Jesus Casts Out Demons

Title: Jesus Casts Out Demons


Text: Matthew 8:28-34

Time: October 19th, 2008

In 1976 one of the scariest movies ever produced by Hollywood hit theaters; it was called The Exorcist. It described the demonic possession of a young girl in Washington, D.C. and attempts by Catholic priests to cast it out. It graphically depicted the spiritual warfare between good and evil, between the unseen forces of Satan and the power of God, and the struggle of humans against super-human powers determined to take over control of a little girl’s mind, body, and soul. In the end, the demons were indeed cast out, but not necessarily in a biblical way because it resulted in the death of two priests. And although the ending wasn’t based on the Bible or Christian experience, many of the details of the description of events leading up to and during the possession were accurate according to the biblical record and church historical accounts. The movie will always remain a part of the cultural memory of the modern world because it brought together themes of good and evil in a way that couldn’t be dismissed as mere fiction. What made the movie so frightening is that these themes are found in the Bible and spoken of in church every week in one form or another. Fiction would be easier to put out of mind, but faithful Christians consider these topics not fiction but fact as far as Christianity is concerned. Unfortunately, many people go no further than in their knowledge of Satan and demon possession than a Hollywood movie. For many people, The Exorcist movie is their only exposure to any knowledge of the power of satanic possession and the power of God to set free a possessed person. That’s unfortunate because Hollywood never has been and never will be a trustworthy source of spiritual and theological wisdom. At best, it’s a mixture of true and false, accurate and inaccurate, fact and fiction. So in order to gain a better knowledge of the power of evil and the power of God we must turn to the only accurate source of information available today – the Bible. Fortunately, we have an abundance of material about demonic possession, it’s description, and it’s cure, in the New Testament, particularly in the teachings and life examples of Jesus Christ. Jesus frequently encountered possessed persons in his ministry in the first century, and he was always able to cast the demons out and set free the person from the power of evil. Is that same power to set possessed persons free today? Yes, in Jesus’ name. There is no reason why a person, any person needs to be demon possessed, unless of course for some strange reason they want to be. But for any person who truly wants to be set free from demonic possession, they can be set free in Jesus’ name. What does all of this have anything to do with us today in the 21st century? Well, for one, it’s in the Bible as revelation from God, so it must be relevant in some way or another. Another thing, we just might encounter a demon-possessed person at some point in our life, and we’ll need to know what to do and how to react. Are you ready to deal with a demon-possessed person? Do you know what to do? Would you know how to act? Let’s learn about this situation so if in fact we are ever called by God to face it, we’ll at least know something about it. At least we’ll be equipped. Let me make a few observations from Matthew 8:28-34 (read). 

First, demon possession is a reality. Matthew 8: 28, “When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.” According to most medical, psychological and psychiatric thinking there is no such thing as actual demon possession. In the movie The Exorcist, the little possessed girl was taken to all the modern experts and they could find nothing wrong with her; nothing that could cure her. That was over 30 years ago, but it’s still the same today. The professional health care experts still refuse to list demon possession as a recognized ailment. The most they will say is that a person might think they are truly possessed of a demon and that thought or belief can be removed by the power of suggestion, but nothing more. But as Christians, as believers in God, we know that there really is demon possession because the Bible clearly teaches it. Here is a passage that says specifically, “two demon-possessed men” met Jesus; it says it, so it must be so. There is that familiar phrase, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” applies also to demon possession as well. We believe by faith all that the Bible teaches, and it clearly teaches that Jesus cast out demons from possessed persons. So it must be that demons are real, and it must be possible for them to possess people, and also it’s possible for them to be removed from a person through the power of God. Demons are real, but God’s power is stronger than the power of evil.

Second, in possession, demons take over a person’s personality. Matthew 8:28, “When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that one could pass that way.” The symptoms of demon-possession include a change in personality and a change in behavior. These two demon-possessed men evidently lived in and around a cemetery, among the tombs, in the place of dead people, in a graveyard. They were violently anti-social, so much so that the town’s people were afraid to go near them. Now that’s not normal. Something affected those two men in a strange way. Their personalities were changed and their behavior was changed by the demonic powers that had taken possession of them. In the movie The Exorcist, this process of personality and behavioral change was graphically illustrated in the life of the little girl who was possessed. That was Hollywood, but the Bible describes a real account where two adult men were possessed and underwent radical changes in their personalities and lifestyles. That’s what demon possession can do. Now there is no rule as to the degree of change a possessed person may experience. Some persons who are possessed experience some change once in a while, while others experience large-scale change almost constantly. Some persons exhibit occasional possession, while others seem to be possessed constantly. This represents the different degrees in which a person may be possessed.

Third, demons are disembodied spirits, seeking bodies to inhabit to influence the world. Matthew 8:29-31, “’What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’ Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the heard of pigs.’” What are demons? They are fallen angels who followed Satan or Lucifer in the angelic revolt against God and God’s will in prehistoric times. They are rebel spirits that roam the earth seeking bodies in order to influence the world for evil. That’s a scary thought, but it’s true according to the Bible. Yes, there are spirits present all around, invisible, but real. Here in Jamestown we live just a few miles away from the famous spiritualist community of Lily Dale, where they hold séances and attempt to contact departed spirits of the deceased. What they don’t realize is that they are really not dealing with departed souls but rather deceiving demonic spirits. Yes, they are correct that spirits are real and available for interaction, but these are not harmless departed souls caught between the hear-and-now and the life-to-come. They are contacting and communicating with demon spirits. It’s very dangerous and harmful. I’ve warned people against communicating with spirits, so much so that they won’t print my articles any more in the local paper. But it’s a verifiable fact that those who contact and communicate with “spirits” are opening themselves up to demonic possession. There’s a clear link. It’s interesting in the Exorcist movie, the little girl is possessed through playing with a ouija board. That’s one of the factual parts of the movie. Demons seek to take on bodily form in order to influence the world. Without a body they are limited to planting thoughts in people’s minds, but once they’ve taken over a person’s mind and body, they can do all kinds of evil. That is their goal. These two men were completely taken over by demons.

