Thursday, March 01, 2012

Legion and the Pigs

Today's rumination is on Mark chapter 5

They arrived on the other side of the sea in the country of the Gerasenes. As Jesus got out of the boat, a madman from the cemetery came up to him. He lived there among the tombs and graves. No one could restrain him—he couldn't be chained, couldn't be tied down. He had been tied up many times with chains and ropes, but he broke the chains, snapped the ropes. No one was strong enough to tame him. Night and day he roamed through the graves and the hills, screaming out and slashing himself with sharp stones.

This man was hurting, to say the least.

When he saw Jesus a long way off, he ran and bowed in worship before him—then bellowed in protest, "What business do you have, Jesus, Son of the High God, messing with me? I swear to God, don't give me a hard time!" (Jesus had just commanded the tormenting evil spirit, "Out! Get out of the man!")

And he's conflicted by his demons.

Jesus asked him, "Tell me your name."

He replied, "My name is Mob. I'm a rioting mob." Then he desperately begged Jesus not to banish them from the country.

DemonS. A mob of them, taking on this one poor dude. In other translations, he refers to himself as "Legion."

But here's where it gets a bit murcky. The demons know that Jesus wants to rescue the man. And that he's going to do it. So they ask for some mercy in how he does it. He grants their wish, but it doesn't end up as they had hoped. There's a lesson in that too, I'm sure.

That the bad impulses, the easy-way-out isn't necessarily the best way. And that evil gets its cummenpance, even when it seems to get everything it wants.

A large herd of pigs was browsing and rooting on a nearby hill. The demons begged him, "Send us to the pigs so we can live in them." Jesus gave the order. But it was even worse for the pigs than for the man. Crazed, they stampeded over a cliff into the sea and drowned.

I'm not an animal rights activist by any means, but what's done to the pigs here is unsettling. I recognize I'm imposing a fairly modernistic perspective back to an ancient text, but even in the Old Testament there were passages about treating your dogs well. It's perfectly fine to ask, "Was this a proper response? Could there have been an alternative way to ve the man without killing so many pigs - and in the process hurting the local economy?"

Chasing a pig at Gatton College

Those tending the pigs, scared to death, bolted and told their story in town and country.

They freaked. They're day workers and they witnessed their livelihoods going off a cliff. I'd have freaked too!

Everyone wanted to see what had happened. They came up to Jesus and saw the madman sitting there wearing decent clothes and making sense, no longer a walking madhouse of a man.

Those who had seen it told the others what had happened to the demon-possessed man and the pigs. At first they were in awe...

Wait for it... wait for it...

and then they were upset, upset over the drowned pigs. They demanded that Jesus leave and not come back.

Now, here's my question. And maybe this will shed some light on the cunnundrum here.

Jesus, being an observant Jew, really didn't care for pigs, did he?

In what other passages in the Gospels was Jesus confronted with pigs? How did he view them then?

In one sense I'm truly curious. I understand that pigs are considered unclean by the Abramic faiths well, the other two), but this seems to be an honest issue of actual contemptuous disregard for the pigs lives as well as disregard for the economic well-being of a town that needed that pig money.

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