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. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. – Matthew 8: 28-34
After such a display of power toward good, why would the townspeople ask Jesus to leave? For one thing, only God can forgive sins and drive demons out. All others who are empowered by ordination to do so, must do so in God’s name. For only through His power can the conduit, man, forgive sins. But, here, Jesus appealed not to God, but simply fulfilled the demons request to be sent into the herd of swine in saying, “Go.” This frightened the people because they understood the power of evil that possessed these men who terrorized their community, but were astounded by Jesus’ power over that evil. By this event it was prudent to assume that things would not and could not remain the same. What gave Him this authority? And what might He expect from them should they welcome Him? Nothing was expected, but hoped. The hope that all who saw what He has accomplished and heard His word would turn from sin and do the will of God the Father. For that is why He came into the world; to free men from sin, thereby securing for all who would believe in the Son, their inheritance of life everlasting. But for many then, as is true today, to give up our ways is too much to ask; even for such a divine promise. For those in this category, the Holy Trinity is no longer composed of three persons; The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but, rather of one person; Me, Myself and I.
“And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.” – Deuteronomy: 14:8
Under the Old Testament Law, even touching the meat of swine made one ritually unclean.
The demons asked Jesus to send them into the swine and to no other, for they knew well the law, and were innately compelled to ask for the only host that befit their nature. The swine when infected by the demons immediately ran down the steep hill and drowned. We who covet possessions can become possessed by them. And as in the event above we alone cannot release ourselves from their grip as the two possessed souls could not. But, with Jesus, they were immediately saved. Evil cannot become a part of us unless we give our permission. As is evident in any vampire film made; that evil cannot enter one’s home unless invited. So, too, the evil of sin cannot enter our soul unless we let it in.
Pigs like to roll in mud for a number of reasons: to keep cool, as they lack the ability to cool down by sweating. This act helps protect their pale skin from sunburn, and to keep flies and other biting insects from bothering them. In this way they find comfort. As well, those who asked Jesus to leave their town, had become comfortable in their way of life. We can, even, become comfortable in sin, as the swine in the story are comfortable in mud. The act of forgiveness, like a cleansing, can be an uncomfortable and trying thing. As bad as one’s condition may be, one knows what one is or what one has; and thereby find comfort in familiarity. That comfort is threatened and familiarity shaken when events require dreaded change. And although you are aware that change is necessary for a greater good, it can still be frightening, because change always is. The comfortable fit of old clothing often deters one from purchasing the new. Yet, bad habits, like well-worn underwear, eventually need a change.
However, our saving grace is the saving grace of God through His word. And that Word was a promise kept in Christ Jesus, His Son. The fearful townspeople refused Jesus’ invitation to be freed from sin, but rather chose to remain, for the moment, comforted in their fears. Let us accept that invitation to change without fear. For Jesus is the only true and lasting way out from under dominating sin, as the two demoniacs found.
As the demon possessed herd of swine were driven over the cliff, so too, will our personal demons drive us into the abyss, if we are left tethered to them by turning Christ away.