Mark 4:30-5:20; Matthew 13:24-52, 8:23-34; Luke 13:18-21, 8:22-39
A friend of mine visited my church on the Sunday my pastor spoke on this passage in Mark. She was not raised in a church that encouraged the reading of Scripture, so this was the first time she’d ever heard about the demon-possessed Gadarene and the herd of pigs. The whole thing really shook her.
Myself, I have heard and read this account of Jesus’ ministry many times and had become de-sensitized to the horror of it. My friend had me looking at this passage through new eyes. I’m grateful for that.
I’ve only seen the movie “Poltergeist” once. But after that experience, I remember jumping into my bed from the middle of the room – for much longer than I care to admit. I was an adult. It was a movie. I knew it wasn’t real. But it scared the living daylights out of me.
What we read in the Gospels about this demon-possessed man isn’t make believe. I can only imagine the people who witnessed it must have been scared out of their minds.
Think of it. Legions of demons pouring out of a man. What did that look like? I can’t imagine it was gentle, or calm. Think of seeing those demons racing toward a herd of pigs, and the pigs going mad. Mad enough to run off the cliff into the sea. Hollywood has nothing on God! No wonder the people wanted Jesus to leave them. That had to be one frightening experience.
That got me thinking. I’ve always felt a little sorry for the pig owners. They lost their livelihood when they lost that herd in such a violent fashion. I’ve wondered why God would do that to people who were just trying to make a living.
I looked on a map, and read what Matthew Henry had to say about it, and was shocked to realize the area of the Gadarenes was right in the middle of the Promised Land. The sea in this account is the Sea of Galilee. Those were most likely Jewish pig owners.
Now all of a sudden I don’t feel quite as bad for them. God had declared all-things-pig to be unclean for His people. There should never have been a herd of swine anywhere near there. That herd was a symbol of a great sin that was being lived in the area of the Gadarenes. When those pigs went mad, God was disciplining sin.
I’ve always read this account and been in awe of Jesus’ command over evil, and of His healing power. Today I am face to face with His fierce judgment.
As a child of God, I need to understand that God will not tolerate sin in my life. And if I don’t deal with it, He will. Sometimes those consequences are very devastating and very public. I can understand why the people wanted Jesus out of there. He’d revealed their sin in a very devastating and public way.
I’m very sure this wasn’t the first time God had spoken to them about their sin. I am very sure there wasn’t a Jewish pig-owner that didn’t know they were breaking God’s Law. But even after this demonstration of God’s seriousness concerning sin, they didn’t repent. I think down deep they knew they deserved it. Even the people who didn’t necessarily own pigs, but allowed the pig-owners their “right” to own them, didn’t repent. Scripture tells us they told Jesus to get out of town.
My prayer today is that whenever God puts a finger on a sin in my life, I’ll repent immediately. I don’t want to wait until He takes matters in His own hands. I want to be like the healed Gadarene who wanted only to be where Jesus was, cleansed, free, and changed.