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!

21. Raw Authority

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 21. Raw Authority

Mk 1:25,26 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

You might think that when Jesus is being revealed for who he is by a man in the synagogue he would have approved that, but no! He tells the man to be silent. Why?  Perhaps because this is an unrighteous and ungodly interruption from the enemy and it doesn’t actually help. Jesus will be revealed by his works and his words, not by demonic powers. On the day of Pentecost Jesus declared, Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22).  So this present outburst was not the right way.  Right, stop it!

But Jesus isn’t going to leave it there; he’s going to get this demon out of this man. Now if you know anything about demons you’ll know that they don’t like giving up occupancy of a person who has surrendered to the enemy. Just speaking nicely to them and asking them to leave will not do it. There will be only one thing that will get a demon out once it has taken possession and that is the raw authority of God!

You want to see that raw authority in action? It’s here! “Come out of him!” That’s it. That’s all it needed, just four words that have their origins in heaven and spoken out on earth. This is the Son of God speaking, the perfect representative of the Father in heaven. Jesus said,the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” (Jn 5:19) The Son ‘sees’ or catches the heart of the Father and does His bidding – and it is done! When God speaks a word of command, it is done.  Yes, it IS done!  What is so incredible is that the Father rarely speaks such words to humans. He grants us free will, but where it suits Him that is no so for demons. They are rebellious evil spirits and as such are existing on borrowed time. When He wants them out, He simply speaks it and they HAVE to obey!

Whether they obey because they know they have to or whether they are impelled to by the power of God is never clear, but the outcome is always the same – they leave! There is no recorded instance in the Gospels of a demon refusing to obey Jesus. The individual may not have been able to set himself free, but Jesus was – and he didn’t ask permission!

Lord, thank you that you ARE Lord over all things, and that includes the whole spirit world.

15. Legion

People who met Jesus : 15 :  Legion

Lk 8:26,27 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.

In the previous two meditations we saw people coming to Jesus. In this account we find Jesus going to this man in need. We aren’t told why Jesus took the disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the eastern side, but presumably he knew who he would meet and what would happen. Perhaps it was also a learning exercise for the disciples!

In these accounts it is the first time we have encountered demons. Today people have watered down the meaning of demons to simply mean the bad aspects of a person’s character, but in Scripture demons are fallen angels, spirit beings who have rebelled against heaven and who ‘follow’ Satan. They are often referred to as ‘evil spirits’ or even ‘unclean spirits’. Virtually always in the Gospels, when they appear, they appear as having taken possession of a human being and so here we find the description, “a demon-possessed man.” What Scripture indicates is that a person can only be ‘possessed’ when, by their life, they have given Satan, or the demon, authority or permission to take possession. Thus those who regularly dabble in the occult or witchcraft find the demonic presence becoming stronger and stronger in them until they are taken over.

To see the characteristics of what happens when a person is ‘possessed’, we need to note this account of this man. Here we see that he “had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.” He has bizarre behaviour, cannot stand living in society, and dwells in the place of death, i.e. he is essentially out of control of his life, isolated, desperate and dwelling on death. A few verses later we find, Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.” (v.29b) Thus we see further common characteristics observed in the possessed: violent behaviour, immense strength and isolation. If we remember that Satan seeks to destroy God’s creation, we can understand these expressions of the demonic.

But there is another characteristic of the demonic we need to note: “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” (v.28) i.e. demons have to be submissive to the Son of God. These spirits, we must remember, are simply created beings that have gone astray. They are part of God’s creation and are still subservient to Him. A wider reading of Scripture suggests that God tolerates them so that He may use them to discipline the wayward and to bring judgment. Yet it seems that Jesus had taken the initiative: “For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man.” (v.29a). So what happened was that Jesus arrived, was confronted by the man who was clearly possessed, commanded the demon to come out of the man, and found resistance within submission. It was this that caused Jesus to ask, “What is your name?” (v.30a) Now we might say that Jesus knows all things and therefore ask why did he have to ask this? The answer has surely got to be for the benefit of the on-looking disciples and for us. He receives the answer, “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.” (v.30b) i.e. the depths of the man’s depravity and occult involvement had been so great that many demons had possessed him. We then find something very interesting: “And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.” (v.31) We assume that ‘the Abyss’ is simply shorthand for hell and the demons know instinctively that this is their ultimate  destination.

What follows is bizarre: “A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” (v.32,33). Now we aren’t told why this happened, but Jesus grants them permission and they immediately destroy the pigs. Some have suggested that pigs were forbidden meat for the Jews and Jesus was allowing a temptation to be removed by these demons. We simply aren’t told.

Although some of this story may seem strange and alien to us, there are some very basic and obvious lessons to be observed. First, we note the depths to which this man had fallen and that, ultimately, by his own behaviour, which had opened him up to demonic invasion. Second, there is no indication in him of wanting to be free but it seems that Jesus assumes that and confronts the demons. In such a case, it seems, obvious repentance is not always possible, but Jesus assumes it as he reads the heart of the man being controlled. Third, note that Jesus takes control and the demons have to obey him. Fourth, we find that Jesus restores the man completely. It is left to Peter in Mark’s Gospel to remember that, in respect of people from the area, “When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.” (Mk 5:15)

In the meditation about the leper, we saw Jesus with power to heal severe sickness; in the account of the Centurion, we saw that he merely needed to speak a word to bring complete healing. Now we see his authority includes even the demonic world. This is the Son of God who moves to do His Father’s bidding to restore whoever will come. We said Jesus came to this man? Yes, but the other side of the coin is that, despite his possession, this man came to Jesus. He was there to meet Jesus, despite all the pressure from the demons who knew who Jesus was and who would have wanted to avoid him. Here is a wonderful truth: even when we have fallen into such depths, it is possible to cry out to God or meet the Son of God. The person may be unable to do anything else, but that is sufficient to enable Jesus to bring about a confrontation which brings about freedom. Hallelujah!