The miraculous healing of the Gerasenes demoniac is an amazing encounter when the Kingdom of God triumphantly conquers a legion of demons from the Dominion of the Devil to liberate a tortured image-bearer of God with a single word, “Go!” Yet, the primary thing that captures the minds of commentators is the pigs. Plummer alone counts nine different interpretations to the question why Jesus would allow for the malicious destruction of innocent creatures and/or personal belongings, ranging from questioning the existence of demons, to questioning Christ's morality, to allegorical representations of Rome occupying Israel (Plummer, 228).
In a way, the demons' request to enter the pigs played out as one last ditch attempt to derail Christ's ministry. Calvin suggested “that their purpose may have been to 'excite the inhabitatnts of that country to curse God on account of the loss of swine'” (Cranfield, 179), and in light of the stir it's still causing one might say the effects of their attack continue today. However, the pigs are not central to the story. God's mission is. The demoniac ironically comes and answers the disciples' question “what sort of man is this?” from Christ's calming of the storm (Howell, 154). Even the demons recognized that Christ is “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.” The fact that even the demons fear Jesus arrival “indicates to Christian readers that the Kingdom has begun to come” (Filson, 116). Christ even overturned the demon's attack before He left the area. If the demons thought to employ ancient near east animistic exorcism techniques on Jesus by assuming power over Him through exercising His full name, He counters by extracting theirs (Howell, 154). By allowing the demons to destroy the pigs Christ proclaimed the fact that “one man is of more value than many swine” and gave a tangible sign/assurance to the man (and the witnesses) that he was now free to serve God (Cranfield, 180). Even if the demons' swine stunt was to prevent Christ from reaching this Gentile area, Christ appointed the most effective missionary – the former demoniac who now best understood indebtedness to God and who's story everybody knew. Everything else in the passage is detail (of an eyewitness no doubt!) for “the story assumes that demons exist and have power, and speak through men they possess” (Filson, 116). Thus, this preoccupation with pigs over the advancement of the Kingdom of God seems to fit Jesus words almost literally, “do not cast your pearls before swine.”
Brett Yardley: Warrior for Christ. Devoted Husband. Proud Father. Martial Artist. Hopeful Philosopher & Theologian. Aspiring Teacher & Writer.