Jesus the Exorcist

…Jesus exorcisms were not merely isolated incidents of compassion for individuals oppressed by malevolent forces.  They were direct confrontations of the power and the presence of the Kingdom of God.  The success of Jesus’ assaults indicated that the head of that evil kingdom had already been bound, making possible the spoiling of his domain. David George Reese, “Demons” in ABD 2:141.

As with his healings, Jesus commands the demons to leave without invoking an authority.  It was common for exorcists of the first century to use powerful names in order to force demons out In Acts 19:13-16 the names of both Jesus and Paul were invoked as “power names” to cast out demons.) In Testament of Solomon 11, Solomon interrogates a demon who appears “like a stately lion. The demons identifies himself as “The Lion-Shaped Demon, an Arab by descent” who “sneaks in and watches over all who are lying ill with a disease and I make it impossible for man to recover from his taint.” In addition, this demon has legions of demons at this command at the time of the setting sun.  When Solomon asks how he can be cast out of a person, the demons replies “By the name of the one who at one time submitted to suffer many things (at the hands) of men, whose name is Emmanouel, but now he has bound us and will come to torture us (by driving us) into the water at the cliff. As he moves about, he is conjured up by means of three letters.” (Translation by D. C. Duling, in James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:972–973.)

JesusCastingOut_satanJesus does not make any elaborate preparations for an exorcism. In contemporary literature, the exorcist often did a number of rituals.  For example, in the book of Tobit the angel Raphael instructs Tobias on how to cast out his bride’s demon:

Tobit 8:1-3  When they had finished eating, they escorted Tobias in to her. 2 As he went he remembered the words of Raphael, and he took the live ashes of incense and put the heart and liver of the fish upon them and made a smoke. 3 And when the demon smelled the odor he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him.

Jesus does not even pray to expel demons. In the DSS  Genesis Apocryphon, Abram prays to cast out a demon. In this expansion on Gen 12:10:20, Abram prays for “all the cities of Egypt” afflicted with plague after he lied about Sarai The King of Egypt asks Abram to “pray for me and for my household so that this evil spirit will be banished from us.” Abram prays and lays his hands on the king, and the “plague was removed from him; the evil [spirit] was banished [from him] and he recovered” (1QapGen, column 20).

Is there any connection between Second Temple Period messianic expectations and the exorcisms? Usually scholars cite Isaiah 61, especially the “prisoners being set free.” But Graham Twelftree expresses doubt that these passages have been read correctly since there is also the idea of Satan being active until the end of the age in the Gospels.  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. He uses texts like Isaiah 24:22 (shut into prison then after many days released.)

13 thoughts on “Jesus the Exorcist

  1. There is always spiritual warfare lurking about causing tension within a Christian’s life, but I find the most comfort that Jesus has the ultimate authority and power among the devil. Jesus demonstrates that power and authority by casting out demons. “The demon (from Mark 1:21-28) recognizes Jesus as God’s agent adn reacts with terror, knowing his power to destroy him… Through his exorcisms, Jesus is invading and breaking down the demonic ramparts of Satan’s kingdom” (Strauss 461) Mark 9: 21-29 talks about a boy who has an unclean spirit, and Jesus commands the demon to come out of the boy. The disciples ask why they couldn’t cast out the demon and Jesus replies in vs. 29 “And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Jesus can cast out demons because He is God, but for anyone else, prayer for the power of God is the only answer. Humans do not have the power to cast out demons and the only thing that will is God.

  2. No matter who we are or what we do, Christians will always struggle with something. But the good thing is is that God has all control and power over satan and his demons. It is shown in Matthew 8:31 where the demons are scared and beg Jesus to cast them into the heard of swine. And in Luke 4:41, when the demons came out crying and saying “you are the Son of God! Jesus then showed his power by rebuking them and did not allow them to speak. I believe that Jesus is the only one with the power to do these things. The one thing we can do to get help is just by prayer and let God handle the rest.

  3. There is definitely a connection between the messianic expectations and Jesus’ exorcisms. “Jesus’ exorcisms… are intended to reveal the presence and power of the kingdom in his ministry” (Strauss 461). Strauss also points out on the next page that Christ explains to the Pharisees his intentions in the exorcisms he performs. Jesus says, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28). It is really interesting to me how I see a whole new aspect of Jesus’ ministry when I recognize that he came to announce the Kingdom, especially in the light of the messianic expectations of the Jews at that time.

