Jesus vs. Demons

Matthew 8

January 8

Jesus has just finished his impressive Sermon on the Mount and many are following him. They hear something different in his teaching and are drawn to him. Now, it’s time for them to see something different! Jesus is not all talk. He shows them the love and power of God which God gave to His Son to put into action to make believers, to convince the people that the Messiah was in their midst. Jesus is incredible to watch. He conquers disease, isolation, paralysis, suffering, fevers, demon possession, storms and the elements. He teaches a better way (add love) and he demonstrates what that looks like, with a healthy dose of God’s power.

Jesus is not scared of the leper who has been ostracized, feared and shunned because of the painful sores on his body and this contagious disease. Rather, he stops, listens, reaches out his hand, touches him, and heals him with compassion and power.

Likewise, he heals the Roman centurion’s servant (without even touching or seeing him) because of the faith of the centurion. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and she responds by serving him. He heals the sick and demon-possessed and in a mighty way he calms the storm and amazes his disciples.

Those are all great accounts of awesome acts, but today I want to look a little deeper at the last events of Matthew 8 – the healing of two demon-possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes. It is certainly not because I have a wealth of information to share with you about demon-possession. It is indeed one of those Bible topics I know is in there, but still have a lot of questions about. It might be easier to try to ignore it and read right over it – but then I would be missing a chunk of Jesus’ life and power and I don’t want to do that. And I can’t help but feel that if I understand this a little more…there could be something useful for me to learn and put into action myself today.

So, what do we learn about these specific demons from this passage?

They are powerful and violent and have control over people even in a physical manner.

They are smart in spiritual matters. They recognize Jesus as the Son of God! They know that there will be a time coming when Jesus will do battle against them and torture them. (Matthew 8:29)

Despite all the power these demons have displayed over people, and the fear they have instilled in others, they are now in Jesus’ presence (since he was bold enough to go where others wouldn’t). And in Jesus’ presence they are begging him. They realize the Son of God, Jesus, has power over them. They have more than met their match.

And then there are the townspeople’s reaction to Jesus! They hear that Jesus has freed these two men from the demons that controlled them and terrorized their roadways. And they learn that Jesus had sent the demons (as per their request) into a herd of pigs which then rushed down the steep bank and drowned in the water. And their response is to plead with Jesus to leave town, leave them alone. They had grown accustomed to the demon possessed men. It might not be pleasant, but it was what they knew. They were used to their violent ways and were practiced at trying to avoid personal injury; maybe some demons weren’t too bad to have around. After all, the townspeople were still able to raise their pigs and have a decent way of life.

Until Jesus came around. He freed the men and sent the demons packing, but the pigs were lost. The people feared what they did not know. And, they were likely a bit upset about their material loss.

Help me to not grow comfortable in the presence of evil. Help me never be more attached to my material goods than to what is right. Help me to see clearly evil for what it is. And help me see clearly the power of God for what it is. Help me to see the power God has given Jesus over spiritual darkness and demons – then, now and in the future. Help me always choose good over evil, whatever the cost.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1 – What’s the worst storm you have ever been in? How would you react (both that day, and the following month) if Jesus had appeared in the middle of it and calmed the storm with his words? How did the disciples react? Why do you think Jesus calmed this storm but not all storms?

2 – Did reading this chapter make you think of any questions you have for God? Talk to Him about them.

3 – Jesus wasn’t afraid to help the outcasts, touch the lepers, and go where others wouldn’t dare. If Jesus were in your town today where do you think we would find him?

Love & Compassion

Mark 5

Mark 5 2

Coming off the week of Fuel is always hard; we go from an amazing week of worship and fellowship back to our regular lives. However, it is important not to return to that pattern. We should be able to have people around us see the difference that has been made. We want people to know we are Christians by our love. This chapter, Mark 5, is an excellent example of that. In the latter half we see Christ commend a woman’s faith that helped make her well. He also brings a child, of whom he doesn’t know, back from the dead. He showed that love and compassion to random strangers, but more interestingly to me, he showed love and compassion to a demon in the beginning.

