"Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned."
It is hard to preach this passage. In all fairness, people have questions that are not easily ignored or answered. What became of the demons? If they lost their host bodies, did they just go infest somebody else? Aren't "demons" just an archaic way of expressing mental illness? Then why does the Bible say that some entity went from a man into a bunch of pigs?
But what really derails the sermon is the sympathy everybody feels for the pigs. If Jesus is good, why would he let that happen to the innocent animals? People are so put off by the passage that it is hard to come up with words that lead them into worship. They are confused by Jesus or even indignant toward him - hardly in a place to welcome his presence with praise.
That very ambivalence takes us to the stinging message of the passage. We simply do not love one another in the way that God loves the human race. Jesus does not move us because our fallen nature does not care about our neighbor's salvation.
The Gerasene community had given up on the possessed man. Luke tells us plainly that he was "a man of that city," but the other citizens just chained him up from time to time; mostly they were fine to leave him out in the burial caves or the outdoors.
When they find him "clothed and in his right mind" with Jesus, they are afraid. Then they seem to weigh their neighbor on a balance against their devalued pork futures, and find the deal intolerable. They ignore the healed man and ask Jesus to go away.
We're no different. We can watch countless portrayals of people being killed in our favorite TV series or even a single movie, and it's no big deal. It's entertainment, in fact. Compare it to your reaction to a TV or movie portrayal of a pet being killed.
How about in the real world? Compare your reaction to the recent news of Mexican police killed by narcotraficantes to your feelings over the oil coated creatures in the Gulf of Mexico.
We rightly see the beauty of so many creatures - but we are in a fallen state that blinds us to the beauty and value of God's most significant creature, the human being. Like the Gerasenes in Luke's report, we don't see the salvation of a fellow human as worth the loss of a herd of pigs.
How, then, can we comprehend the idea that God would value us so much as to allow the humiliation and death of his Son to save us? Maybe God should have sent a pig to be crucified for us - it might better move our hearts to worship.