September 20, 2016 • Life for Leaders
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure 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.
The setting for our biblical text today is a strange story in Mark 5. It begins with Jesus going across the Sea of Galilee to “the region of the Gerasenes” (5:1). There, he encountered a “man with an impure spirit” (5:2). In fact, as we learn in verse 9, the man was filled with many impure spirits, and they tortured the man regularly. When faced with Jesus, these spirits begged not to be sent away. So Jesus, apparently giving in to the request of the demons, sends them into a herd of pigs, who rush down the hill and into the lake, where they drown.
When I was a young man, this story from the Gospel of Mark disturbed me. I was happy enough that Jesus delivered a man from demonic bondage, but I just couldn’t understand why he let the demons enter the herd of pigs. Moreover, it seemed terribly unfair to the owner of the herd that he lost 2,000 pigs. I fretted about why Jesus did such an odd and apparently unkind thing?
I don’t think we can know exactly what motivated Jesus to let the legion of demons enter the herd of pigs. Speculations about Jesus’ intentions cannot be verified in this case since Mark does not tell us why Jesus acted as he did. But one thing is sure: Jesus valued the wholeness of the demonized man more than 2,000 pigs. He was willing to sacrifice the herd so that a man might be set free from his bondage and live as a free man.
There is much about Jesus that we will not understand, at least not this side of the age to come. But we do know for certain that Jesus wants us to be whole, and that this is worth more than we might think. After all, our Lord gave his own life so that we might be delivered from our bondage to sin and freed to live the abundant life. For us, Jesus sacrificed infinitely more than a herd of pigs.
What is the cost of wholeness? It’s exorbitant. And God in Christ is willing to pay it for our sake.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to the actions of Jesus in this story?
How have you experienced freedom and wholeness through Jesus?
Is there anything in your life from which you need to be set free today?
Gracious Lord, I still don’t understand exactly why you let those demons enter the herd of pigs. I’ve read all sorts of explanations, but I’m not convinced that anybody has you figured out. Of course I don’t need to know why you did what you did. But I am curious, I must confess, and a bit perplexed.
So much more importantly, though, I recognize how much you valued the wholeness of the demonized man. Your focus was not upon demons or pigs, but upon this man and his potential for a full, healthy life. Thank you for setting him free, for valuing him and his wholeness as much as you did.
Even more, Lord, I thank you for caring so much about my wholeness that you gave up your life for me. What an amazing gift! What amazing grace! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Work as Prayerful Relationships, Mark 5
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.