Demons, Pigs & Rising Up

There is an odd story in the bible where  Jesus heals two demon possessed men. He does this by sending the demons into a heard of pigs who then jump off a cliff. The end result is not a happy town, but one where they begged Jesus to leave.

So is the story about deliverance from demons? If so, what does that look like through the lens of a modern person? Is it possible the story is getting at something that is true on a much deeper level. I think so.

The town was being oppressed by these two demon possessed guys. People couldn’t freely pass by them. They couldn’t live freely along side of them. I think this is an important point, though most teachers focus on the men’s comment about Jesus not tormenting them before their time.

If you are a pig farmer, then your pigs are your livelihood. If Jesus sends demons into your pigs and they go jump off a cliff, then Jesus just destroyed your business. When the guy ran into town, I don’t think he was celebrating the deliverance of the two men. I think he was warning others that “business as usual” is at risk.

Jesus will jeopardize the status quo.  This city gets all riled up and goes out and asks Jesus to leave.

The heart of this story is found between the lines. In fact, most of Matthew chapter eight is a retelling of the notion that rising up and overcoming in life will require a faith or trust that doesn’t work as we would expect. Following Jesus isn’t a formula, a doctrine, or a rigid system. It’s tapping into a perspective that is paradoxical to our first assumptions-yet trusting the experience despite the so called “facts.”

In v.1 he touches a leper and then sends him to the priest. His healing didn’t remove him from his religious paradigm but it did move him out of his community.

In v.5 he heals the servant of a centurion. That healing didn’t require the centurion to be anything other than the centurion. He didn’t need to convert to anything, he was just good with whatever help Jesus could offer. And that was a greater faith than any Jew in town.

In v.14 he heals his mother in law and then everyone in town.

In v.18 he tells a scribe not to be too idealistic about following him, since he is sleeping on the ground at night. Then  in v.21 he warns another about having “one-day disease” because he knows people only like to get half-way in, and half a prison is still a prison.

In v.23 Jesus calms the storm. This effect on waves and wind befuddles his disciples who thought they were only on a spiritual, or political pilgrimage.

And then the pigs.

People suffer in so many ways. We are all facing some sort of internal or external oppression. We all have our demons. Deep down we long for a life where we could be free from such things.

But the liberation process is not easy. We could lose our comforts. We could be required to leave our group of outcasts. We could have to take real, and immediate action. We could lose our businesses, our livelihoods, our communities, our small identity.

The path to rising up is varied for us all. The path of finding our new life, the one Christ is offering, comes at a cost to our lower, false self. And that is often the hardest part. We each have to die to our lesser, imprisoned self in order to rise up to our true and free self. And when we face this very real possibility, we often find ourselves preferring to live with our demons in town.

Freedom doesn’t always look like it’s going to be that great. Yet we all can perceive it. When anyone ever gets to where they desire it so much that they forsake everything else, then you can be sure, they have entered the kingdom of God, and have done so by the power of Christ. It is the modern experience of being delivered from our demons.