Authority and Power To Heal
Luke 4:31-37, 8:26-39, 9:37-45
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Don’t freak out.
Reading the accounts of Jesus casting out demons or evil spirits can be disturbing. In fact, some people who take no issue with angels, such as Gabriel the messenger who appeared to Mary, announcing her role in God’s plan of salvation, or the heavenly chorus that overwhelmed the shepherds with their song of celebration on the night of the Messiah’s birth, resist the idea of evil personified. But scripture is clear on the existence of supernatural beings with the free will to choose whether they will align themselves with God or rebel against him and instead follow Satan.
Some unbelievers like to point to these accounts as proof that the faith offers a superstitious, unintelligent, or uninformed view of physical and mental illness, as if we blamed epilepsy and schizophrenia and every other disease on demonic possession. Clearly, even the bystanders in these ancient accounts are familiar with such illnesses. But when the possessing demon speaks, it’s hard to pass that off as a misunderstood psychological disorder or normal ailment that can be treated with modern psychotropics or anticonvulsants.
To the people in the first century world, possession by evil spirits was a well-known phenomenon, as was exorcism. But the method Jesus used was new: he simply commanded the demons to leave, and they obeyed him. Whether the possessed person’s suffering had been brief or lifelong, the cure and its relief were immediate. People who witnessed these healings had varying responses. Some were amazed, asking, “What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out.” Others were overcome with fear. Still others marveled, rightly crediting God for his greatness but missing God’s very incarnation among them.
Which is interesting, because the demons in these accounts called out Jesus for who he was: the Son of the Most High God. The one who could send them into the Abyss to their eternal punishment. The Holy One of God, the one with the authority to destroy them. Jesus, who was not ready for the kind of publicity their announcements would cause, hushed them, and simply commanded them to vacate their hosts. His time had not yet come, and neither had the demons’—everything has been scheduled according to God’s timeline, and not even Satan himself can derail the plan. The plan that Jesus once again reminded his disciples was in motion: that he would be betrayed into the hands of men. His disciples, however, did not understand, and they were afraid to ask him to explain. At this point in the story they are still learning, and perhaps they would not have wanted to know how it ends.
Reading about demonic possession might be unnerving, but witnessing Jesus’s authority over Satan should offer us comfort. First of all, we know that God is more powerful than any force of evil, and he loved us enough to sacrifice himself on our behalf. Second, at the moment of our salvation we are filled with the Holy Spirit, affirming that we belong to Jesus and are sealed against any incursion of evil. We can rest easy, confident in the knowledge that Satan has no jurisdiction where Jesus reigns.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available), then stay for Discovery Hour (classes for all ages, preschool through adults).