Today’s Scripture – March 28, 2014

Mark 1:21-28 (NIV):  They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “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!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
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.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

There never was a fair fight between Jesus and demons, no matter how many, no matter how strong.  Jesus had authority over them that they instantly recognized, and it completely freaked them out.  When Jesus walked into a place, every demon in that area immediately started eying the exits.

This demon in the synagogue at Capernaum is a perfect example.  The demon held his peace while Jesus taught, but finally he could hold it in no longer, and cried out in fear, ““What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?”  This was no idle concern.  Jesus was God in the flesh, and could destroy demons, torture them, or even send them into the abyss (see Luke 8:28, 31).  There was no fight, no resistance, no threats from the demons in Jesus’ presence; only fear, and trembling, and pleading.  Wherever Jesus was, all demons were instantly reduced to begging for their very existence.

Some teach that when the demon said, “I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” that it was the demon’s attempt to exercise some control in the situation, or to try to manipulate Jesus.  But it was actually all part of the same terrified cry.  Even if nobody else in the room knew who Jesus was, the demon did!  And that knowledge filled it with mortal fear.

Notice the lack of “ceremony” when Jesus cast out the demon.  There was no holy water, no anointing oil, no candles, or bells, or chanting.  None of that was necessary.  Jesus had absolute authority over the demon.  One command, “Be quiet,” stopped the wailing.  Another, “Come out of him,” evicted the spirit in an instant.  And the people in the synagogue noticed this.  Jesus taught like no other teacher they knew; He never referred to the great teachers and rabbis of the past, but taught from His heart with an authority that could not be denied.  And He cast out demons like no other exorcist they knew; He never used rituals and tools, but simply issued orders to the demons that they could not defy.

When Jesus sent out His disciples to minister, He “gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (Matthew 10:1); the same authority that He Himself had.  And the disciples were amazed that the demons submitted to them in Jesus’ name, just as they did to Him. (Luke 10:17)  We see the same dynamics in the book of Acts, with evil spirits being unceremoniously cast out by Christians (Acts 5:23), and by Paul ordering a spirit out of a slave girl.  In all of these cases (and many more in the gospels and the book of Acts), there were no ceremonies or rituals.  And there was no resistance from the demons.  There was no battle, no collateral damage.  There was simply a command given in Jesus name, with his authority, and the evil spirits, trembling in mortal fear, complied on the spot!  However, it was not the formula “in the name of Jesus” that gave His followers that authority (witness the unfortunate story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13-16!).  It was the very presence of Jesus living in His followers through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Today many Christians fear demons, and worry about what they would do if they ever came across one.  Books have been written about proper techniques, words, and rituals to cast them out.  But if Jesus lives in our hearts, none of those are necessary.  And if He doesn’t live in our hearts, none of them are effective.  Jesus still has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).  And when He lives in the heart of a Christian, He still exercises that authority, even over demons, through us.

Father, help us to live in Your presence every moment, so that You can work freely through each of us to bring light to the darkest places, to transform the most lost souls, even to cast out demons, all in the powerful name and authority of the Jesus who lives in our hearts, so that Your name is glorified, and Your kingdom grows.  Amen.

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