Don’t misunderstand me. God cares for animals and part of our cultural mandate as human beings is to be good stewards over the earth, including the animal kingdom. Cruelty to animals is wrong. The last verse in the book of Jonah tells us that God was concerned for both the people and the animals living inNineveh.
Mark 5 contains therefore a very surprising account of Jesus’ encounter with a demonized man. In fact, the naked, bleeding, howling man is possessed by a legion of demons. The demons immediately recognise who Jesus is and beg Jesus not to send them to hell (the place of ‘torment”, v7). Jesus instead sends the demons into a herd of two thousand pigs, which then immediately run off a cliff and drown. Animal activists might be upset at this point.
Human beings more important than animals
Why did Jesus do this? Did Jesus dislike pork? Firstly, I think it must be said that we must acknowledge that according to the Bible human beings are more important that animals. Humans are made in the image of God, not animals (Genesis 1). Rather than getting worked up over two thousand dead pigs, we should thank God for the saving of one precious life created in his image. One person is worth more than two thousand penguins or two thousand dolphins. Perhaps we need to re-prioritise our thinking at this point.
Secondly, I think that the reason Jesus diverted the demons into the herd was to visibly show his disciples and us what Satan’s intention was with that man – and every human. Satan’s aim is to kill and destroy you and your children (John 10:10). That’s why the man was cutting himself with sharp stones. Satan may use direct possession, or he may use lust, drugs, jealousy, divorce, money or something else – but the overall goal remains the same.
Yet, after the man’s encounter with Jesus he is totally transformed. He is sitting down, dressed and in his right mind (v15). He is forgiven and freed.
You may not be demon possessed, but without Jesus you are also in a desperate situation. Satan is seeking to destroy you. Jesus is the one who has conquered Satan through his death for sin and his resurrection to new life. Like that man, you need to have an encounter with the stronger man who binds up Satan (Mark 3:27).