Jesus and Demons

As with his healings, Jesus commands the demons to leave without invoking an authority (Matt 8:28-34).  Later exorcisms in Acts are done in the name of Jesus, but Jesus simply command the demons and they leave the victim.   In fact, knowing the name of the demon was consider the first step in an exorcism.  In Luke 7:26-36 Jesus encounters a man with a demon living among the tombs near Gerasenes.  This demon speaks to Jesus and calls him “Son of the Most High God.”  This ought to have given the demon power of Jesus since he knows Jesus’ true name.  But Jesus simply commands the demon to give his name, then commands the demon to come out of the man.  No other authority is necessary for Jesus to cast out the demon, they simply obey him.

Also absent from Jesus’ exorcisms are the elaborate preparations for an exorcism described in contemporary literature. [Tobias] took the live ashes of incense and put the heart and liver of the fish upon them and made a smoke. And when the demon smelled the odor he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him (Tobit 8:2-3).  The Testament of Solomon is more or less a manual on how to cast out demons written in the third century A.D., although it may contain material from much earlier.  In this story, workers in the Temple find a ring which is able to control demons.  Solomon then captures and interrogates a series of demons.  They are forced to give there name and what they are in charge of as demons.  Then Solomon forces them to explain how they are cast out.  For example, in chapter16  Solomon interrogates a demon called Kunopegos, a spirit in the shape of a horse in front and a fish in back (a sea-horse?)   He can change himself into a man and causes seasickness.  In order to thwart this demon, one must go through a complicated ritual involving bowls and hemp ropes. Solomon sealed him with his ring and stored the demon away.

What is the point of Jesus’ exorcism ministry?  Twelftree argues that there is a two-stage defeat of Satan being described in the gospels, the first mission of Messiah render the power of Satan useless, it is in his second coming that he will judge him and consign him to the Lake of Fire (270).  Satan is trying to hinder Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus constantly defeats him with no struggle whatsoever.

G.  H.  Twelftree, “Demons, Devil, Satan,” in DJG 163-172.

Wendy Cotter, Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook for the study of New Testament Miracle Stories (Routledge, 1999).

17 thoughts on “Jesus and Demons

  1. “What is the point of Jesus’ exorcism ministry? Twelftree argues that there is a two-stage defeat of Satan being described in the gospels, the first mission of Messiah render the power of Satan useless, it is in his second coming that he will judge him and consign him to the Lake of Fire (270). Satan is trying to hinder Jesus’ ministry, but Jesus constantly defeats him with no struggle whatsoever.”

    This is an interesting observation since I never really thought that Jesus had an exorcism ministry. I just thought that this was a part of his earthly ministry and the ministry he had with the Jews. The Jews dealt with demons and demon possessed people it was only going to be natural for Jesus to deal with them as well. His ministry did demonstrate that he had power over Satan. Even though Satan tried to mess up Jesus’ ministry Jesus withstood every trial (i.e. Luke 4:1-13). No matter what the demons did Jesus had power over him even if they knew his name (Mark 1:24).

    I am just wondering what role this had in his overall ministry. His mission was not just to have an exorcism ministry it was to save humanity. How does this play into that overarching mission of Jesus Christ?

    • I think you bring up a good question here Brent. “How does this play into that overarching mission of Jesus Christ?”
      My opinion to answer your questions is this. The reason Jesus had an exorcism ministry is because He also came to bring a more abundant life for His followers. (John 10:10) I believe Jesus had to have this exorcism ministry because if He didn’t He wouldn’t have reached the needs of His culture. It’s not a common thing when someone in America is possessed with a demon, therefore I think that is where a lot of our confusion as to why Jesus did this ministry comes from. We don’t see the need for this type of ministry because we literally do not see it.
      If we lived in a society where demon possession was almost normal we would definitely want a Savior who had conquered demons before. What if Jesus didn’t have an exorcism ministry while He was here on earth? Wouldn’t that put a damper on the whole “Jesus is greater than Satan” mindset and belief?
      I see valid importance in what Jesus did with his demon conquering. Because what if the demons that we read about in the Bible aren’t the same today in America? What if demons look more like idolatry, greed, selfishness, pride, lust, fame, etc..? What if these are the kinds of demons we see today and not foaming at the mouth and evil voices and compulsions? Because Jesus has already defeated Satan, in more than one way, I now find hope that I can escape the demons of my day.

