Luke 11:19-21 "And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. 20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed."
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 nearly ten episodes recorded of Jesus performing exorcisms on various people. Clearly such activity was a crucial part of Jesus' ministry. The question is: "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. Delegation of His Authority
3. Deliverance from bondage
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
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 Pharoah 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. Not even in the Old Testament do we see such a demonstration of power. 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 delegate authority.
Delegation of authority
When Jesus called his disciples, one of His main goals was to train them and delegate to them the authority they would need to preach and lead the early church. Matthew 10:1 plainly says: "Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness." As the disciples gained ministry experience, it was clear that at times they were unsuccessful and required further instruction by Jesus. (Mark 9:38) According to Luke 10:17 Jesus had also delegated authority to 70 others.
Such patterns of delegated authority were going to be vital once Jesus ascended unto heaven and the Apostles took up the reigns of leadership in the early church. To act in Jesus' name meant they were doing His bidding with the same Holy Spirit with which He did. (Luke 4:18) Without delegated authority, the apostles and the church could not be the continuation and extension of Jesus ministry. (Acts 16:18) And so Jesus performed exorcisms to demonstrate His authority, as well as to delegate it, but notice thirdly....
Deliverance from bondage
It was quite obvious that Jesus' exorcisms served to deliver people from bondage and tyranny of affliction. 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." 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)
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, delegation of His authority and deliverance of people from bondage.