choice was to explore further healing, or to pull back from the brink, to preserve and protect what they still had, at the risk of missing further miracles. It was a scary choice, and perhaps they went with the safest option; but at what cost?
I realize that I am reading this through the lens of the season that is upon us…
“So Jesus got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.'”