Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jesus demonstrates authority over the demonic realm

Luke 11:14 "And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed."

Acts 10:38 "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

We find in the Gospel records many verses comprising nearly ten episodes of Jesus performing exorcisms on various people. Clearly such activity was a crucial part of Jesus' ministry. "Why?" Today's post will attempt to explore the texts in the Gospel records that record the instances of Jesus performing exorcisms and offer reasons behind why He did them:
1. Demonstration of His Authority
2. Deliverance from bondage
3. Declaration of the Gospel 
So why are the exorcisms recorded in the Gospel records so vital to understanding the ministry of Jesus Christ? Notice first of all that they....

Demonstrated His authority. Luke 11:14-20
After being accused of casting out demons by the authority of Beelzebul (i.e satan), Jesus Himself states in Luke 11:19 "But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." That phrase "finger of God" is found throughout the Old Testament and refers to the authority or judgment of God, Yahweh Himself. In Exodus 8:19 the Egyptian magicians told Pharaoh that the severity of the plagues was due to the "finger of God". In Exodus 31:19 and Deuteronomy 9:10 we see Yahweh inscribing upon the tablets of stone with His own finger - i.e the "finger of God". Clearly Jesus' statement in Luke is Him making a reference to His Divine authority.  Mind you Jesus is not merely saying He casts out demons with delegated authority as an emissary of Yahweh, rather He is asserting that He Himself does so as God in human flesh!

The reader must take note that until Jesus walked this earth, no recorded incident of exorcism had ever taken place in the Old Testament. Clearly the Son's incarnation into time and human flesh signified an alteration in both history and the cosmic realms. He evidenced Supreme authority in both the human and angelic realms - an authority that only God Himself can claim.

It is no wonder that in Matthew 4:24 that we see news spreading quickly about His authority over such beings. Matthew 8:16 tells us He cast out demons with just a word. In Matthew 8:29 and Mark 1:23-24 the demons thought it was the final judgment due to the fact that God in human flesh was taking authority over them as an act of judgment. We could cite several other scriptures but the point is made: Jesus cast out demons to demonstrate His authority. But notice secondly, Jesus cast out demons to affect deliverance from bondage. 

Deliverance from bondage. Luke 11:21-26
It was quite obvious that Jesus' exorcisms served to deliver people from bondage and tyranny of affliction. According to the NIV harmony of the Gospels, Jesus' statements here in Luke about the process of exorcism are similar to the separate event that occurred a year earlier and is recorded in Matthew 12:22-37 and Mark 3:20-30.1 The fact that Jesus came to deliver people from bondage is uncontestable in the New Testament.  Luke's rehearsal of Jesus' insight and experience of what takes place in an exorcism further substantiates Jesus' authority and comprehensive knowledge of how to defeat the kingdom of darkness in Luke 11:21-26. Other New Testament passages fill in the details regarding Jesus' mission in delivering people from bondage.

In Mark 9:17ff we see a lad afflicted with a spirit that needed casted out. Only Jesus' direct intervention could remedy the young man's plight. According to Mark 16:9 "Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons."  According to Matthew 8:16, Jesus at times could drive out a demon by a simple word from His lips. Peter states in Acts 10:38 "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

This point is important in understanding part of why the Son became incarnate. Hebrews 2:14 and 1 John 3:8 both remind us that He came to destroy the Devil's works and to set people free from bondage to fear. According to Colossians 2:14-15, such activity by Jesus in His earthly ministry set a pattern for what He would accomplish on the cross by triumphing over the demonic realm. Jesus victory over the cosmic powers was part of the multifaceted reasons behind the meaning of His atoning work. The work of delivering people from bondage was necessary, being that Satan and his forces are ever at work blinding people to the truth. Only Christ through the power of the Gospel can break people free of physical, chemical, relational and any other sort of bondage that is influenced by the Kingdom of darkness. (Acts 26:18) So Jesus' exercise of authority over the demonic realm was done to demonstrate His authority, deliver people from bondage and thirdly...

Declare the Gospel. Luke 11:27-36
When you read Luke 11:27-36, you discover that in expelling demons from people, Jesus was going to follow up with the preaching of the Gospel. In fact the power of Christ in the Gospel alone can overtake the Kingdom of darkness. As we look at Jesus' exorcisms in Matthew 12, we see him using the same illustration of Jonah and the Great fish typifying His soon coming death, burial and  resurrection.

In the high profile exorcism of Mark 9:14-29, Jesus follows up with a prediction about His crucifixion. For Jesus, exorcisms were a means for preparing  the demonized victim (and culture) to hear the scriptures.  Exorcism, if ever having to be done, should never be done without sharing the Gospel. Demonized people represent the most extreme form of demonic opposition to the Kingdom of God.  Yet in Acts 16:14-21 following Paul's expulsion of a demon from a servant girl, he ends up sharing the Gospel in prison, demonstrating the point that when opposition arises, whether human or otherwise, share the Gospel!


Today we explored why Jesus did exorcisms. Such acts were a major part of His overall ministry. We identified three primary reasons: demonstration of His authority, deliverance of people from bondage and declaration of the Gospel.

1. Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry. The NIV Harmony of the Gospels. Page 83 and 141.
Evidently the incident recorded in Matthew and Mark occurred in Galilee and the episode in Luke took place in and around Jerusalem.

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