However, the Bible includes a report of a telling incident that shows whether Jesus viewed pigs as suitable for food.
Before we examine that account, let’s understand a part of Christ’s character—that He apparently was never wasteful.
Many have puzzled over this astounding incident in which Jesus precipitated the destruction of a valuable herd of 2,000 pigs—enough to feed many thousands of people.
On two occasions during His ministry Jesus miraculously multiplied a few fish and loaves of bread to feed large crowds that followed Him—on one occasion 4,000 and on the other 5,000 strong (Matthew 14:15-21 Matthew 14:15-21 15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.
16 But Jesus said to them, They need not depart; give you them to eat.
17 And they say to him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
18 He said, Bring them here to me.
19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and broke, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.
21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.
American King James Version×; Matthew 15:32-38 Matthew 15:32-38 32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. 33 And his disciples say to him, From where should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? 34 And Jesus said to them, How many loaves have you? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. 35 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36 And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and broke them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 37 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. 38 And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.
American King James Version×). But, in spite of an abundance of food, Christ did not allow any of it to go to waste. “So when they [the crowds] were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost’ ” (John 6:12 John 6:12When they were filled, he said to his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
American King James Version×).
The disciples gathered up 12 baskets of leftover food after the first of these miracles and seven after the second. He specifically told His disciples not to allow any of it to be thrown away.
With the understanding that Jesus was compassionate and not wasteful toward food, let’s examine an incident involving Him and some unclean animals—a large herd of pigs.
Mark 5:1-13 Mark 5:1-13 1 And they came over to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the most high God? I adjure you by God, that you torment me not.
8 For he said to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.
9 And he asked him, What is your name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
10 And he sought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
11 Now there was there near to the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
12 And all the devils sought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
13 And immediately Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
American King James Version×records that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat to the region of Gadara, a gentile (non-Jewish) area on the eastern shore. There He was met by a demon-possessed man from whom He would shortly cast many evil spirits.
In this remarkable encounter, the demons requested that Jesus send them into a herd of 2,000 swine on a nearby hillside. Jesus granted their request, and, when the demons entered the swine, “the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea” (verse 13).
Many have puzzled over this astounding incident in which Jesus precipitated the destruction of a valuable herd of 2,000 pigs—enough to feed many thousands of people. Yet we should not be surprised when we understand the biblical instruction that these animals should never have been raised for food, and their owner was acting in defiance of God’s laws.
Beyond question is that Jesus didn’t consider the swine to be suitable for food—even for the gentiles of this area. The compassionate Savior of mankind, the one who ordered scraps of bread and fish to be gathered up so none would go to waste, would never have wasted such a valuable resource had He considered the pigs to be an acceptable part of the human diet.
Jesus is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×). Animals He viewed as unfit for human consumption 2,000 years ago remain unfit for us to eat in our day.