Was Jesus Immoral for casting demons into pigs in Mark 5? Jesus of Nazareth is widely and rightly regarded as one of the greatest moral teachers in history. Even people who do not recognize Him as God, do concede that his teaching on moral issues is unparalleled. If you don’t believe me, look at any social media post advocating for a moral position. They will either argue that Jesus was in favor of their view, or that Jesus never said anything in opposition of their position.
That’s why it’s somewhat rare to find a criticism of Jesus in regard to His moral teachings, or His moral actions. But there are those that take issue with an incident that happened in Mark Chapter 5, in which Jesus casts demons out of a man into a heard of pigs. Let’s take a look at the relevant part of this passage for our discussion:
11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” 13 And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea. Mark 5:11–13 (NKJV)
Was This Animal Cruelty?
The first objection offered up is that Jesus was cruel the animals by killing them simply to remove a demon from a possessed man. The argument is that Jesus healed many demon possessed people without hurting animals in the process, so why did He not do so in this case?
I think the important thing to look at here is who exactly is responsible for the pigs drowning. As Jesus is about to cast the demons out of the man, they ask him that they be allowed to go into the pigs nearby. In an act of mercy, Jesus grants the request of the demons. Notice that Jesus does not cast the demons into the pigs, they leave of their own volition.
And how do the demons respond to this act of mercy? By destroying the animals they begged to enter. So it was not Jesus that caused the death of the pigs, but the demons themselves. If the blame lies anywhere, it should lie with them, not Jesus.
But Didn’t Jesus Know What Would Happen?
“Ah”, some will say, “but didn’t Jesus have foreknowledge of what would become of the pigs?”. If so, he should have seen the outcome and prevented it from occurring.
We have to remember that while Jesus was divine, He was also human. This dual nature means in some cases Jesus was not accessing the full capabilities of a divine being. We see several cases in Scripture where Jesus has limited knowledge of future events. Or there are times when he allows events to occur to make a larger point.
So we cannot be sure that Jesus knew the intentions of the demons when he allowed them to enter the pigs. Even if he did, we should not overlook the fact that Jesus did in fact achieve the greater good of removing the demons from the man.
So Why Was Jesus Asked To Leave?
In one final odd twist to the story, after the events unfold, the town people don’t seem very happy about the outcome of the events. We read:
14 So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. 15 Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 16 And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. 17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. Mark 5:14–17 (NKJV)
We typically view encounters with the divine as positive experiences, but in truth, they can be quite frightening. Seeing their once demon possessed neighbor now sane and rational scared the people in his village. And why wouldn’t it? But the town people were not grasping the big picture of these events.
So Was Jesus Immoral for casting demons into pigs in Mark 5? Yes , there were animals that perished. But a man’s life was restored to him. Rather than rejoice, the town people were scared. They were focusing on the loss of the livestock and their own fear, rather than the incredible gift of this man receiving his life back. So far from being immoral, Jesus’ actions in this case are shown to actually be creating the greatest moral good.
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