In three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is recorded the story of the demonic men that Jesus encountered in the country of the Gergesenes. He asked the men (evil spirits) their name, to which they replied, “Legion, for we are many.” Recognizing that they were in the Presence of a mightier Force, they begged to be sent into a large herd of pigs grazing in the area. Jesus gave permission, and hundreds of pigs ran violently over a cliff and were summarily drowned. There are a great many areas in this passage of Scripture that remain a mystery, and it has been a source of enormous speculation, which may or may not be useful, because there are no clear-cut answers.
But I would like to address the concluding sentence of the story: “And the Gergesenes begged Jesus to leave them, and He did.” It had to have been common knowledge among the people that these men had suffered horrible torment for years: no hope, no help in sight. They had probably just shrugged their shoulders and passed on by. But this time they saw with their own eyes a powerful miracle of healing transpire. But all that really concerned them was the loss of their cash crop, and so they asked the very Son of God, the Lord of Glory, Master of the Universe to leave, and He did. What a travesty! A dangerous and disastrous mistake!
A person might have thought under these circumstances that the Gergesenes would have first rejoiced at seeing the men delivered from the horrible evil spirits, clothed and in their right mind and sitting peacefully with Jesus. But obviously they were more concerned with their bank balances than seeing the men freed from that horrible bondage. And how far gone they were! They had drifted so far from the Truth that sets men free, they probably didn’t even look back to rejoice with the men who were now free. Judging from their subsequent action, they probably were concentrating strictly on their business ledgers, and how to make up for the loss of their pigs. But before we get too smug in our condemnation of such blind behavior, let’s have a good, long, honest look at ourselves.
One of the men was so overwhelmed with gratitude to Jesus that he begged to accompany Him and His disciples. He was more than eager to pay for the remainder of his life for the great miracle that had been wrought by Jesus. But this is Jesus’ reply to his request, “Return to your own house and tell what great things God has done for you.” ‘And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.’ Luke 8:26:39 An evangelist was born! This, in spite of the awful mockery that had just preceded it!
If we substitute high-paying jobs, stocks and bonds and a substantial bank account for the herd of pigs and the behavior that so often accompanies those things, we just might become aware that we are choosing pigs over people also. The pigs will perish, but the people will live on, and how we love and share with them will also go down in the books. We need to be sure our priorities will live beyond pork chops, because, Christian friends, we most surely are going to live on, either to eternal joy or eternal regret. The pigs died, Jesus left, the man became an evangelist, and who knows what happened to the folks who thought more of their pigs than they did of the Savior who walked quietly among them until He was invited to leave.