On Your Mark
Pigs or People?
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town
and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they
came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons,
sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who
had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man
— and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with
Jesus to leave their region. (Mark 5:14-17, NIV)
Pig herders were at the bottom of the totem pole socially
and economically. The Gerasene herders not only had to tend the swine but also
keep watch over the crazy demoniac man who lived nearby — perhaps on the
It’s a wonder the demoniac had not already stampeded the pig
herd just by the wildness of his roaming and yelling.
After Jesus’ miraculous deliverance of the demoniac, these
pig tenders run off into the town and countryside — to the surrounding
small pockets of population. With a huge herd of 2,000 pigs to watch over, it’s
a safe assumption that the livestock were a community mutual fund. Many had an
interest in the well-being of their animal investment.
So the owners come looking for their pigs and see the man
instead. Mark notes he was “dressed” — the assumption being that prior to
his deliverance he was naked or disheveled.
And he is sitting! What joy he must have felt to have
physical control of his own body. Before deliverance, he had been restless and
tormented — unable to control his own actions. Just as Jesus had earlier
brought peace to the wind and waves, He has given peace to a fractured soul.
The reaction of the people is twofold: first, fear; and
The fear of Jesus does not lead the crowd to reverence
Christ or bow down in worship. They quavered in the face of Jesus’ power, but
ignored the evidence of Jesus’ love in bringing the man to wholeness.
Surprisingly, they reject Jesus. They tell Him to get out of
Suppose they had an election and could only vote for one:
keep their pigs or restore the wild man to wellness. How do you suppose they
would have voted?
Jesus knew. That’s why He let the pig herd be destroyed. He
knew this community valued property more than people. The citizens of Gerasa
focused on what they had lost, not on what they had gained. Their own wallets
had been hit; therefore they could not rejoice that a person had been restored
The Gerasenes were neither the first nor the last to make
this kind of choice.
You see these same values at work later in the life of the
Early Church. What happens when a demon-possessed fortune-telling slave girl is
delivered at Philippi? Her owners seize Paul and Silas, have them flogged and
throw them into prison (Acts 16). The same phenomenon is repeated on a larger
scale when the gospel comes with such power at Ephesus that the major industry
of the town, idol making, is practically put out of business — the idol
industry workers riot (Acts 19).
Whenever we put our possessions above the well-being of
people, then — like the Gerasenes, the slave owners of Philippi or the
idol makers of Ephesus — we will be sending Jesus on His way.
A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, may my possessions belong to You so that if I lose them it's more Your loss than mine. Help me to live by Your values. May I keep a very loose grip on my wallet so that I might keep a tight grip on the hands of those I love and those whom You died to save.
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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