This is a very sad verse – an anti-climax to the spectacular miracle by Christ. The Lord entered the region of the Gerasenes out of compassion to heal people physically, mentally and spiritually. He started with a man possessed by a legion of demons. People who heard about the miracle flocked to the scene, not to witness the extraordinary event, but to ask Jesus to leave that place! For them business and income were more important than the Lord’s presence.
To ‘deny’ a person is to ‘disown’ or have nothing to do with him/her, implying rejection of that person. We deny Jesus Christ when we are not keen on others acknowledging that we are followers of Christ, when we do not take a stand and speak up for what is right, when we do not share our Christian faith with our fellow-beings, when we ignore Christian values and compromise with the conflicting moral and ethical standards of this world to gain wealth and social acceptance.
We can demonstrate our loyalty to Christ and our love for Him in various ways: upholding justice and truth (no matter what the consequences), sharing our faith with others, loving and helping the needy, willing to spend and be spent for the extension of His kingdom, etc.
The Bible records a number of instances of people from different walks of life rejecting Jesus Christ and His message. Here are a few of them.
When King Herod heard the news from the wise men of the East that another king was born – the king of the Jews – the first thought that came to his mind was to eliminate this ‘rival’ to his throne. In fact, all Jerusalem was disturbed (Matt.2:3).
The people of Nazareth saw His mighty miracles, but rejected Him simply because He was familiar to them (Lk.4:16-30)! Due to this attitude Jesus could not do many miracles there.
The learned Pharisees, Sadducees and religious scholars failed to recognise Him as their Messiah. Even after Pontius Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent and did not deserve death, the crowd would not budge from their demand that He be crucified!
Some of the people of Jerusalem refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God, simply because they knew that He was from Nazareth of Galilee (Jn.7:27)!
The main reason why people reject the Saviour of the world is their evil nature, as these Scriptures reveal. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become…” (Gen.6:5). “Surely I was sinful at birth…” (Psa.51:5). “…though they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom.1:21). “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23). “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons…” (Rev.9:20,21). The inhabitants and the king of Jericho had heard about the exploits of Joshua’s conquering army, and all about the mighty miracles the God of Israel had performed, but chose to resist them.
In contrast, consider the following. The wise men from the East had no difficulty recognising God in baby Jesus. The ordinary, illiterate shepherds believed that the baby born in Bethlehem was the Messiah and hurried to worship Him. The Samaritan woman, after a brief conversation with the Stranger at the well, believed that He was indeed the Messiah and introduced the whole village to Him. The thief on the cross, a hardened criminal, took one look at the Man hanging next to him and knew that He was the Saviour and King who would accept him in His kingdom. When Saul of Tarsus, the sworn enemy of the early church, was confronted by the Lord on the road to Damascus, he metamorphosed into the most fearless spokesman for Christ. Jonah preached to the Ninevites for forty days – half heartedly; and the cruel oppressors repented and turned to God.
Heed The Warning
God has created man with the freedom to choose. Adam made a studied choice, and so did Judas Iscariot. It is the believers’ responsibility to prayerfully tell people the truth and leave the choice to them, trusting God to give them a heart of repentance and faith.
Those who consistently harden their hearts and refuse to accept God’s offer of salvation in Christ, are in grave danger of being rejected by God. Hardening of heart doesn’t happen in a day; it is the result of a series of choices over a period of time to disregard God’s offer. The Bible is explicit when it says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Heb.10:26, 27).
In an apparent reference to the coming Messiah, God warned the Israelites, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to Him and listen to what He says. Do not rebel against Him; He will not forgive your rebellion, since my name is in Him” (Exo.23:20, 21).
“…today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as (they) did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert’’ (Heb.3:7, 8).