      • I believe the exorcism ministry Jesus had hold some very valid importance. Joe is right when he says we live in a world where demon possession is not necessarily a common thing. Let’s say it were to be a frequent occurrence, wouldn’t we want to have a savior who is greater than Satan to be there. Back then the Jews dealt with the possession and I can totally see why the ministry was important but some are confused over why Jesus had this ministry because we can physically see it. I also believe this is why God does not give the people on this earth the power of exorcism, healing etc. He gave that power at one time in the Bible but not right now.
        Right now when I think of demons, I am reminded of things such as hate, greed, selfish ambition, etc.. Those are the kinds of demons we face today. The thing of it is, Jesus has already defeated Satan and that is why I have the hope I have for escaping the demons that are in my day.

  2. I think that the purpose of Jesus’ exorcism ministry was to show his complete power over satan, his complete healing, and to also show man our victory over satan/demons/sin through Christ Jesus as well. His approach to demons is with a confidently, calm attitude of absolute power. No temptations, lies, or intimidation even phases him. (Matt. 4:1-11, 8:28-32, 17:14-18) While I agree that we live in a time where there may not appear to be very much demon possession, I believe that there is more subtly than we think. I’ve spent time ministering on an Indian reservation and have definitely seen some very blatant instances of demon possession. Like Joe and Rick said though, I think the passage applies in a twofold manner. Both to the actual power of Christ over works of demons, and to the personal “demons” that each of us faces daily. The most important thing about Jesus’ ministry though, is in seeing the ultimate victory that Christ has over sin. This power and victory over satan/sin/death is in us. Luke 10:19 says, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” His Holy Spirit is in us. Victory over death, satan, and sin is as well. This ministry was to model this for us.

  3. After reading this post I do I agree with David the purposes of Jesus’s exorcism ministry. Along with his statements I would like to add fear, fear that the demons have towards Jesus and fear that the people have towards him as well. This ministry is a unique one in the fact that we really can’t even imagine how these demons were physically casted out of people. I’m sure that it was a sight to see even back then. Some things that really struck me while reading Luke 8:26-37 was the fear the demon had of Jesus. Verse 28 says “When he (the demon) say Jesus, he cried out and fell at his fee, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” This shows utmost fear of Jesus. After Jesus gets rid of them people start talking and telling others what Jesus had just done. Verse 37 says “Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with FEAR. So he got into the boat and left.” When I first read this it sounded like the opposite of what a ministry was supposed to be like, but then when I re-read that verse it showed me that ministry was definitely done. Fear of the Lord was proven in a very significant way.

  4. I like how David said that there is more subtlety than we think in regards to demon possession and I would agree. I read Jesus’ exorcism ministry and see something that really jumps out to me. Luke 10:18 we see that Jesus claims to have seen Satan fall like lightening from heaven. It’s almost as if it is said very bluntly and matter-of-fact like. If Christ was there at Satan’s demise, is it any surprise that He has power over Satan and his powers? When I think of exorcisms, I immediately go to catholic church rituals with holy water, medallions, incantations… much like what was practiced all throughout history and here we see Christ driving out demons simply by 1) commanding them by name and 2) speaking. I see this ministry as vital because James says that it is useless to give people spiritual food when their physical needs are unmet. Jesus’ exorcism ministry is just another venue to reach an otherwise unreachable population.

  5. I’d say I agree with most of this post; Blomberg writes on page 312, “Jesus’ power to deal with this situation, therefore, magnifies his divine authority all the more.” (Referring to the exorcing the gerasene demoniac, Mark 5). Blomberg also makes the comment regarding Jesus first coming was not for the final judgment of the demonic realm, rather there was spiritual warfare going on.

    When I think of the situation where Jesus is tempted by Satan, Jesus himself quotes the living Word of God. Jesus knows the Word and is able to discern the twistings of the implications from Satan. Does this relate any? I think it does in saying that not only does Jesus himself have authority to have power over demons, but the Word of God is also at an authority standpoint in having power over demons.

    In regards to why Jesus could just call out the demon by name and tell them to leave, vs his disciples calling out demons by his name, Jesus himself has been given authroity of all of heaven and earth.

  6. This is an obvious fact that Jesus was given authority over heaven and earth, but it is quite a Sunday School answer. The thought of Jesus not having to attach authority to his casting out of demons is interesting to me. I think that one reason is to show the deity of Christ through counter-cultural exorcism, for lack of a better word, technique. Jesus is the only one with automatic authority over all, which is evident in his intense exorcisms. In the synoptic gospels, in which Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, there is an example of Exorcism by Jesus’ own authority within 2 chapters of the confession in each of the gospels. The disciples would have understood this authority and would obviously see His power in the results. In the gospels, this point was made immediately before Peter’s confession in Luke, and emphasize His confession in Matthew and Mark. Those whom Jesus rescues from their battles with demons would also understand Hsi authority as different from other teachers of the law. His disciples, then would also understand the importance of separating themselves form Jesus’ deity by having to invoke His name in their exorcisms. It relates them to Him, but does not carry the connotation of them being confused as “gods”.

