If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. [Matthew 10:38-39 NLT]
There’s probably no end of sermons and commentary on the swine that went plunging into the lake after Jesus saved the demoniac. “Why pigs?” some ask while others focus on the death of the animals rather than the salvation of a man. Non-believers criticize Jesus for his “wanton destruction” of other people’s property without realizing their criticism implies their belief in the miracle. Theologians respond that since Jesus is God, those pigs actually belonged to Him. I don’t know what the demons wanted when they asked to be sent into the pigs, why they plunged down the hillside to their death, or what happened to the demons after that. What I do know is that the value of 2,000 pigs does not exceed the value of one human soul.
Rather than the pigs, I’d rather consider the townspeople and their reaction to the demoniac’s miraculous healing. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus and the now obviously sane man. Rather than joy over his miraculous restoration, the people only saw their loss and they told Jesus to go away. Since much of their wealth had just perished in the lake, their initial reaction is understandable. Moreover, with the Gerasenes being a Gentile region, the people had no messianic expectations. Understandably, encountering a man so powerful that he could banish demons and send pigs over a cliff frightened them. Yet, there is no record of anyone asking Jesus who He was, why He’d come, what He wanted, or from where His power came. They just pled with Him to leave them alone!
Unfortunately, the people closed their minds and chose wealth and fear over the miraculous healing brought by Jesus. What Jesus could have given them far outweighed the loss of a herd of pigs. Surely, the demoniac wasn’t the only one in the region needing healing and yet no one else approached this amazing healer who’d arrived on their shores. Sadly, the people were so afraid of how Jesus would impact their lives that they rejected Him. I wonder if we, like the people of the Gerasenes, allow fear and materialism to keep us from welcoming Jesus into our lives. As theologian D.A. Carson says of the Gerasenes’ people, “They preferred pigs to persons, swine to Savior.” We must never do the same!
When Jesus steps into our lives, He radically changes us. He will restore us as He did for the demoniac but it will come at a cost, as it did for the townspeople. Jesus doesn’t want just a portion of us and what’s ours—He wants all of us and everything we possess. That means giving up a whole lot more than a herd of pigs. Rather than being afraid of Him and His power, as were the townspeople, we must trust Him and welcome Him with open arms. After all, is anything worth more than a soul?