February 8 | Luke 8:26-39

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Exactly one year ago today I had to blog on this same story, but in Mark’s gospel. I hate this story. I hated it when I first did a series like this on Matthew. I hated it last year when I did Mark. And I still hate today, exactly one year later. I struggle with the demon as it is. I love that Jesus has the power heal people who are obviously being tormented by something, but I struggle with this expulsion of a demon stuff. I’m not going to say I don’t believe in it all. It’s all over the Gospels, and, if I’m honest I’ve seen and experienced some things in my own life that make me wonder. But I’ve also seen a lot of abuse around this demon kind of thinking- a lot of really damaging abuse. So I’m quite cautious about it.

Take all that and then throw in the bit with the pigs, and you just lose me. All of you- Matthew, Mark and Luke. I’ll quote part of what I said a year ago in Mark, because, 365 days later, it’s still how I feel:

The best of the sea of bad answers I’ve gotten about this story is that the killing of the pigs is a comment on a corrupt economic system of the day and how that system stands in opposition to the Kingdom of God which Jesus is bringing. I would love it if that’s what this message was about. I dig that kind of message. But, honestly, it seems like a stretch. There is nothing in the text about the owner of this herd being corrupt. So all Jesus has done here is ruin one man’s livelihood to make a socioeconomic statement. The closest I think we can get to this in this story is that throughout Mark there has been an ongoing theme about clean vs. unclean. Pigs were considered among the most unclean animals in society. If Jesus were to kill one pig in this story, it could be a comment about pork being unclean (which it was). But since he kills the whole herd, he’s now making an economic statement and not a dietary one. He’s essentially saying, “you thought it was something you put in your body that was unclean, but it’s actually your entire economic system that is.” I suppose all that’s possible, but, like I said, I think this is a stretch.  And besides, would Christ really choose to communicate that message in this way? It seems contrary to Christ’s character to destroy a herd of pigs and damage the local water source to make a point. So I’m stumped

That’s what I wrote on February 8, 2015 about Mark’s telling. It’s how I feel on February 8, 2016. What were your thoughts on this story when you read it?

2 thoughts on “February 8 | Luke 8:26-39

  1. hi. i know you can’t write everything in your blog that you are thinking. i would make a number of observations about this text…the first, which seems to be your major concern is that it is the legion of demons that suggests the pigs…not Jesus. then the issue becomes what does God “permit” to happen as opposed to “cause” to happen. They are different. 2nd, any way I look at it, the value of one man redeemed from bondage is worth more than any number of pigs…or cattle or sheep…better to be clothed and in your right mind than naked and living among the tombs. Third, the townsfolk don’t seem to be nearly as concerned about the pigs as they do about the transformed “grave dweller”….in fact, in Luke, the pigs aren’t even mentioned. Fourth, this is one of the few places (maybe the only one) where Jesus doesn’t tell the recipient of his touch to “be quiet”. Rather he tells the man to go and tell how much God has done for him. Why is that? Some of those answers might reveal that the text isn’t about pigs at all. And lastly, the greater context: this section in the synoptic gospels is revealing that Jesus is more than human…in fact, that Jesus is God. Calming the storm (8:22, an extreme storm at that that the experienced fishermen thought they might die) shows Jesus’ power over the created order (nature), the healing of the demoniac (not just one demon by 1,000’s) reveals Jesus’ power over satan (or the power of evil if you prefer), the next story in 8:40 and following reveals Jesus power over “the body” or human disease (again an extreme case of a woman who had been bleeding 12 years and tried everything to be healed a well as Jesus’ power over death itself by the raising of Jairus’ daughter. Nature, Evil, Disease, Death. Jesus conquers them all. One of the many things that I get out of these stories is that regardless of what happens to me in this life, Jesus is the victor. And i take comfort and solace in that, as I look forward to the end game. Going back and reading your blog post i am wondering why you got so hung up on the pigs? have a blessed day. d.

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    1. All very good points, and, yes, you are getting at what the story is really about. And, yes, I am distracted by the pigs for some reason. I think it’s that it’s there and it seems unnecessary. It also has to do with me being trained not only to think theologically but having been trained to think in a literary/theatrical sense. The pigs are not the point, but they are part of the story, and I find it horrible. I’ve tried to move passed it to get to the point/s (which you site well), but I just can’t. It’s there in the story and I can’t reconcile it. I’ve read a lot of commentaries and it’s just one of those I can’t reconcile. The good news is that it doesn’t sour me on God or the scriptures overall. It’s just one of those spots where I shake my head and wonder. Thanks for reading!

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