  4. The Second Temple Period Jews were expecting the Messiah to come and be a warrior. They expected Him to cause the kingdom of Satan to fall. Instead Jesus comes as a man and throws demons out. It had to be real awkward when Jesus is only casting out demons, healing, and teaching about the Kingdom. Jesus was bringing a war though He was taking back the possessions of Satan and reclaiming them for the Kingdom. Jesus is even proving to be God’s son by casting out the demons without preparation and without using anyone’s name. Jesus isn’t required to use the mysticism’s of men rather he uses his authority as the messiah. Because Jesus is able to not do things the way they did them he completely messed with their thought of the Messiah. Jesus did bring war by casting out demons and he brought the kingdom of God by overwhelming the kingdom of Satan.

  5. The expectations for a messiah in the second temple messianic era depended on the deliverance from evil and empowerment for a righteous life. The exorcisms of Jesus, proclaimed in the gospels, reveal to the knowledgable Jews that Jesus was truly the messiah for he in fact had the power of the Son of God. Like Anna said, “but I find the most comfort that Jesus has the ultimate authority and power among the devil” I would venture to say the faith the Jews had in Jesus was drawn on his power to perform miracles. Traditionally, the power of prayer was the necessary component needed to perform exorcisms, calling upon the names of the high and mighty, where Jesus broke that tradition when he spoke directly to the demons. In Mark 1 Jesus speaks at a demon and tells him to be gone, the demon recognizes Jesus and Jesus tells him to be quiet. Although these exorcism were under skepticism, they were ultimately designed to “Jesus’ exorcism and healings are intended to reveal the presence and power of te kingdom in his ministry” (Strauss 461).

  6. While I agree with Cody that Jesus’ exorcisms fulfill Second Temple messianic expectations to the extent that Jesus is symbolically freeing those who are being dominated and enabling them to worship God, I think that these exorcisms are actually more of an example of Jesus subverting messianic expectations than fulfilling them. Casting out demons in His own power demonstrates Jesus’ authority in the spiritual realm. Second Temple messianic expectations generally focused on a kingdom much more political and physical, and much less spiritual. Thus, Jesus’ use of exorcisms in addition to healings helps emphasize that He was introducing a kingdom which did not necessarily conform to Jewish expectation. “The kingdom of God is manifested through the defeat of Satan in Jesus’ exorcisms” (Strauss, 462). It seems to me like there is a connection between Jesus’ spiritual authority to cast out demons and His spiritual authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-2, par.). In His healing of the paralytic man, Jesus begins by recognizing his faith and forgiving his sins, and only after the Pharisees question His authority does Jesus heal the man physically. Jesus seems to be placing the greatest emphasis on what He can do for people spiritually, rather than simply focusing on the external.

  7. I think it is really great to read this and see how powerful Jesus is. He did not need to pray, or do anything to set up for an exorcism, he just cast them out with no problems. We all have spiritual warfare we have to deal with, we need to put our strength in Jesus Christ if we want to get by and concur. Jesus is the one with the power and the ability to control everything, all things in our lives.

  8. I remember vividly the first time I heard about Jesus casting out demons. I was a wee child and was spending my second or third week at a camp in northern Michigan. Our speaker was Kirby Huseby and he is a gifted child evangelist and speaker. He spoke from Luke 8 and his description of the man who came from the tombs being filled with a legion of demons was borderline terrifying. I mean, imagine sitting in a nearly completely dark open air chapel, in the middle of the woods, listening to a bubbly, outgoing man bellow about legions of demons. Needless to say, the picture was imprinted into my mind. But even more than that was the fact that a man named Jesus could cast out the demons and make the man better. It was amazing to my little child mind and honestly still is awesome to me today. Considering this and the post above, I do believe that Jesus was fulfilling messianic expectations to an extent, but He was demonstrating His power over Satan and the forces of darkness even more. That very fact that Satan is still at work today symbolizes that Jesus Christ is still active in driving out darkness in all of our lives. John 8:12 says, “when Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I love the parallel of light and life in this verse because Jesus truly, by casting out demons, was removing the darkness from those individual’s lives and giving them His light and life. There is no doubt that Jesus has defeated Satan and death through the cross, but that total defeat has not been fully complete, but is still to come at His second coming, like Long has stated in his last paragraph. This is why I feel Jesus’ exorcisms were more than just a fulfillment of messianic expectations, but were also a display of His power over the forces of darkness and even a glimpse of the defeat that was to come through His death on the cross and even into the future second coming.

