Save our Pigs
SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS BUT SAVE OUR PIGS
BY Mark E. Hardgrove, Ph.D., D.Min.
Text: Mark 5:1-20, NKJV
5:1 Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me."
8 For He said to him, "Come out of the man, unclean spirit!" 9 Then He asked him, "What is your name?"
And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion; for we are many." 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.
11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, "Send us to the swine, that we may enter them." 13 And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.
14 So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. 15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 16 And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. 17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.
18 And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. 19 However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." 20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.
The title of my message today is, “Solve our problems, but save our pigs.” For the sake of full disclosure, this title did not originate with me. I heard it first from a pastor in Kansas. I don’t have his sermon, but that title and this text just seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly—solve our problems, but save our pigs.
We pick up the account of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel just after He had engaged in a time of teaching the people from a boat on the shore of Galilee somewhere near Capernaum. In fact, to this day there is a shoreline not far from Capernaum that forms a natural amphitheater. Sitting in the boat, with the water serving as a natural amplifier of his voice, Jesus could easily have spoken to hundreds, if not thousands, of people and they could have both seen and heard Him as He taught them kingdom truths.
Eventually, as the evening was coming on, Jesus instructed His disciples to go to the other side of the lake. This was a trip that took, on average, about two hours to make. It was during this trip across the lake that a storm arose, and while the disciples were fighting the elements, Jesus was asleep on a pillow in the stern of the ship. As the waves and wind were about to overwhelm them the disciples finally go to Jesus and wake Him up with the words, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Jesus didn’t panic; He simply stood up, rebuked the wind and the waves with two words in the Greek, “Siopa, pefimooso!” Or as we would say it in English, “Peace! Be still!” With just two words the winds were muzzled (which is the meaning of pefimooso) and the waves lay down like a dog at his master’s feet.
As you can imagine, seeing this kind of power caused a holy terror to come upon those in the boat. It’s one thing to see a healer healing people, but it something else altogether to see someone stand up and command the winds and the waves. What they didn’t seem to realize was that this man, Jesus, who had been sleeping in their boat seconds earlier, was one who created the earth and He has the power and authority to tell the elements to shut up and calm down.
Eventually Jesus and His disciples land on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. This region was largely inhabited by Gentiles, not Jews. Jesus was, in essence, taking His ministry to the wrong side of the tracks. Last week we saw Jesus take a trip to meet with one Samaritan woman, but now Jesus goes even further; He goes to a Gentile region where there are pig farmers, and He meets a man possessed by demons.
This is a major departure from Jesus’ normal mission among the Jewish people. He Himself said that His primary mission was to reach out to the Jews first, but here He is in a Gentile region. He took a two hour trip through treacherous waters, through a storm, for what? The only thing Jesus does here is meet with a Gentile man, cast out the demons, and then go back to the other side of the lake.
There is a lot that we could explore theologically here, but let’s go right to the encounter of Jesus with this man.
I) THE PEOPLE HAD A PROBLEM
As soon as Jesus gets out of the boat a naked, dirty, wounded man comes running up to Him and falls to his knees in front o Jesus and shouts out with a loud, and undoubtedly crazy sounding voice, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”
Jesus has just gotten off the boat and this crazy man runs to Him, calls Him by name and title, and begs Jesus not to torment him. Jesus knows, and Mark tells us, that this man had an unclean spirit, which is another way of saying that this man was demon possessed. This man was being controlled by demonic spirits, and those spirits recognize Jesus as the Son of God (cf. Jas. 2:9b “Even the demons believe — and tremble!”).
Jesus gets off the boat and is aggressively approached by a pathetic looking human. This man, like all men, had been created in the image and likeness of God, but Satan wants to distort, deface, or destroy the image of God in man. It’s like the man who has divorced his wife and now doesn’t want to see any pictures of her in his house, so he cuts her picture out of family photos, or uses a sharpie to cover her face.
Demons had control of this man and this man had become a problem for the entire community. Mark tells us that this man lived among the tombs. These were caves in the hillsides where people buried their dead, but this man was living in those caves with the dead. It was as though he himself was dead. Why did he live among the tombs? He lived here because the people didn’t want him living in their towns. They had tried to control this man with chains and shackles, but through the superhuman strength of the demons in him, he would break the chains and shackles to pieces. He was like a wild animal that no one could tame. He was a terror to the community as he ran through the mountains and tombs night and day screaming out and cutting himself with sharp stones.
Imagine someone like that in your community. A naked, screaming, bleeding, man running around and when the cops try to subdue him the handcuffs won’t hold him and the tasers don’t faze him. The cops through up their hands, and say there’s nothing they can do, so you just have live with it. You can’t let your kids go out to play. You’re afraid to go out after dark. You try to sleep and you hear his shrieks throughout the night. This is a problem that the people had tried to fix, but they couldn’t. They wanted something done, but they didn’t know what to do, and they didn’t have the power to solve this problem. But then Jesus came to their shores, and He has the power to put things right.
The man is compelled by the demons who come to Jesus and begin to speak the name of Jesus. It was believed that by speaking the name of someone, you had a certain power over that person. This may be why Jesus asks the demon what his name is. However, the demon begins by trying to control Jesus and trying to tell Jesus what He can and cannot do. Jesus had told the demon to come out of the man, and the demon tells Jesus not to torment him. Jesus asks, “What is your name?” to which the demon says, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” A Roman legion consisted of 6,000 men. The demon isn’t saying that there exactly 6,000 demons in this man, but that there are a lot of them. When Jesus cast out the demons, they entered into about two thousand pigs, so it seems that there were thousands of demons tormenting this man. Then notice that the demons beg Jesus not to send them out of that country. Why do the demons ask not to be sent out of that country? It may be that the alternative would be to be sent to the bottomless pit.
