MUSINGS – January 31, 2019
When he arrived in the territory of the Gadarenes on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, two men met him. They were possessed by demons and had come out of the tombs. No one could travel along that road because the men were so dangerous. They shouted, “Why are you bothering us now, Son of God? Did you come here to torture us before it is time?” A large herd of pigs was feeding in the distance. The demons begged Jesus, “If you’re going to force us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus said to them, “Go!” The demons came out and went into the pigs. Suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the cliff into the sea and died in the water. Those who took care of the pigs ran into the city. There they reported everything, especially about the men possessed by demons. Everyone from the city went to meet Jesus. When they saw him, they begged him to leave their territory.
Several questions cone to mind in this reading.
- Are these men Jews living on the east side of the lake?
- If they were Jews, why were their herds of pigs that were forbidden for Jews to eat, being “unclean” animals?
- Why were the people so upset by Jesus?
I have come up some possible answers to those questions.
- The question is significant because, with very few exceptions, Jesus’s ministry was to the Jews only. It wasn’t until just prior to his ascension that Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world. We know from the 32nd chapter of Numbers that the tribes of Reuben and Gad asked for and received lands on the east side of the Jordon. In the centuries since then its reasonable that many Jews lived in the area. However, it was mostly inhabited by non Jews. So these men may or may not have been Jews.
- Even if these men were Jews that doesn’t mean that there weren’t non Jews there who raised hogs. It is still possible that people who were Jewish by birth were not practicing the Jewish laws and had adapted to the culture in which they lived. This is certainly a problem faced but both Jews and Christians today. It it’s difficult to be a “people set aside by God” when living in a culture who do not share the same values and have open disdain and contempt for our beliefs.
- The third question why did they beg him to leave their territory? I would have thought that freeing these dangerous men from their demons would have been welcomed. After all no one could travel along that road because the men were so dangerous. And now they were no longer a threat. That’s a good thing, right? Ah, I think the answer goes back to the large herd of pigs. After the demons entered them, the pigs ran off a cliff and drowned. That would have been a large financial loss for the owners. These people would rather have these men tormented than loose their livelyhoods. I can not cast judgement on them for their self interest. I too have been in positions where I could have been a help to a person in need, but the cost to me outweghed my desire to assist. Lord, forgive me and make me a better Christian.
I hope thesequestions and answers have given you seeds for thoughts.
All content (except quotations) ©2019 Thomas E. Williams