Luke 8:26-39 – Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. [27] When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. [28] When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” [29] For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) [30] Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. [31] And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. [32] Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. [33] Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

[34] When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. [35] Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. [36] And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. [37] Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. [38] The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, [39] “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

An animal rights group has made a request to the translators of the NIV (New International Version) that they translate the pronouns in the Bible which are used to refer to animals, as “he” or “she” and no longer as “it”. The reason is that animals have rights the same as humans do and they should be held on an equal level with humans. The writer of the Proverbs tells us that whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10). Cruelty to animals is a sign of abuse in other areas of life, including the abuse of children and women. Animals are God’s gift to us for our good and we are to be good stewards of their care. As the owner of two cats I know that domestic animals provide us with great joy. Animals captured on film in the wild are a wonder to observe and the Scriptures indicate that one of the purposes of animals is to play, for God’s enjoyment (Psalm 104:25-26). But that is a far cry from maintaining that they are equal to humans in intrinsic value.

It is not wrong to kill animals for food, or for clothing, in this present age. Jesus Himself ate lamb and we see Him feeding fish to a crowd of five thousand hungry followers as well as cooking fish for the disciples after His resurrection. God killed at least one animal to provide clothing for Adam and Eve after they sinned and realized they were naked and their fig leaves just weren’t doing the trick. Animals are not people and they are not made in the image of God. If there were no eternal soul then we would be no different from animals in anything but intelligence (and there are some humans who wouldn’t even pass that test!) But we do have eternal souls and animals do not. There is no human life which is not of greater worth than an animal’s.

Luke tells us of a man who was so overtaken by demons that he called himself “Legion”. A legion was a thousand men. Whether the man had a thousand demons we do not know. Mark hints that it might have been two-thousand (Mark 5:13). The man is in desperate condition. He never asks Jesus to help him. He has gone completely insane under the influence of these demons and it is the demons who address Jesus. Being in the presence of Jesus has these evil devils terrified and all they want is for Jesus to leave.

And then a most curious thing happens. These demons makes a request of Jesus, and Jesus grants it. They ask if He would be willing to cast them out of the man into a herd of pigs being cared for nearby. Jesus agrees. Let us be perfectly clear. Jesus has no compassion on demons. They are beyond redemption. Jesus’ compassion is for the possessed man. He allows the demons to leave the man and enter into a herd of pigs. The reason the demons wanted to go into the pigs was so that they would not be sent back to the abyss (verse 31). He lets them go into a herd of pigs which promptly flings itself over a cliff into the sea and die. Question: What happened to the demons? Presumably they went back to the abyss where they belonged. The pigs died. As tragic as that may be this account is a celebration of mercy.

Some scholars have criticized Jesus for destroying the livelihood of these Gentile pig farmers. How could He be so cruel as to allow their profits to go headlong into the sea? Many reasons perhaps. But one of them is surely this: one human soul is worth more than a two thousand pigs. The fact that these were pigs and were unclean animals for the Jews is not the point. The point is that Jesus has no compunction about allowing them all to die for the sake of saving this one human soul.

That man is in heaven right now and the pigs are nowhere. That man is singing the praises of the God who saved him, not only from demon induced insanity, but from the hell that it was inevitably leading to. The pigs haven’t squealed out anything anywhere for a long time. They do not exist. What Jesus did that day was an act of mercy. It was an act of salvation. It was right. And we should glorify Him for it.