Fourth, demons are parasites that live off their host body, eventually hurting or destroying it. Matthew 8:31-32, “The demons begged Jesus, ‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’ He said to them, ‘God!’ So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.” We learn more about demons from this brief description. In a couple of verses before, we learn that the demons fear Judgment Day, saying to Jesus, “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time,” Matthew 8:29. Then they begged Jesus to not disembody them but rather let them enter into the pigs’ bodies, so evidently they don’t like being without some physical control or in possession of a fleshly body. But almost always when demons do gain control over human or animal flesh, they destroy it in some way, either through injury or death. In other words, as parasites living off their pitiful host body they almost always destroy it. Do you know what a parasite is? It’s something that lives off another thing, usually harming the host and eventually killing it completely. I just finished working a few days at my parent’s house in Michigan. They have lots and lots of beautiful pine trees and evergreens but something was starting to kill them; we finally identified the killer as parasite wild grape vines that were coming up from the ground, climbing the trees and smothering out all the sunlight from the leaves of the trees. The pines and evergreens were starting to die. One might have already died. My job was to pull down all the wild parasite grape vines and give the trees a chance to live. I spent two days pulling down lots and lots of wild killer vines. I got them all but if I hadn’t pulled them down they probably would have killed all the trees they were attached to. As I was removing them I thought of demon possession because that’s exactly what demons do; they attach themselves to a person and like a blood sucker — another parasite, and they suck all the life out of a person, often destroying the person entirely.

Fifth, Jesus’ power can cast demons out. Matthew 8:32, “He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs. . . .” In the movie The Exorcist, one of the inaccurate parts was when the Catholic priests seemed defenseless against the demon possessing the little girl. The movie showed the power of Satan rather than the power of God. The victory of Jesus over the demonic powers in the New Testament was not accurately portrayed in the movie. Instead, it over-exaggerated the power of the devil. Yes, Satan and demons have power, but Jesus has greater power to cast them all out of a person. I wished The Exorcist had been more accurate in showing God’s power over evil. With one word, Jesus casts out all the demons in both the men. With the word, “Go!” Jesus sends all the demons packing. Contrast that with the pitiful depiction of the priests trying futilely to cast the demons out of the little girl, only to resort to an act of defeat by inviting the demons to leave the girl and enter the priest – which by the way is totally unbiblical. We are never instructed to invite demons to enter us, but rather to cast them out of everyone! I’ve experienced dealing with demon possessed persons and I know that evil spirits are stubborn and don’t want to leave. They’ve found a host body and they are content to stay in that body and have their evil influence through it. They don’t leave easily. It takes strong commands and much prayer and determination. But eventually, through the power of God in the name of Jesus they must come out. The only exception is when the host person doesn’t really want them to leave; then, it’s a waste of time because the host is enabling them to stay, willing their presence. In that case, unless the host wills them to go, they can’t be cast out. But fortunately, the vast majority of people who are really possessed of demons actually do want the things to leave; they want their life back.

Sixth, Jesus’ power over evil is good news to the believers, but bad news to unbelievers. Matthew 8:33-34, “Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.” Strange that the town’s people should want Jesus to leave, to leave them alone. Here Jesus had just freed two poor men from the influence and possession of demons, yet the people of the town asked him to leave. Why that reaction? The truth is, casting out demons and binding the power of Satan isn’t always welcomed among people. For example, when I wrote a series of articles in the Post-Journal warning people about the dangers of occult spiritism in Lily Dale, many people were upset instead of thankful. Why? Because some people actually welcome these kind of spirits into their lives. We don’t know about the town’s people but there were probably a high percentage of persons of that area who had demon influence in their lives. We know that there are certain regions of our country and the world that exhibit higher degrees of demonic influence than others. And in all parts, there are always some people who make foolish pacts with the devil in one way or another. There are people who cut foolish deals with the devil to get things or in exchange for power, money, status, pleasure, etc. While there are not many people who are actually possessed like these two men, there are probably many people who are influenced by demons in their minds and emotions. And everyone, including Christians, is tempted by demons from time to time. Who knows how many people are affected emotionally by demons. How many people are discouraged, depressed, despairing because of demonic influence? It’s hard to say. Never underestimate the power of the devil to do harm to humanity. After all, he led our parents Adam and Eve into sin in the Garden of Eden. If he could do that to them, he can do harm to us also. We don’t ever have to fear the devil, but we should be aware of him and never foolishly put ourselves in a position to be influenced by him. Never, ever use occult instruments, such as the ouija board. Never visit a fortune teller or participate in a séance. I know that some Christian people do these things, but they put themselves at great risk. Always stay informed. Pray always against evil. Be prepared. You never know when the Lord might call you to take a stand against the demons and deal with a possessed person.


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