Today’s text is from Matthew 8:26-34.
So, this is certainly an odd miracle story from Matthew this morning. And you might be familiar with it – although it’s probably not the first example of a miracle of Jesus that comes to mind.
And, perhaps, it’s odd because of what happens after these two demon possessed men are healed: A herd of pigs rush to their unfortunate death. Now, I grew up in rural Wisconsin – but again, I grew up in the city – a “city”, if you will, of 2,000 people – but, a city-boy nonetheless. And, we also have the final day of the State Fair happening just up the road – where I sure there are plenty of not only just pigs being shown, but countless numbers of farm animals.
Animals that are raised, cared for, and loved by the farmers, families, and kids that see these animals as their livelihood. So, it’s a bit strange in our reading today to hear that a herd of pigs is killed. I mean, the owners of those pigs couldn’t have been too happy. Couldn’t have Jesus bargained a little more with these demons and sent them somewhere else?
But, the more I thought about this – the more I thought about why I was so focused on these pigs – I mean every time I read this text all I can see is this image of pigs running haplessly over the edge of a cliff and just plummeting to their deaths – for seemingly no good reason. This has always been my first takeaway from this text.
But, as I said, the more I thought about that image the stranger I found it. I mean, who cares about the pigs? Seriously, if you too have the same takeaway image from this text being that herd of pigs running over the cliff I’d invite you down the same rabbit hole I traversed and ask yourself: Who cares about the pigs?
Now, we all do, of course – this story isn’t about being cruel to animals – and that’s the point. That’s where I have tripped up all these years – and perhaps, you too, with this text. Because it’s not about the pigs. Seriously, who cares about the pigs? This story is about two men – two men who have now been healed.
This story is about Jesus crossing a lake – and not just any lake. This lake is a lake that divides. It is a lake that separates. It’s a lake that defines two regions: A region, on one side, where the people of Israel live. And a region, on the other side, where everyone else lives: Gentiles. People who aren’t Jewish. People who – at least at this point in Matthew’s gospel – couldn’t possibly be included in this whole Jesus movement.
This story is about crossing boundaries – literally Jesus crossing a lake to do one thing: This healing. After this he’s already headed back home. This strange man showed up on the shores of a foreign town and before he could stay too long an entire herd of pigs was killed.
But, buried beneath the border crossing and demons talking and pigs dying is the activity of God doing what God does best: Brings about connection, healing, and reconciliation. A God, who in Jesus Christ, connects each and every one of us to God. A God, who in Jesus Christ, breaks into our worlds in the most unexpected ways. A God who doesn’t ask to be invited into our lives, but instead simply lands on the shores of our families, friends, communities – lands on your shore – and brings about new life.
It won’t always be in the ways we expect it. We might get distracted along the way. We might wonder what God is up to. We might get angry and scared and – like the people in our reading today – tell Jesus to simply go away.
But, since Jesus has entered our lives there’s no turning back. There’s no disconnecting this relationship that you now have with the God of all creation. For Jesus Christ has entered into the life of creation – Jesus has come into your life – in new and unexpected ways, but in ways that empower you to be in relationship with the people and world around you.
For our God is a God of relationship. A God who will cross any lake, any boundary, any thing to find you. For there is no where you can go in this life where Jesus hasn’t already been. There is no where you can go in this life without your Lord and Savior by your side.
Because this story isn’t about the pigs. It’s about a Savior who saves you. A Savior who heals you. A Savior who connects you to God. A Savior who holds you close and loves you this day and always with a love that knows no boundaries. A love that heals and a love that binds your heart to God’s.