When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. (Matthew 8:28–32)
Sickness, blindness, stormy lakes, and now demons. Jesus and his friends arrive in a Gentile area, which is why a herd of pigs was grazing. Again Matthew cuts out excess details as he points squarely to Jesus’ action of release instead of giving a lot of background information about the possessed men.
The demons knew immediately who they were encountering – the Son of God. They recognized his authority, and pleaded to be released into the pigs (two thousand, according to Mark’s gospel). He tells them to go, and they do so dramatically, sacrificing the pigs in the process. The Jewish people with Jesus wouldn’t have been bothered by this loss, for they so disliked pigs that they would have put them in the same category as the demons. The Gentiles, however, were troubled and asked Jesus to leave. As one commentator says pointedly, “all down the ages the world has been refusing Jesus because it prefers the pigs” (quoted in NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p. 354).
We can feel bad for the squashed pigs, but if we focus too much on them we’ll miss the point of the story – the authority of the Messiah over demons, and freedom and restoration for troubled men. Also, we can ponder that Jesus allowed the demons to transfer to the pigs because it wasn’t the appointed time. We don’t know why he didn’t eradicate the evil then, but we know that one day he will.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.