Pigs are generally gross animals. Most of you would agree, with the exceptions of the loveable farm animal Babe and that cute little Wilber in Charlotte's Web. They bathe in mud, eat a smorgasbord of muck, and smell bad.
But pigs do have some benefits. First of all, they produce ham and bacon. What household hasn't considered one of these an essential food group? Pigs also provide a source of income for farmers. They're sold so men everywhere can make their meat quota for the week.
The people didn't fall down and worship the Lord Jesus for the very same reason I often don't. Their earthly needs—food and money—and their physical lives had more of their heart than the One they needed more than anything.
Food and money are two necessary resources in our earthly lives. Without both, our chances of survival would plummet, our comfort would be interrupted, and our sense of security would be shaken.
Recently, these thoughts captured my attention as I was sitting down for devotions. I'm making my way through the book of Matthew, asking the Lord to open my eyes and jotting down any insights that jump off the page. This particular morning I didn't realize my lesson would be coming from pigs.
Matthew 8 is full of stories displaying the God-ness of Jesus. He cleanses a leper, heals a centurion's servant and a host of others, and casts out spirits—all to demonstrate that He is God. And if that's not enough to convince us, there's one more account, starting in verse 28, where Jesus' authority is exhibited over those in the unseen realm.
After a long day of ministry, Jesus crossed over into Gentile territory, where two demon-possessed men approached Him. A look at the parallel passage in Mark 5:1–20 lets us in on how frightening this would have been. One man lived among the tombs, unable to be bound with chains because he kept breaking them by his superior strength. He was always crying out, night and day, and cutting himself with stones.
But when he saw Jesus—when the spirits in him saw Jesus—they knew who He was. They knew their time had come; the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places had met their match in the Son of the Most High God. Legion—the name of the demon(s) inside the man—knew he would have to obey the authoritative command of the Messiah, so he begged, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” Jesus did, and their destructive, irrational, and deadly influence drove a herd of 2,000 pigs into the heart of the sea. The herdsman probably stood paralyzed, not believing their eyes. When they came to, they quickly ran off into the city and explained everything to the residents.
Celebration, tears of joy, faith-filled, knee-bending, hand-raising worship of the Savior ensued . . . or did it?
Amazingly, it didn't. Matthew 8:34 says, “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region” (emphasis added). Their spiritual eyes were blinded, in part, by the very real physical loss they suffered. Two thousand pigs could have produced a lot of food for the community. Understandable questions probably surfaced in their minds. How would the kids be fed? Where would they get more livestock? Why was so much good seemingly wasted? If this man is good, why did so much loss seem to follow Him?
Does worry and anxiety over our physical needs and desires prevent faith from taking root?
The people didn't rightly fall down and worship the Lord Jesus for the very same reason I often don't. Their earthly needs—food and money—and their physical lives had more of their heart than the One they needed more than anything. Their response revealed where their treasure was buried (Matt. 6:21). The sad thing is, they missed the Treasure who is worth selling all they had to in order to obtain (Matt. 13:44).
So the question for you and me is, does your heart belong to the pigs or to the Lord? Does worry and anxiety over our physical needs and desires prevent faith from taking root? Or are our excuses something like:
- I can't take that job; I won't make enough money.
- I can't move there; I'll never get married.
- I can't adopt that special needs child; life will be difficult.
Serving Jesus does come at a high cost. He couldn't have been clearer about that in His Word. We may suffer the loss of our possessions, our friends and family, or even our lives. But we already died to them when we heard and answered the voice of our Great Shepherd. We must fight the demonic mentality that believes the "pigs" are better than His promises. The truth is all of our painful losses will find their gain in Him. Let's ask Him to change our desires so we want Him more than our livelihood, our reputation, and, yes, even the pleasure and comfort of a satisfied appetite.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8).