Pigs Before People?

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Last night, during our Bible reading after dinner, we read Luke 8:26-39.

Let me stop right there and clarify, lest you think my family has it all together and is super holy. I started reading the Bible after dinner during lockdown, and my kids HATE it. They roll their eyes, and have to be reminded how to behave every night. Recently, they have started to introduce interesting topics of conversation during dinner hoping to distract me so I’ll forget. I forgot once, and they live for a repeat. Bible reading at dinner is a chore, but I have this annoying belief that what is written in the Bible can change a person from the inside out, so I continue to torture them for five minutes every night. Sometimes, they will even get caught up in discussion and stay for ten.

Which is where we left off last night. Luke 8, the demoniac at the Geresenes. Jesus gets in the boat to go find this man who has many demons in a Gentile region on the other side of the Galilee. Here it is from Holman’s Translation:

27 When He got out on land, a demon-possessed man from the town met Him. For a long time he had worn no clothes and did not stay in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, You Son of the Most High God? I beg You, don’t torment me!” 29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was guarded, bound by chains and shackles, he would snap the restraints and be driven by the demon into deserted place.

30 “What is your name?” Jesus asked him.

“Legion,” he said—because many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged Him not to banish them to the abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. The demons begged Him to permit them to enter the pigs, and He gave them permission. 33 The demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. 34 When the men who tended them saw what had happened, they ran off and reported it in the town and in the countryside. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man the demons had departed from, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Meanwhile, the eyewitnesses reported to them how the demon-possessed man was delivered. 37 Then all the people of the Gerasene region asked Him to leave them, because they were gripped by great fear. So getting into the boat, He returned.

38 The man from whom the demons had departed kept begging Him to be with Him. But He sent him away and said, 39 “Go back to your home, and tell all that God has done for you.” And off he went, proclaiming throughout the town all that Jesus had done for him.

“What did Jesus have against pigs?” My son asked.

“I was wondering the same thing. That town lost a lot of resources.” My husband said. “It is no wonder they were mad at Jesus. “

“Although it wasn’t Jesus’ idea to send the demons into the pigs,” my daughter said. “It was the demon’s.”

Our conversation then revolved around the pigs. I woke up this morning thinking about those pigs. I had an image of a herd of pigs with different terrified, anxious and fearful expressions falling through the air. I want to sculpt that image someday. But, is this story about the pigs?! I think I fell for the same distraction as the townspeople. The story is not about the pigs!

The story is about a man beset by demons.

This was a man who was an embarrassment. He wouldn’t keep his clothes on. This was a man who would not stay hidden away at home, but wandered around in a strange places. This was a man who thought Jesus had come to torment him. He was paranoid. He was violent. He could be aggressive. He used up resources. He was a waste of space. Until Jesus hopped into a boat, sailed across the sea and came to town to heal him.

When the city came to see what was going on, they had a strange reaction. They weren’t amazed, which was the usual reaction to Jesus’ miracles. They weren’t intrigued or mystified. They weren’t even mad, which is the impression we often get when we read the story.

They were terrified.

The same power that transformed and cured the tortured man, scared the townspeople. They saw the destruction of the pigs rather than the restoration of a man’s life. And I wondered. How many times have I overlooked the person because I’ve been concerned with pigs?

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