One of the great things about God’s Word is that it never grows old, never gets outdated, and never stops teaching us about the wonders of God’s love, and how He expects us to live.
You’ve probably read the story (many times, perhaps) of Jesus casting the demons out of the demoniac, sending them into a herd of pigs, which promptly ran off into the water and drowned. (Which, coincidently, is the first known report of “deviled ham…” OK….. enough humor….) The story is a wonderful illustration of how Jesus can do miraculous work in turning a person’s life around.
Today as I read that passage, I realized that there is a lesson we need to pay attention to that is not about about the man who was healed, but a lesson from the other people around him.
First, let’s take a minute to read God’s Word:
1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
What a wonderful story of the redemptive power of Christ! The possessed man had super-human strength, and was afflicted with many demons- a legion at that time was a thousand men! Yet they could not even stand before the power of Jesus.
What struck me as I read this, though, was the reaction of the witnesses. Notice how v.14 says those tending the pigs reported what they saw, and the people came out to see the formerly crazed man, now sitting clothed, and in his right mind. Everyone in the region had to have known about this man. He must have been an embarrassment to his family, his town, the whole region. I’m sure parents warned their children to stay away from him.
Yet here he say before them, a testament to the power of Jesus. Here was vividly shown the power God had to heal, to love, to show kindness and compassion. Surely, if Jesus can do this for this man, what could He do for the crowd?
Yet all they saw were the pigs, floating there in the water. They had before them the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ that the prophets spoke of, the Fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan, and all they could think of was that this somehow disturbed their pig herding.
How many times do we do that today? How many times are we witness to the awesome, saving mercy of Christ, yet we are more fearful that our “pigs” are being disturbed. So often we get so caught up in our own herds that we don’t realize what we have right in front of us- a Saviour who loves us, and is more than willing to cast out all of the demons we have, showing us mercy and love despite the fact that we run screaming in the graveyard of our own sin.
And what is so wonderfully in character with the life of Christ is the end of the story. Even though the people ask Him to leave- and He obliges- look at what he tells the now cured man: “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” Even though they rejected Him, Jesus still loved them so much that He sent someone to be His witness.
Just as He calls us to do in a world which has rejected Him. If we can forget long enough about herding our pigs.
When Christ comes into your life, He will make miraculous things happen if you let Him. Don’t be like the crowd of witnesses, thinking only of their pigs and themselves. See Christ for who He is- your Saviour.
And if you don’t know Christ as your Saviour, I invite you to read a little bit more about what that means. I’d love to share with you the joy that Christ has brought into my life, and can do so in yours. I also invite you to seek a place of Christ-centered worship, and gather with a group of Christians who will love and support you in your relationship with Jesus.