Friday, August 8, 2008

Scared by a Mad Herd of Pigs and a Miracle?


26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.
27 And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.
29 (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.
31 And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.
32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.
33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.
35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.
37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.
38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying,
39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.
40 And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. (Luke 8:26-40)
I don’t know about you, but there were a few things that would puzzle me about this story. I couldn’t understand why the legion of devils wanted to go into the pigs and why Jesus let them. He must have known that the devils would drive the pigs mad like they had driven the man. Was Jesus approving the destruction of people’s property?

Something else I wondered at was how the townspeople, after finding the pigs destroyed and seeing that a man was healed and finding out Jesus was the cause, would want Jesus to leave instead of stay! Hel-LOH! A miracle has occurred, a man has been healed, and you want the healer to go away?! What is this?!

I finally made some progress in understanding these things when I happened to remember that according to the Law of Moses, pigs were an unclean animal, something they were forbidden from eating.
7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you. (Leviticus 11:7-8)
Okay, if the Israelites were forbidden from eating pork or even touching a pig’s dead body.. what was this city doing with a herd of pigs? Are these Israelites or are these Gentiles? If they were Gentiles, then Jesus would not have gone there, because he was sent to preach to Israel and not to the Gentiles (see Matthew 15:24-26). These were Israelites, but they certainly weren’t keeping the pig part of the Law of Moses. Some person or persons in that town had a lively pig business going, with hired servants and everything.

So why did the devils ask Jesus to let them go into the swine? The devils were asking permission to destroy what they and Jesus both knew should be destroyed anyway, according to the Law of Moses. Here we see a hint of the type of judgment Christ could and would render. It may have appeared that He had consented to the destruction of someone else’s property, but really, everything on earth belonged to Him and as the Lord of all, He was cleansing the stewardship of someone who should have been serving Him and should have known better.

So why were the townspeople so freaked out? I bet it was because they were fully aware that they fully deserved to have that herd of pigs destroyed, according to the Law of Moses. I also bet you that they had something like this going through their minds: If He got uptight about something like a few pigs, what is He going to do when He sees what I have at home?! Oh NO!! Odds are that what Jesus would have seen in town would be far, far worse of an infraction on the Law of Moses than a herd of pigs. They asked Him to leave, because they were spiritually unready to receive Him. So He left.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to the story. Jesus told the healed man to tell everyone in the city what great things the Lord had done for him, and evidently the man obeyed. I suspect that being shaken out of their complacency by a sudden judgment and being told of the potential for mercy and salvation had a good effect upon the town. They must have made some major changes in their lives, because the next time Jesus came by, the people received Him gladly and were even anxiously waiting His coming.

So what can we learn from this? If Christ was offended by what people were eating and how people were making their living, then He cares about the choices we make today.
44 For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing [or sin] that creepeth upon the earth.
45 For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
46 This is the law….:
47 To make a difference between the unclean and the clean... (Leviticus 11:44-47, brackets are mine)
Christ will come to cleanse the world of sin. We don’t know when, we just know He is coming. If He let a herd of pigs be drowned, what will He do with violent and immoral video games, movies, and music? What will he do with obscenity and pornography? Now is the time to prepare, by casting out of our lives anything that could displease Christ in the least. Go through your books, your music, your movies, your magazines, your games. Weed out the unclean from the clean, even those about which you question. In writing this, I have gone through my books that I have collected over the years and pulled out about five or six to get rid of, ones that I could perhaps convince myself were okay, but which I would not want to risk causing my Savior to frown if He were to read them.

I’m sure that many of us do not want to be bothered with removing from our lives things that we like, the things that we have chosen, the things that we have acquired a certain taste for, even if we happen to realize that they aren’t to up to the Lord’s standard. It is not surprising. We are something like the man possessed of the devils, who cried out to Jesus not to torment him after Jesus told the devils to leave and before the devils left. Before Jesus came the man was content to be as he was, even in his deplorable unclothed, homeless, and uncivilized state. The idea that he should be something better was annoying and tormenting to him, but once the devils left, he wanted to behave, be clothed, and be reasonable, to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear Him. He even wanted to follow Him.

This change of mind is likewise available to all of us when we call upon the Lord to help us want only what is right. I know this is true, because I have asked for it many times and have received a new mind, one more in line with Christ. With this new mind, we will find it easier to let go of all things that would offend, and prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming.

(Image credit - "Mike the Mad Biologist" blog, http://scienceblogs.com/mikethemadbiologist/2007/11/more_about_pigs_and_mrsa.php)