Text: Luke 8:27-39, Matthew 9:32-34, Luke 11:14, Mark 7:24-30, Luke 4:31-37, Matthew 17:14-21
In the preface to his famous satirical novel, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes this of demons:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
When venturing into the territory of demons and demonic possession, it’s tempting either to write them off as ancient misdiagnoses of mental illness, or to become overly fascinated with them, attributing more power to demons than they have. Either mistake is easy to make because many of us don’t have much experience with them.
And yet, the New Testament world seems to have been filled with demons. There was the demon-possessed man in Luke 8, whose demon went by the name of “Legion.” And there was the demon-possessed man in Luke 11, who was finally able to speak once Jesus cast the demon out of him. There was the Canaanite woman’s daughter filled with an unclean spirit (see Mark 7 and Matthew 15), whom Jesus was able to heal from afar. And there was the boy suffering from demonic seizures in Matthew 17, who was healed by Jesus after the disciples were unable to do so.
The list goes on from there, depicting a world quite different from the one we live in now.
Or was it?
The truth is, our world is no less spiritual today than it was 2,000 years ago. Some cultures are simply less accustomed to recognizing the darkness and the various forms it takes. But “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 4:16). The warfare is real and we’re called to engage it. The stories of Jesus’ power over darkness prepare us for this battle by showing us two truths.
First, Jesus has authority over the darkness. In addition to rescuing us from darkness and teaching us how to resist it, Jesus is the King of kings, and there is nothing on this planet or in this cosmos that escapes His royal jurisdiction. As theologian N.T. Wright put it, “[Jesus] isn’t just somebody with good ideas. He isn’t just somebody who will tell us how to establish a better relationship with God. He is somebody with authority over everything that the physical world on the one hand, and the non-physical world on the other, can throw at us. This is a Jesus we can trust with every aspect of our lives.”
Second, Jesus exercises His authority with His words. Since the beginning of creation, when God spoke the world into existence, His words have had enormous power. We witness this same power when Jesus banishes each demon with a simple command. New Testament scholar Leon Morris explains, “No magic formulae, no mumbo-jumbo. He just told the spirits to go, and they went. That was what astonished people. He didn’t have to summon up stronger powers than his own; he just used the authority he already possessed in himself.”
Jesus’ power is a comfort to those of us in Christ. We have access to the same power and the same authority (Luke 10:19; Matthew 16:19). In Jesus’ name, we can rebuke the powers of darkness. We should acknowledge these powers exist, but we need not fear them or become preoccupied with them. Instead, let us wield our words with the same intention and precision as Jesus: creating, inspiring, building up, and fending off the darkness.
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of two boys. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and recently completed her Ph.D, which focused on cultivating the gifts of women in the church.