38. Miracle Worker (2)

Focus on Christ Meditations: 38.  Miracle Worker (2)

Mark 1:27   The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”

In the previous study, as we moved on from seeing Jesus as a teacher, we said we would check him as a miracle worker and within that we would consider healings, deliverances, raising the dead and then other miscellaneous miracles. We started with healings and now in this study we will cover deliverances.

For a change we will start by considering Jesus’ deliverance ministry as Luke records it, for he uses the word ‘demon’ more often than any of the other three. In Lk 4:33 we have what is probably the same instance as Mark referred to in our verse above. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.” (Lk 4:33-35) Now what is obvious from such examples is Jesus simple, straight forward authority that can speak a word and the demon HAS to leave.

We see him dealing with demons in the above verses in Luke 4, then in Lk 8 the demoniac in the region of the Gerasenes taken over by ‘Legion’, then after coming down the Mount of Transfiguration, the boy (Lk 9:38-42), then the mute man (Lk 11:14). Mark adds the daughter of the Greek woman (Mk 7:26-30).

A brief teaching: demons are evil spirits who only have access to human beings when that person (or their parent in the case of a child) gives Satan access to their life by becoming deeply involved in evil and especially in occult activity. Deliverance is brought about by word of command when the individual is confronted by the authority and power of Jesus. The presence of an evil spirit in a person may be seen by unusual strength (see Lk 8:29), the person going and doing things that humanly they might not have wanted to do (ditto) and even speaking in a voice that is clearly not that of the person. The evil spirit may also inflict the individual with some form of disability, e.g. fits (Lk 9:39), dumbness (Lk 11:14), deafness (Mk 9:25). When a person is delivered they need to be built up in Christ else there will be the risk of the demon returning (see Mt 12:43-45).

Now we see Jesus generally dealing with demons in the general descriptions that we saw previously in examples that included general healings, e.g.

  • News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” (Mt 4:23,24)
  • “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Mt 8:16)

Again, note the “with a word”. Where there is the authority of Jesus, that is all that is needed. We do not scream or shout at the demon. If the demon is being noisy we simply command it in the name of Jesus to be silent (see Mk 1:25). We do not want to create a show and make the delivered person feel even more embarrassed afterwards. A demon will often try and make the person move in and out of consciousness and so, like Peter and John at the gate beautiful (Acts 3:4), invite the person to focus on you and seek to resist the enemy by remaining ‘awake’ and listen to you. Tell them what you are going to do and explain there may or may not be some physical manifestation and then, with their permission, command the enemy to leave. If a battle ensues, persist in your determination to declare that Jesus is Lord and this demon MUST leave.

Now what we are talking about here is pure spiritual warfare which requires a) for you to be a Christian who b) has a right relationship with the Lord and knows they are a child of God who exercises the authority of the Lord. In Acts we find an example of those seeking to perform deliverance ministry that went astray – see Acts 19:13-16 – because they were neither of these two things. Know your position in Christ, know your calling, and be careful not to exceed the faith the Lord gives you as you move, filled by the Spirit, under the guidance of the Spirit. Do not use the name of Jesus as a talisman and do not be derisory or abusive in respect of the enemy (check out Jude 1:8-10).

Now it is clear, even as Acts 19 shows, that there are ‘other people’ who appear able to carry out deliverance ministry, but the records in respect of Jesus show the level of authority that he exercised that puts him above any others. In this study we have moved into the realm of practicalities simply because so often this subject creates unreasonable fear that comes from ignorance. The key is knowing, not only who Jesus is (the Lord of ALL), but also who you are and remembering that, the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4)

What we should also note is that, clearly, authority was missing in religious circles before Jesus came, in that the demon possessed could obviously happily co-exist with God’s people in weekly synagogue worship and this only changed when the presence of God came in the form of His Son. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he gave them authority to cast out demons (see Mt 10:1) and after Jesus ascended back to heaven we see this ministry continuing through the apostles: “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” (Acts 5:16)  See also Acts 8:17,  and 19:11,12.

