Tuesday, July 1, 2008
When Pigs Fly and Pigs Die
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Say to the Israelites: 'Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.
" 'There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. Leviticus 11:1-7 NIV
So we're back on pigs again. What's with the photo, we can eat the cow in the foreground, but not the pig in the far background? We going to discuss Solomon's barbecue recipes today?
Forget the photo. Did you read what I left you with?
Ah, yes. Shocking, absolutely shocking. Poor little piggies, what'd they ever do to anyone? How can you think so highly of someone who'd do a thing like that?
What? Release a couple guys from the possession of Demons?
No, slaughter a bunch of pigs. And the people there didn't like it. He scared them so much they told him to go away. Probably afraid they were next to be sent over a cliff.
You do so have a way to twist things to suit the worldly view, don't you?
That's my job.
Let's go beyond what you say and think about this. Jesus and his disciples had been teaching to a lot of crowds in and around the Jewish side of Galilee. So why did he suddenly, unexpectantly, kind of out of the blue up and say one day, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." What was on the other side of the lake?
The region of the Gerasenes or Gadarenes.
And who had settled this region?
Oh, no, are you getting back into that Girgashites gibberish again?
Yes, were the Girgashites Jewish?
No, they were enemies of the Jews, pretty mean ones that your God wanted wiped out.
Right, and so Jesus just on a whim decides to sail over and visit a non-Jewish territory. It wasn't smooth sailing either, not like they just got to relax on the water awhile. They set off and a fierce storm hit their boat and rocked them badly, scared the Disciples badly. Almost seems as if someone didn't want Him to go.
Hey, don't look at me!
Couldn't have been Jesus felt compelled to go after the Girgasites. They seem to have disappeared from history before this trip. At least Titus Flavius Josephus, the great historian of the Jews couldn't find any trace of Girgashites left in this period.
No, Jesus just suddenly sails off with his disciples for Gentile territory. He's got disciples with Him who don't seem to get it and who show a real lack of faith on the way and when he gets back he is going to be rejected by the people in his hometown. He is also beginning to come under regular attack from the religious leaders among the Jews. Yet, he goes off to a Gentile country and exercises a couple of blokes who may not even have been Jewish and ticks off a whole town of people. Why?
Cause he heard there was a herd (heh heh, little play on words there) of pigs and His Father had it in for pigs?
Forget the pigs right now. There may have been several reasons. He may have wanted to teach his disciples a little more about faith. The Demons knew who he was, maybe he wanted his followers to hear that. And maybe he was pointing to both his purpose and to the future as prophesied in that passage from Isaiah 65: "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, 'Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!' Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
"See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps-both your sins and the sins of your fathers," says the LORD.
What was going to happen? Jesus was going to preach His message to the Jews, that He was the Messiah and they were going to reject Him. He would then take his message to the Gentiles, those who didn't call on his name and who didn't seek him. Like the Demon-possessed men the nation of Israel was saying "stay away, don't come near us". The Jews, God's chosen people, the people he loved, were gorging themselves on the unclean things of the world. They were pigs hurtling themselves toward a cliff, possessed by sin, about to be drowned and perish. The Jews had made themselves unclean by long practicing the ceremonies of the Gentiles. they were in a sense possessed by the world and had become unclean in the sight of God.
I believe this event was partly to point to that and party to demonstrate God's mercy to the gentiles who also needed Him.
So he killed a bunch of pigs and scared a bunch of people.
He didn't kill those pigs, the Demons did, because all Demons know to do is destruction. And did He really so scare those people they wanted him away? Or was there possibly another reason?
What do you mean?
I mean, why were those pig herds there? What was the purpose? Those pigs were doomed anyway, you know. They were going to be somebody's ham and eggs or pork chops and applesauce. Those were valuable animals. That loss of herd cost somebody big bucks. Yet, they came and asked Jesus to leave rather than arrest him and take him to court to make restitution.
Have you considered this was an illegal operation, a black market in pork being sold to the Jews across the Sea? Perhaps those herdsmen were even Jews themselves. Remember the Prodigal Son? He sank so low he was feeding swine. Where would he be feeding pigs in Israel? A Jew was unclean who handled pigs. Perhaps the Lord was picturing the Prodigal Son working over on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in this very field. Nonetheless, if this was a black market operation, they were similar to a drug supplier in our world. The drug dealer isn't going to the authorities if you somehow destroy his product because he would be in trouble if he did. So it may have been with this town and they just sent Jesus away so as not to make trouble or get their business closed down.
Jesus allowed the Demons to go into the herd, he didn't order them there and the Demons destroyed the illegal product used by people in defiance of God's will. Remember, God's justice is as prevalent in his Word as His mercy.
One other thing I'd like to mention. You'll be especially interested in this.
I will? What?
What were the demons so worried about? Why did they ask to go into the pigs?
Is it hot in here or is it just me? Think I'll step out for some air right now.
What did the Demons cry out? "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? I beg you don't torture me. Swear to God you won't torture me! They begged Him repeatedly not to throw them into the Abyss."
The Demons knew scripture. They knew they would be locked up and eventually thrown into Hell. They also knew this was to be in some future time. They feared this greatly and they knew very well that Jesus had the power to imprison them until Judgment day. They didn't want to be locked up. So they begged to go from the men into the pigs. Jesus gave them His permission to go into the pigs, he didn't send them into the herd. The Demons then just did what was their nature and destroyed the pigs. Don't know where the demons went after the pigs drowned, perhaps they possessed a school of sharks or something.
I am sure we could dig much more out of this occurrence, but this is enough to ponder for now. But I don't think any thing in scripture happens at random and I believe all of Scripture links together in one way or another.
I want to give a nod to Dr. R. Brown, professor at Wilmington University, teacher of Pastors as a member of SEND International- World Missions, Sunday School teacher extraordinaire and author of Preparing for the Realities of Mission in a Changing World (2006) for pointing out the relationship of the Girgashites to the Gerasenes and his discussion of the black marketing of pigs. I have deep respect for Dr. Brown's scholarship and Biblical knowledge, and am grateful for the many times he has challenged my thinking.