Jesus and animal activism

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.


Operation destroy

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).

A mustard seed Kingdom

Jesus said that God’s Kingdom, which he came to inaugurate, is like a mustard seed – it starts small and ends big.

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”
Mark 4:30-34




If you were a Jewish person living in the first century you may have had a herb garden with a mustard bush. You would have known that a mustard seed is very small, and you would know that the shrub hardly has branches big enough for birds to sit on. You would have found Jesus parable very interesting.

In the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel the superpowers of the day were symbolically referred to as huge trees with braches that even the birds of the air could sit on. Babylon and Assyria were the great kingdoms and indeed superpowers, wielding great strength and influence.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of God may appear weak, insignificant and negligible, but we need only wait. The Kingdom of God is growing as people hear and accept the word about Jesus (Mark 4:1-20) and after the growing is done the Kingdom will be established in all its fullness at the “harvest” at the end of this age (Mark 4:26-29).

Daniel referred to the kingdom of God in a similar way in Daniel 2. He said the kingdom it like a small rock that ultimately destroys all the kingdoms of this world. The small rock grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth!

Of course, mustard bushes don’t have big branches. I think Jesus is saying that the growth of this kingdom is not due to our planning or strategies or programmes, the growth of this kingdom is supernatural, God does it! We are to be faithful and sow seeds, but its up to God to make the seed grow and to that end we must be depending on God in prayer.

The kingdom of God is coming. We will need to be patient. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be fooled into thinking Christianity is worthless. The kingdom may appear weak and inconsequential at the moment, but have no fear! When God’s kingdom finally comes in all its fullness we will be amazed and astounded at it bigness, powerfulness and all-encompassing influence.

Why don’t we pray?

I think there are three main reasons:

1.  Too busy
Our lives are so busy and cluttered.  We tend to schedule everything else, except pray.
We make time to watch rugby, but not to pray.  Perhaps we need to allocate time in our diary or go to bed an hour earlier in order to spend time in prayer.

2.  Don’t believe it makes a difference
Jesus and the early church were convinced that prayer makes a difference.  Jesus often woke up early to pray and would spend the entire night in prayerbefore big decisions.  The early Christians were often on their knees before God and God worked in awesome ways.  We, reformed people, believe (quite rightly) that God is sovereign over all of life.  We have read Ephesians 1:11.  But often we tend to think like this: If God is
sovereign and everything happens according to his will, why pray?  What we should really be thinking however is this:   If God were not completely in charge there would be no use praying!
Think about it! Imagine you prayed, “God please save my children!” and God said, “Well, I tried to but you children are so naughty – they just won’t listen.”   Or if you prayed, “God please give us good weather for the gospel event on Saturday!” and God said, “I tried, but have you seen the weather forecast – just can’t do it. Sorry.”   Or imagine you prayed, “God,  please change my husband”, and God replied, “I really tried but he drinks too much and is too stubborn!”
If God  were not completely, totally and actually in charge there would be no use  praying.
So, if God is sovereign and his purposes and plans come to pass, does that mean my prayers will not change anything? What will be will be?  We see in the Bible the amazing truth that in God’s Sovereignty he uses our prayers to accomplish his purposes:  We are told to pray because God answers pray and we are also told that God in Sovereign and His purposes will never be thwarted.  As Christians, we hold to both these truths.

3. Sin
1 Peter 3:7 is an interesting verse, it says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
A husband should not sin against his wife as that will hinder his prayers. How?  Deliberate sin tarnishes our friendship with God.  We feel ashamed, full of guilt, embarrassed and reluctant to approach the holy God.
We should remember that Jesus has paid the price for all our sins by his substitutionary death.  The solution for us is to confess
our sins before God, admit that we have done wrong and turn from those sins.  Then thank God for the forgiveness we have through Christ, ask our wife’s forgiveness (or whoever else you sinned against$) and get praying!
Be encouraged to pray, for yourself, for your family, for your fellow Christians, for gospel workers and for people who don’t know Jesus.