  9. I would agree that I too get a little uneasy when I hear the word exorcism; it just makes me think of a bunch of creepy movies with demonic people and a terrified priest who tries to help. This was probably not the way people handled exorcisms in biblical times but as Professor Long pointed out, people did have ritualistic ways of going about exorcisms. I agree with Cody that the fact that Jesus didn’t need to go through any rituals or use anyone’s name to rebuke the demon just goes to show the power that Jesus had/has. Not only that but it also shows that Jesus is fighting against the powers of hell and is at the same time demonstrating it. “This is not an isolate encounter. Rather, through his exorcisms, Jesus is invading and breaking down the demonic ramparts of Satan’s kingdom” (Strauss 461). He was God and did not need power from any other source. Jesus was making a statement; he was the Messiah that they had all been waiting for. In Luke 8:22-25 Jesus calms the storm on the boat with the disciples and this is how they respond, “…The disciples were terrified and amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”’ This is a great illustration of Jesus’ power and just one of many miracles that showed his power, including other exorcisms.

  10. When Jesus cast out demons he was fulfilling messianic expectations and also showing his power over Satan. Strauss says, “If his exorcisms were the work of God, ‘then the kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Matt. 12:28, Luke 11:20)” (Strauss, 470). Through Jesus’ healings and exorcisms he showed that he was the “inaugurator of God’s kingdom” (Strauss, 470). Not only did his exorcisms prove this, they proved the amazing power that Jesus had over evil. An important point that was recognized in the blog is that, while Jesus’ defeated Satan with his death on the cross, it will not be complete until Jesus’ second coming.

  11. Personally, I think that there is some connection between the Second Temple Period messianic expectations and the exorcisms done by Christ. Isaiah 24 talks about the redemption from the coming Messiah, which is a prophecy during the Second Temple Period. The judgement of the entire earth is comparable to exorcisms for a few reasons. First of all, these concepts are similar because they are acts of redemption, or saving. Both the body consumed by the demons as well as the people within the earth each have a second chance at life. Secondly, both acts are righteous acts, as they are intended by God Himself. The people during the Second Temple Period had expected God to punish and replenish the earth. They expected God to eliminate and punish the evil in the world. On the other hand, in an exorcism, God did not even pray – He was so powerful that He could eliminate the demons in a body just by voice command, defeating Satan’s kingdom and restoring His own (Strauss, p. 461). Exorcisms are easily exaggerated, as I agree Professor Long with your point on how much priests do to prepare and Jesus never had to. Regardless, I believe that these concepts are similar based on the fact that they rely on the power and immutability of God, along with the comparison in messages each concept sends.

  12. Who has the power to cast out demons? Some argue that any Christian off the street has such power. Others argue that only priests or Vatican-approved exorcists can perform such acts. Others claim that only Jesus and the disciples held authority over demonic spirits. However, I would argue that there is only one person powerful enough to cast out Satan and his demons. Only the Holy Spirit, I would argue, has this power. However, there is good news for those afraid that they are at the mercy of demonic forces: the Holy Spirit, the one with the power to expel the forces of spiritual darkness, resides within believers. Just as the Spirit resided in Jesus and the disciples, the Spirit remains within all those who hold citizenship in Heaven.

    Father Vince Lampert, the designated Exorcist of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is a leading American expert on exorcisms and demonology. Whereas Jesus does not need to evoke the authority of the Holy Spirit in order to cast out demons (because as a member of the Trinity he IS the Holy Spirit), Fr Lampert (and other exorcists) evoke the power of Jesus and the Spirit to perform exorcisms by using objects, prayers, and mindsets which point to that which is greater than us (Long, 2014; Capturing Christianity, 2020). Objects include holy water and crucifixes, prayers include ritual prayers sanctioned by the Catholic Church to be used in exorcisms, and the mindset the exorcists must use is one that focuses on the work of God in the possessed person’s life rather than focusing on the displays of horror and power being performed by the demon when they manifest (Capturing Christianity, 2020). Thus, the power to cast out demons does not come from the Priest or from the Church, but from the Holy Spirit.

    Jesus, then, being one with the Holy Spirit and therefore having the power himself to control demons, does not need any rituals, power names, or holy objects to perform exorcisms (Long, 2014). Though Jesus and his disciples no longer roam the earth casting out demons, Satan and his minions continue to exercise their influence and power through temptation/obsession (mental attacks from demons), possession, infestation (the presence of demons in a location or object), vexation (physical attacks from demons) (Capturing Christianity, 2020). Therefore, those with the Holy Spirit must continue to participate in Spiritual Warfare, because Satan certainly is not taking a break.

    References:

    Capturing Christianity. (2020, October 22). “Bone-Chilling Interview with a Real-Life Exorcist (Fr. Vince Lampert) [Video file].” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhhi7Fk3ueI

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