Why did Jesus permit demons to possess swine?

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By BibleAsk Team


The story of Jesus permitting demons to possess swine is found in the New Testament Gospels, specifically in Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, and Luke 8:26-39. This narrative presents a fascinating account of Jesus’ encounter with a demon-possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes), offering profound spiritual insights, cultural context, and practical lessons for believers.

The Story

In the Gospels, we encounter a man possessed by a legion of demons dwelling among the tombs in the region of the Gerasenes. This man, tormented and uncontrollable, lived in isolation, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When Jesus arrived in the area, the evil angels recognized His authority and begged not to be tormented. Jesus commanded these evil angels to come out of the man, and they pleaded to enter a nearby herd of swine.

Jesus granted their request, and they entered the pigs, causing them to rush down a steep bank into the sea and drown. The swineherds, witnessing this astonishing event, fled and reported it to the people of the city and surrounding villages, who came to see what had happened. They found the formerly demon-possessed man sitting clothed and in his right mind, conversing with Jesus. The people were filled with fear and asked Jesus to leave their region because they regretted their monetary loss.

Cultural Perspective

  1. Pig Herding in Jewish Culture: The presence of a herd of swine in a predominantly Jewish region like Gerasenes is notable, as pigs were considered unclean animals under Jewish dietary laws (Leviticus 11:7). The fact that the swineherds were raising pigs for commercial purposes suggests a cultural and economic disconnect with Jewish religious practices.
  2. Gerasenes as a Gentile Region: The Gerasenes, situated east of the Sea of Galilee, were predominantly Gentiles, unlike the Jewish communities in other parts of Galilee. The reaction of the Gerasenes to Jesus’ miracle reflects a cultural divide and perhaps a resistance to His authority and teachings.

Why Did the Demons Ask Jesus to Possess the Swine?

One of the demoniacs declared that Christ was the “Son of God” and begged Him, “I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not” (Mark 5:7). The evil angels were fearful of their destiny (Matthew 8:28-29) and that they may be sent to the abyss (Revelation 20:1). So, they begged Christ to allow them to enter into a herd of pigs. And when the Lord gave them permission, they did and the pigs rushed down into the lake and drowned (Matthew 5:13). The Scriptures don’t directly state why the evil angels asked for that but it could be for the following reasons:

  1. The evil angels didn’t want to leave that area. “And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country” (Mark 5:10).
  2. Satan aimed to turn the people of this region against the Savior by destroying their swine herds.
  3. The evil angels wanted to possess unclean animals because they were unclean themselves.
  4. The the evil angels wanted to embody animals instead of getting sent to an empty place of torment.

Why Did Christ Permit the evil angels to Possess the Swine?

The Scriptures again don’t give a direct answer but it could be for the following reasons:

  1. If the pig owners were Jews, the Lord wanted to punish them for going against the clear instructions of Moses in raising pigs for the sake of monetary profit (Leviticus 11:7).
  2. If the pig owners were gentiles, the Savior wanted to show them His authority over the dark powers of the devil and His ability to deliver and set free all those who seek Him (Luke 4:18).

Whatever the case, the ultimate result of this miracle and the ministry of the transformed men, who previously had been known throughout the district as demoniacs, together with news of the herd of pigs that perished in the sea, served as nothing else could possibly have done to change the people of the region to accept the Lord (Mark 5: 19, 20).

The Savior bade the delivered person “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:17-20). The result was that when Christ came back the people accepted Him.

Spiritual Meaning

  1. Authority over Evil: This story illustrates Jesus’ absolute authority over demonic forces. By commanding the demons to leave the possessed man, Jesus demonstrates His power to deliver individuals from spiritual bondage and oppression.
  2. The Battle for Control: The entry of demons into the swine highlights the spiritual battle between good and evil. It symbolizes the destructive nature of demonic influence, which seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
  3. Salvation and Restoration: The transformation of the demon-possessed man from a state of torment and isolation to one of peace and restored dignity reflects the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in the lives of believers. It illustrates the power of salvation to bring healing and wholeness to the broken and marginalized.

Application and Lessons

  1. Recognizing Spiritual Authority: As believers, we must acknowledge Jesus’ authority over every aspect of our lives, including spiritual forces of darkness. We can find confidence and security in His power to deliver us from fear, bondage, and oppression.
  2. Resisting Evil Influence: Just as Jesus commanded the demons to leave the possessed man, we are called to resist the influence of evil in our lives through prayer, spiritual disciplines, and reliance on God’s Word (James 4:7).
  3. Compassion and Restoration: The story reminds us of Jesus’ compassion for the broken and marginalized. We are called to extend compassion and love to those who are struggling with mental, emotional, or spiritual issues, offering hope and support for their healing and restoration.
  4. Counting the Cost of Following Christ: The reaction of the Gerasenes serves as a cautionary tale about the cost of discipleship. Following Jesus may require us to relinquish worldly attachments and confront cultural norms that contradict His teachings. We must be willing to prioritize our allegiance to Christ above all else, even if it means facing opposition or rejection from society.

Conclusion

The story of Jesus permitting demons to enter the swine offers profound spiritual insights into the nature of spiritual warfare, Jesus’ authority over evil, and the transformative power of salvation. It also provides cultural context and practical lessons for believers today. By embracing Jesus’ authority, resisting evil influences, extending compassion, and counting the cost of discipleship, we can experience the freedom and restoration that come from surrendering our lives to Him. As we reflect on this narrative, may we be inspired to trust in Jesus’ power to deliver us from every form of bondage and to live lives marked by faith, obedience, and love.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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