Monday, September 9, 2013

Mark 5:6-13 Part II

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." For he was saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"  And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion, for we are many." And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them." So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea. (Mark 5:6-13)

In the first part, I mentioned that I saw three main components to this passage. So, in that part we looked at the first one, the interaction between the man/demons and Jesus. This time let's look at the casting out of the demons into the herd of pigs.  The next post will be a "final thoughts" wrap up of the study of this passage.

Send us to the pigs

To begin with, the demons have pleaded with Jesus "not to send them out of the country", or outside the χώρας space. Well, I have to ask, "why didn't Jesus just bind them in the pit (Revelation 9) rather than sending them back into the world?"  Secondly, why pigs?  
Several commentaries and other resources tackle this question. Some address the idea of a large herd of pigs being kept in Israel, and how it potentially violates Mosaic law, so Jesus was teaching them a lesson. From what I read, this region wasn't particularly Hebrew anyway, but primarily settled by Gentiles; it may have been an area where swine herds were raised to supply the Roman population, as there were soldiers and other citizens of the empire living in that area. In addition, I do not necessarily agree with interpretations that put a political spin on Jesus' actions here, so I do not believe that He was trying to send a message to Rome or something like that. From the reading I've done, I really believe that there is a two-part answer to this question of "why pigs?": 
  1. Demons are satisfied with destroying another part of God's creation, if they are not allowed to destroy His image-bearer (man), and 
  2. I think Jesus' prioritizes correctly. In other words, His primary ministry is rescuing one of His sheep (Luke 19:10), far over and above the immediate welfare of livestock, be it religiously clean or unclean in nature.  Besides, aren't they all His anyway (Psalm 50:10) to do with as He pleases?
  • Furthermore, is it not rational to suppose a greater value being put on the caretaker of creation, versus soulless creatures, like say, sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31) or swine?
  • Finally, the Creator obviously has every right to make any part of His creation for the most important of purposes: showcasing His glory. In that vein, we remember Paul's admonition of vessels prepared for honor and those for dishonor (Romans 9:20-23). A similar lesson is taught by Jesus in the account of the man born blind, not because of sin, "but that the works of God might be displayed in him." Could not we suppose that the pigs were created primarily to display the works of God, in demonstrating the authority and power of His Son to command the powers of darkness? (Boy oh boy, couldn't we get off on a tangent here... regarding the fairly popular worldview that man and animals are equal in all ways.)