Demons are fallen angels who followed Satan in a failed attempt to overthrow God. Some were imprisoned in a place known as the abyss, also referred to in Revelation as the “bottomless pit,” but some are on the earth where they work under the rule of Satan. Some scholars believe that demons are territorial, that is, that specific demons work in specific countries, regions, or cities. This is why certain cities are known for specific immoral activities or sins. For example, San Francisco is known for homosexuality, Los Angeles for gang violence, St. Louis for murder, Los Vegas for prostitution, and so on. By asking the demon’s name Jesus may have been identifying the type of demon he was dealing with.
John Dawson, in his book, Taking Our Cities for God, argues that every city and town has specific demonic presence and that we should identify that demonic activity and engage in spiritual warfare, through prayer and fasting, to overcome that demonic presence. He argues that the church should take authority, in Jesus’ name, and resist the devil until he flees from us.
At first, it may appear that Jesus acquiesces to the request of the demons who ask to be sent into a herd of pigs. In Judaism pigs were viewed as unclean animals and were to be avoided at all costs. Yet here is Jesus in a Gentile area with pigs grazing nearby. Jesus will go to incredible lengths to reach a single soul and bring deliverance.
The demons ask to go into the pigs and Jesus gives them permission. But once they entered the pigs, the pigs “ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.” The demons may have thought they could stay in the pigs, bide their time until Jesus left, and then find another victim to possess. Instead, it seems that with the death of these pigs, the demons may well have been banished into the abyss and tormented, just as they feared.
II) PROBLEM SOLVED
When the pig farmers saw what happened, they ran to the city and the surrounding countryside and told other people what had happened. Eventually the townsfolk come out to where Jesus is and there they saw that Jesus had solved the problem. They “saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” No more threat, no more problem, this is now a sane man in their midst.
Now I don’t know about you, but to me this looks like a good thing. Jesus has just brought peace to their community and has liberated this poor man from his demonic condition. You might think they would say something like, “Hey! That’s great. Thank you! Why don’t you come to our town and hang out with us for awhile?”
Jesus solved their problem, but they weren’t happy. Indeed, they were afraid. They had heard about what Jesus had done for this man, and what had happened to the herd of pigs, and they wanted Jesus to leave. In fact, “they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”
The man whom Jesus delivered wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told the man to go back and give his testimony to his friends and family. He said, “Tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”
III) SAVE OUR PIGS
The man who had been delivered was grateful for the work of God in his life, but the people in the region, were not happy. Jesus had solved the problem, but it killed their pigs. Maybe if Jesus had solved the problem without killing the pigs, they would have been okay with it. But that is the problem with many people. They want God to solve their problems, but save their pigs. They want things to be better, but they don’t want it to cost them anything. They don’t want to be inconvenienced, or bothered.
I was talking with someone last week who wanted to lose weight, but they didn’t want it to require any work, or a change in her diet. She wanted to lose weight, but she didn’t want to change how she was eating.
Isn’t that what we’d all like? Solve our problems, God, but save our pigs. Make my marriage better, but don’t ask me to change. Get me a better job, but don’t take me out of my comfort zone. Help me with my finances, but don’t ask me to stop buying stuff I can’t afford. Help me to do betting in school, but don’t ask me to give up my online gaming and start studying. God . . . solve my problems but save my pigs!
We live in a world and a nation that has that same mentality. Our nation, America, has reached the highest point of indebtedness in the history of our country. As a nation we are barrowing more and more money to pay for things we cannot afford. Yet no one wants to give up anything. No one wants to make the cuts. We know we can’t continue to go deeper and deeper into debt, but we don’t want our program cut, we don’t want our benefits cut. So our nation prays, “Solve our problems, but save our pigs.”
The pigs represent those things in our lives that we need to get rid of. It may be a relationship with someone that is leading you down the wrong path. If you are running with the pigs, you’ll eventually end up in pigpen with them. The prodigal son allowed his path to take him far from home until he ended up in the mud with the pigs before he came to himself and said, “I will arise and go my father’s house.”
Some of us need to kill some pigs, we need to slaughter some hogs, we need to give up some things that are holding us back and allow God to deliver us from sins, habits, and desires that are keeping us from being used of God to reach our friends and family. Some of us are one bad habit away from a powerful testimony. But until we let go and let God, then we will never know the fellowship of God in our lives as we should.
Satan has been defacing the image and likeness of God that you were created with. Your testimony is marred and hidden behind habits and secret sins, but God is ready to bring deliverance. God is prepared to solve some problem, if you are willing to allow Him to kill some pigs.
Stand with me please. If you are here today and you are willing to be completely honest with God, He can help you. There is power in the blood and He can set you free, but until you willing to let some things go that are holding you back, you will never be free. Some of us here today need to kill some pigs.
I occasionally play a silly video game called angry birds. The birds are used to kill pigs. Sometimes it’s difficult to get to those stupid pigs, but with persistence and the right strategy I’ve managed to kill most of them.
This isn’t a game. This is real spiritual warfare and it requires persistence, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s time to stop living under the illusion that we can live victorious lives without a cost, or enter the Kingdom of God without giving up the habits of the world. Do you want it? Do you really want healing in your body? Do you really want healing in your marriage? Do you really want healing in your finances? God can do it, but you’ve got to be willing to kill the pigs, to let some things go, and to allow Jesus to give you a right mind and to clothe you in His righteousness.
If you’re ready for that, then get ready for a life of victory, and testimony that will touch your friends and family.