Authority Over Demons

by Paul George

Matthew 8:23-27

We have already seen that Jesus Christ can resist Satan, for in Matthew chapter 4, Satan tempted Him and the Lord was victorious. However, His power goes beyond that. The primary issue is not that Christ never gave in to Satan and his hosts; it is that He causes them to give in to Him.

Matthew has shown us the perfection of Jesus and His temptation, now we see the power of Jesus over demons, He makes them obey Him. By casting out demons throughout His ministry, Jesus was giving samples of His great power by destroying the works of the devil.

After leaving Capernaum, Jesus and some of His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee in a little boat. They encountered a storm, but the Lord calmed it. Then they continued on to the opposite shore, where they encountered two demon-possessed men, Mark and Luke claim there was one demonic.

What does it mean to be possessed with demons? Some people say that there is a difference between being obsessed, oppressed, and possessed. However, the Bible does not make those distinctions. Although a definition of demon possession might be helpful, it can also be limiting. Remember that demonic activity is a supernatural reality and we are not able to go any further than the Bible takes us in comprehending it. Demon possession is a condition in which one or more demons inhabit the body of a human being with the purpose of controlling it.

Verse 28 tells us that the demoniacs were living in tombs. To a Jewish person, one of the worst defilements of all was to touch a dead body.

In Luke 8:27, we are told they “wore no clothes.” In the Bible, the only people who went around naked were raving maniacs, who had no sense of social balance or modesty.

Matthew also says the demoniacs were “extremely violent.”

When the demoniacs saw Jesus they cried out, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” In other words, the demons who controlled those two men asked, “Why are you bothering us? Why are You here?” In Mark 5:6, we are told when they saw, a reference to the demons, Jesus; they “ran and worshipped Him.” It is incredible that the demons should bow before Jesus, but they did, because they knew exactly who He was. As fallen angels who participated in Satan’s rebellion against God, they are well acquainted with Him and Jesus His Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. Therefore, those particular demons knew that Jesus was their antagonist as well as their judge.

Think of it, beings that were damned for all eternity and knew it, could not resist worshiping Him, because they knew of His ultimate power. They realized that Jesus was there too soon to be judging them. They knew that Jesus was Christ, the Son of the living God and they knew that they were to be damned forever. Therefore, they bowed the knee to Christ, their judge.

The demons knew it was inevitable that they would be cast out, because they also knew of Jesus’ compassion for those whom they held captive. Consequently, they made a strange request: they wanted to inhabit a herd of swine. Why would they want to inhabit a herd of swine? We do not know, but maybe the demons, desiring a home, thought that their request to possess the swine would be acceptable to Jesus, who did not want the demons inhabiting people. Most probably, the demons feared being sent to the bottomless pit (Luke 8:31). Possibly, they wanted to destroy the swine so people would kill Jesus for having brought about the slaughter of the herd. We can only speculate. However, whatever the reason, Jesus told, the demons, “Go, and they came out and went into the swine.”

When men try to cast out demons, they work hard to get the demons to cooperate; but when Christ comes along; all the demons want to know is where they are allowed to go. Realizing that demons are powerful beings that men cannot effectively deal with on the supernatural level, one can see how ludicrous it is for people to think they can cast out demons by their cleverness. Demons are incredibly powerful. Therefore, the only way that man can handle them is by putting on the armor of God and being strong “in Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10-11). Only the power of the Lord Jesus Christ could cast demons into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:3), and He displayed His power by casting them into swine.

Jesus granted the demons their request; however, not for their sake, but for His. He allowed them to enter the herd of pigs. In trying to determine why Jesus granted that request, some people say that Jesus was teaching a lesson to people who were raising pigs when they should raise pigs. However, the primary point is that Jesus can cast out demons, and He gave a dramatic demonstration of His ability. The reality of His miracle was clear to those observing when a normally peaceful herd of pigs raced toward a cliff, dove in the water, and drowned, while at the same time, the individuals that had previously been demonized were sitting and clothed and in their right mind. The bystanders saw a deliverance they would never forget. Furthermore, Jesus’ exorcism portrayed the destructive nature of demons and gave them a preview of their coming destruction. Therefore, if you are concerned about the pigs, you have missed the point. We must be willing to allow the sacrifice of two thousand pigs for Jesus to manifest His incredible power.

When the herdsmen saw that their pigs had committed mass suicide by racing like maniacs into the water, they took off for the city as fast as they could go and reported “everything including what had happened to the demoniacs” (v 33).

Verse 34 – “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”

The city did not come out to Jesus to participate in a revival, as their request reveals. Some think that they said what they did because they were more concerned about the pigs than the souls of the demonized men. However, that reasoning is weak because the passage does not say a word about the owners of the pigs. The response is that of the whole city. Mark 5:15 says, “they were afraid.” They were not angry; they were scared to death. Luke 8:37 similarly says, “they were taken with great fear.”

The supernatural power of Jesus caused the townspeople to panic because they observed the One who not only controlled the demons, but also took the souls of two men and gave them back to them. Supernatural things make men uncomfortable. The people from the city were absolutely panicked by the presence of Jesus in their midst. Instead of falling at His feet in worship, they said, “Go away; we do not want you in our city.”

People think that if everybody could see miracles, they would believe. Unfortunately, many of the people who saw the miracles of Christ did not believe, they nailed Him to a cross instead. Some people, when exposed to the awesomeness of a holy God, want nothing to do with Him because they love their darkness. They are like bugs under a rock that run for cover as soon as they are exposed to light.

The fearful people who wanted Jesus out of their country never did break His compassion or mercy for them, for He left them at least one missionary as living proof of His mighty power. How wonderful that the grace of Christ is extended even to those who do not want it.

Demons are powerful, but we need not fear them as Christians, for the Spirit of the One who has permanently sealed their defeat indwells us.

Has your faith been shaken by someone who seemed to know more about the Bible than you and discredited the Biblical account? In your Bible reading, you have probably come across several apparent contradictions between parallel accounts of an incident. When you encounter them, put a question mark by them so that you can make a more detailed study that can provide some reasonable solutions. Many times, there are very simple explanations for apparent contradictions that historical, cultural, or geographical insights can help provide.

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