January 5, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 8:32-33 (NRSV)
Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
Jesus wants you to be whole. Yes, the cost of becoming whole is great, more than you could ever afford. But Jesus paid the price, giving up his life so that you might be healed from all the brokenness in your life. What good news!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Today’s Life for Leaders devotion comes from one of the more curious and unsettling stories in the Gospels. The story begins after a scary boat trip from the western side of the Sea of Galilee to the eastern side. This trip, as you may recall, involved Jesus sleeping soundly during a giant storm. Then, having been roused by his disciples, Jesus commanded the storm to stop and it did, much to the puzzled wonder of the disciples.
When Jesus and his retinue arrived on the eastern side of the Sea, they encountered a man tormented by demons. Jesus commanded the spirit to leave the man, but it put up a fight, begging not to be sent to the abyss. Rather, they asked to enter a nearby herd of pigs. Then Jesus did a most surprising thing. Appearing to accept the demons’ appeal – there turned out to be many demons who had possessed the man – Jesus gave the demons permission to enter the pigs. When they did this, however, the herd rushed down into the Sea of Galilee and drowned.
Now, when the people of that area heard what happened, they were none too happy. After all, Jesus had been responsible for the death of a herd of pigs, thus depriving people both of food and their livelihood. It’s no surprise that they asked Jesus to leave, especially given his peculiar engagement with evil spirits.
When I was younger, this story 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. When telling this story, the Gospel of Mark mentions that 2,000 pigs had been killed. This seemed terribly unfair to the owner of the herd. 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 demons enter the herd of pigs. Speculations about Jesus’s intentions cannot be verified in this case since the Gospels do not tell us why Jesus acted as he did. But one thing is sure: Jesus valued the wholeness of the demonized man so much that he was willing to put 2,000 pigs at risk. Jesus appeared to be willing to sacrifice the herd so that a man might be set free from his bondage and live as a free man.
This unusual story in Luke 8 reaffirms what we see throughout the Gospel. Jesus is deeply committed to the wholeness of people, not just physical wholeness, but complete wholeness in body, soul, mind, and relationships. Apparently, no cost is too great for a broken person to be made whole. Indeed, Jesus will ultimately give up his own life so that you and I might be made whole.
What is the cost of wholeness? It’s exorbitant. What’s the value of wholeness? It’s inestimable.
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?
Take some time to thank the Lord for all the ways he has healed you, making you whole.
You might also want to consider being in the Road Ahead program. I talked about this in yesterday’s devotion. I’m featuring it in Life for Leaders this week because we’re in the time of year when people are applying to be in the Road Ahead. If you want to learn more, check out this webpage.
Lord Jesus, 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, flourishing life. Thank you for setting him free, for valuing him and his wholeness as much as you did.
Beyond this, 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! Please help me to be open to all the ways you are still at work helping me to be whole. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: Leave Us Alone!
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.