  7. This is an interesting side of the exorcism’s that I have never thought of before. To me the exorcism’s were more of a point to demonstrate not only to Satan, and the demons, but who ever was to come across these stories that Christ was different from all others that have performed exorcisms in the past. He didn’t have to call on the name of any other god or prophet to cast the demons out. In the case for the naked man who wandered in a grave yard, Legion knew who Jesus was, and that demonstrated to whom ever was there, and to who ever read the story that not only do his disciples recognize him as God’s son, but also the demons do.

    But this demonstration as a two-fold never crossed my mind. It makes sense, but is this looking to far into this idea?

    • I do not think so, since understanding historical exorcisms must come from the first century, not modern movies. Jesus was not doing a Possession of Emily Rose style exorcism, where the victim dies from the cure! He commands, and the demons obey.

  8. I’ve never had a very clear picture in my mind when reading biblical accounts of demon possession and exorcism. In an age where we don’t often encounter demon possession, this shouldn’t come as a huge shock, but surely raises the question of relevancy, and how to integrate this into our understanding of Jesus’ ministry. I’d like to echo Brent’s question as to what degree were this exorcisms a part of his “ministry”, if at all. They don’t seem to be paired with a teaching, like his parables or, arguably, his other miracles. Was it just simply Jesus’ divine nature that gave him no choice but to exorcise when confronted with demons?

    I enjoyed reading the huge contrasts of Jesus’ exorcisms versus those depicted in contemporary literature, and will dare to draw some purpose from this comparison. These accounts describe elaborate preparations from both Tobias and Solomon. With Jesus, there were none. Exorcisms are performed post-Jesus, but only in his name, something very noteworthy in this discussion, for Jesus only drew authority from himself, ever. The Jesus who came to serve, to put himself last, to sacrifice himself, needed absolutely no other authority to exert dominance over Satan. To me, these exorcisms seem to be a very simple and direct authentication of Jesus’ divinity, and therefore, essential to his ministry and an important precursor to his death on the cross. For it wasn’t his teaching or ethics or perfectly lived life but that he was the Son of God that made him the only possible sacrifice for humanity.

  9. I don’t really believe that Jesus had a “exorcism ministry” but I believe that he cast demons out of people because it not only shows everyone his power that demons know his know and follow his authority, but that he is helping the people by freeing them from the grips of demons. Isn’t that what Jesus’ ministry is really all about? Loving and caring and bringing everyone to the kingdom?

  10. I am with Kyle on this one. I do not really view when Jesus cast out demons from people I do not believe his purpose was to start a ministry from it. I think his purpose behind doing so is not only to help these people who are being controlled by demons but to show the power he had. It also shows the demons that they are not victorious and never will be. I think it is more fair to say that Jesus had a healing ministry and this could be included in that essence of the ministry, but to say he had an “exorcism ministry” I am not sure that I can fully agree with that.

  11. I don’t think Jesus really had an exorcism ministry, but I think it was apart of His overall healing and evangelistic ministry. I think Jesus cast out demons for two reasons. One of these reasons was so that all could come to know Jesus as their Lord. Could someone who is demon possessed come to know the Lord as their savior? Well yes, but I don’t believe they could while possessed. I also think that Jesus was showing His power over Satan. He could drive out demons so easily. When I picture Jesus driving out demons, I picture Him lounging back like it’s no big deal. He is God and no task is too big for Him.

    • Your point is well taken, the ministry of Jesus included exorcism and healing, it was not a “healing ministry” in a modern sense. Scholarship usually talks about that part of Jesus’ activity as a “healing ministry” or “exorcism ministry.”

  12. The exorcism ministry of Jesus concludes that only Jesus has the authority to cast out demons. He never had to identify himself to the demons because they knew who He was. Jesus ministry is basic role modeling. Later on in the New Testament Paul uses the name of Jesus to cast out demons. He uses the authority of Christ. Like miracles this was another tool Jesus used to point us to God (His power). All though there was no teaching included in most of the exorcism, they depict a God that is greater than any outside force (demons). It was definitely not a huge highlight in the ministry of Christ (didn’t happen often). These exorcisms let us know there are demonic attacks, and we need to be aware of this

  13. That’s what separated Jesus from other miracle workers. He did not have to say “In the name of—” to take demons out. He simply commanded them out and they were gone from the possessed person. This would have been noted by many people. This would have led them to believe that this man named Jesus was truly amazing. In my observation of the bible, his miracles were the reasons why people were drawn to Jesus. And if he didn’t heal, people wouldn’t have followed him. The crowd of people is the testament that Jesus truly amazed those he healed.

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