Thoughts to ponder from today’s daily lectionary reading from the New Testament, Luke 8:26-39:

Why did Jesus grant the demons’ request to be sent into the swine? He could have sent them straight into hell, as they feared.

Had Jesus sent the demons straight to hell, the man’s problem would have been solved and no one else would have been impacted. But Jesus saw the bigger picture. He knew who owned the swine, and whether it would cause great injury or small. More importantly, He knew the hearts of the people in the region. Though their spiritual captivity was not as obvious as the demoniac’s, it was just as real. After the man was healed they did not see Jesus, the presence of the Kingdom of God drawn near*, as an opportunity for themselves and their loved ones to be healed and restored, but rather as a threat to their worldly possessions and their pursuit of prosperity.

Why did Jesus deny the healed man’s request to accompany Jesus? He could have become a faithful disciple with a tremendous testimony.

Again, Jesus knew the hearts of the people in the region. He knew that if this man lived the remainder of his life in the region, he would be a permanent reminder to the people of the opportunity that they had missed to draw near to God. Some – perhaps many – of those people would later repent of their selfish desires and turn to the Lord because of the man’s continued witness.

May we, too, see the bigger picture that the Holy Spirit is trying to show us, that we might make the best decision rather than the easiest or most expedient one.

*heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:9)