At the beginning of this chapter we see he goes to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gerasenes. There he finds a man who is possessed by the demon legion, who has broken all restraints that have been used against him and has been cutting the man’s body as well. As soon as Christ arrives there the demon possessed man came running to him and was begging him to leave the area, and to not torment him. There are other stories where the demon has been cast out and they move on, but Jesus takes the time to ask his name, he even gives legion permission to take over the pigs nearby rather than just cast him out. He leads by example here, for he said to love your enemy. He could’ve not listened to the demon and driven him out to be done, but he didn’t. He took the time to talk to legion and showed mercy in letting him possess the pigs.

Sometimes we struggle enough showing compassion to people we work with and see on a daily basis, maybe we find them a little too talkative or annoying but that is no reason to not show love. I know plenty of teachers I work with who just get on my nerves sometimes because they have problems everyday with the little things, like their password or volume on their computer. It’s important though that I don’t get mad or angry with them because we are called to love and being upset when someone is having trouble or struggling will only make it worse. If Christ can show compassion to a demon possessing and harming a man, we should be able to find compassion in ourselves for those around us, even when it is hard.

So, start today.  Sit down with that one person we might try to avoid, talk to the one who seems out of place, have patience with them and put yourself out there to be known as the one who shows kindness and compassion to all. Try to lead by example and show compassion to others in our lives, even if they seem to torment us like a demon. It’ll be hard but just maybe from this we can learn to be a light and hopefully inspire them to follow suit.

 

Have a great week and hold strong,

 

-Kyle Cheatwood

Another Kind of Healing – When Pigs Fly

Mark 5:1-19

(But no one is stopping you from reading the whole chapter)

How many of you have ever seen a scary movie? I don’t recommend them. Being scared is not fun, but sometimes we can’t help being scared. Today we’re going to talk about something scary, but fear not! This devotion has a happy ending.

In this segment of Mark, we see Jesus healing another man, but this time, he is casting out demons. This wasn’t an ordinary casting out of demons either. This man that Jesus encountered had an unclean spirit that consisted of thousands of demons (5:9).  The man had been so out of his right mind that he was cast out of normal society and forced to live in a cave where people had tried to chain him up, but not even chains could hold this man down. He would scream and cut himself day and night (5:5). This man is clearly not okay. Yet Jesus still let the man seek him out.

Notice how Jesus is being approached by a man that can literally break chains, but he doesn’t seem to be worried. That is exactly how we should feel knowing that we have the God of Jesus on our side, too. The demons in this man fear Jesus and respect his authority. It says in verse 13 that Jesus “gave them permission.” They obey Jesus! Now the next part of the story is a little weird, but it is very important. The demons went into a herd of pigs and subsequently flew off a cliff. Okay, maybe they didn’t fly, but it’s still an odd thing for pigs to do.

This story is a little different from the story of the blind man that we looked at yesterday. The man who was healed in this story didn’t have a physical impairment; he was healed of a sickness of the mind. These kinds of sicknesses can be even scarier than the kind that affect us physically. One such mental sickness that has become very prominent lately is depression. I know firsthand just how many people suffer from depression these days, especially teenagers, so I want to share with you the story of when I saw pigs fly.

When I was younger, I had a close friend who suffered from severe depression and harmed herself in ways like the man that Jesus healed. Many times we think that self-harm is unique to our generation but this story really says otherwise. This was a really painful experience for me just by knowing that my friend was going through this. I urged my friend to talk to a trusted adult and to see a doctor because I knew that I was not qualified to counsel on this subject. However, there was one way that I was able to help. I offered my prayers. Prayer became a constant for me in this period of my life. I wanted nothing more than to see my friend freed of this demon, her depression. One day, I wanted to pray with my friend, so we went out to a park and sat together praying for hours. I remember my prayer: “God, I know that you have the power to cast out demons. Cast out this demon.” After repeating this many times, my friend looked up and I could see a difference in her eyes. Pigs flew, and her depression has never bothered her since then.

I don’t know whether an actual demon was involved in this story, but depression certainly acts like a demon, taking over your thoughts and actions. Whatever the cause of depression may be, our God is bigger and more powerful and there isn’t anything in this world that disobeys His command.

Don’t forget the ending of the story in Mark. After the man was healed, he wanted to follow Jesus, but he was turned down. Jesus told the man to go back to his family and testify to them. This is just like what we saw in John yesterday. After you are healed, Jesus wants you to make sure that the people you know can see that you really were healed.

Tomorrow I am going to go into the role that modern medicine plays into the healing that we can receive from God.
-Nathaniel Johnson

 

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