All the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region (Matt. 8:34).
It is a puzzling thought that a people who saw the power of Christ would be so eager to be rid of him. And yet, that was precisely the reaction of the Gadarenes after Jesus had cast out the demons of the two possessed men into the town’s pigs, who, either by compulsion or wisdom, threw themselves immediately off a cliff into the sea after their possession.
It is not explicitly stated why the Gadarenes were so anxious for Jesus to leave, but we can certainly speculate. Perhaps their livelihood was bound in the pigs that had killed themselves, and they wanted Jesus to leave before he brought further destruction upon their lives. Perhaps they were disconcerted by the power of God demonstrated in the exorcisms and wanted nothing to do with it. Or perhaps word of the Sermon that Jesus had preached on the mountain had made its way to their town, and they did not want this Jesus confronting them with the same heart-piercing Law. Whatever the reason, we can safely conclude that they made the wrong choice in the matter.
And while we read this and wonder at their rejection of Christ, are we not drawn to think upon ourselves and our reception (or rejection) of Christ? When we hear the demands of Christ upon us from the gospels (see Matt. 5-7), do we hang upon them as the very requirements of God, or do we push them aside as idealized and unobtainable morality? Do we heed them with every fiber of our being, or do we neglect them because our business or pleasures (our herd of swine, if you will) will be jeopardized by them? Do we welcome Christ in because we fear God, or do we beg him to leave because we fear man?
Let us think upon these things and strive to avoid the error of the Gadarenes and rather strive to be as Matthew, who, in the following verses, Jesus called and he immediately left his livelihood and followed him.