Without doubt, this aspect of Jesus’ ministry was part of that referred to in the Isaiah prophecy that he read in the synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4:18,19) And so it continues today. Hallelujah!

20. Recognition

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 20. Recognition

Mk 1:24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

I am amazed at the things I sometimes find myself saying, or that I hear other people saying. It seems that sometimes we can’t help but blurt things out. I always find myself laughing when I think of Peter, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the lake, as he sees what appears to be Jesus, blurting out, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (Mt 14:28)  I’m sure later on when he looked back on that incident he would have thought to himself, “Whatever was I thinking about!”

I say this for I can see no other reason for this demon possessed man in the synagogue to interrupt that is going on and cry out like this. Almost by definition there is a foolish hostile opposition to God in demons. It seems to me that these words come tumbling out like they do from a little child having a tantrum. It seems they can’t help themselves. When a child grows up, for the sake of appearances, they bite back their words and restrain themselves, but when they are young there is no such restraint; they just pour out what comes to mind, heedless of how it appears.

This is how it seems to be with this demon possessed man. All his inhibitions seem to have gone (like when someone is drunk?) and he just pours out what comes to mind. Now is it the man or the demon? Surely it has to be the latter? When refers to ‘us’ would that have meant the people in the synagogue? Surely not, for Jesus gave no indication of that. In fact in Luke’s account of Jesus first teaching in a synagogue it is clear that Jesus has come to help people. No, surely the ‘us’ refers to the demonic world on earth.

Out of a sense of fear or doom this demon cries out for he, unlike anyone else there, recognises the power and authority in Jesus. He knows that Jesus has both the authority, and the power to back up that authority, that could bring an end to the quiet existence of this demon. The fear that rises in it cannot be held in and so he plaintively cries out in defensive desperation. He knows his time of occupation in this man is near its end. When we face eviction we get upset, and this demon is no exception. He knows what is coming and cannot hold himself back.

Lord, thank you that your authority and power is supreme and none can stand before you. Thank you that you are the Lord!

19. Interruption

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 19. Interruption

Mk 1:23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out

I am always intrigued by this episode early in Jesus’ ministry. I am intrigued that a demon possessed man was in the synagogue. That perhaps challenges many of us. First of all it might challenge those of us who are uncertain about the reality of the existence of demons. If you’ve never encountered a demon possessed person and seen their supernatural strength or heard the unearthly voice(s) that may speak, you have to simply take on trust the Gospel accounts.

But then it may challenge those of us who do believe in demons and demon possession but who see such people as being always totally out of control. Now in my experience that does happen sometimes but I have also observed that a possessed person doesn’t always manifest the demon. In fact much of the time they seem fairly normal. That surely must have been the state here for surely the synagogue leaders would not have tolerated a man breaking lose in their synagogue.

What I also find intriguing is that this man existed in this synagogue without manifesting the demon. I say that because what I have observed over the years is that demons get upset when God turns up in His people. This would suggest a somewhat low level of spirituality in this synagogue that he could be there comfortably!

It is Jesus’ presence that so often seems to trigger demonic manifestation and that occurred in this synagogue on that day – and not before it! Until then, it appears he was comfortable in this place of teaching. I have to confess we have had people into our own church in the past who turn out to be struggling with demons and it was not until the presence of the Holy Spirit was felt did they manifest. This shows that both God and the enemy can both be present but there is no conflict until the Lord makes His presence known in our realm. At that point the enemy starts getting agitated as we’ll see in the next meditation.

It does appear that we can continue in our religious lives, comfortable with mediocrity or even with sin, until the Lord turns up and makes His presence known. At that time things start happening.

Lord, we need you to turn up in our churches and in our lives to deliver us from the mundane and from the little unrighteousness that we might otherwise tolerate. Please come.