The Untouchables – The Demoniac

The Untouchables – The Demoniac

The Untouchables – The Demoniac.

“One Sabbath day, while Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, He encountered a seriously handicapped woman. She was crippled and had been doubled over for eighteen years. Her condition was caused by a demonic spirit of bondage that had left her unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her condition, He called her over and gently laid His hands on her. Then He said, ‘Dear woman, you are free. I release you forever from this crippling spirit.’ Instantly she stood straight and tall and overflowed with glorious praise to God!” (Luke 13:10-13).

The demonic realm seemed to have free reign during the time of Jesus. Every time Jesus turned around, it seemed like He had to perform an exorcism. Many scholars have noted that Jesus conducted more exorcisms than any historical figure on record. In the first three Gospels alone, there are over 60 references to demons, demon possession, and exorcism. Physical healing and spiritual healing through exorcism seemed to take up an equal amount of time in His ministry. Casting out demons seemed to take up just as much of His time as physical healings, and in fact, His ministry usually included both forms of healings together. “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons…”  (Mark 1:32-34). Jesus publicly revealed His authority over physical ailments and over spiritual possession. In the spiritual realm, not one demon ever successfully resisted the commands of Jesus. As soon as the demons saw it was Jesus, they accepted the spiritual reality of being overpowered.

Why was there such heightened dark spiritual forces active during this time? One scholar suggested that God allowed an unusual amount of demonic activity during the time of Jesus so that Jesus could show the world, and the dark side, His power and authority over Satan’s realm. Perhaps Satan knew his days were numbered after Jesus defeated him in the duel in the wilderness. (Luke 4). Perhaps Satan, in his insatiable hunger to defeat Jesus, went off on a full-force offensive to try to prove to the world that he would prevail in the end. At any rate, Jesus fully embraced this important part of His ministry. It is recorded in Mark that Jesus first became famous because of His exorcisms (Mark 1:28). And His exorcising work was not ended until His Passion and resurrection, when He drove out “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). Jesus started His ministry by driving out demons, and He ended it by driving out Satan himself, giving the world a complete exorcism. The Apostle John, who had an insider’s view of Christ and his ministry, summed it up when he said later, ‘”For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8). Isn’t it heartening to see that Jesus fully accepted and engaged in the spiritual world as powerfully and effectively as the physical world?

A demon-possessed person was considered spiritually unclean, harboring an “unclean spirit.” So most were understandably distant from anyone known to be possessed by a demon. They didn’t want to personally engage with or be confronted with a demon, naturally, and they certainly didn’t want to risk having a demon decide to jump out of one person and into another. Everyone was wary because so much of the demonic realm was mysterious and dark and obviously unhealthy. Everyone kept their distance, except Jesus.

Most people, mistakenly or not, believed that demons were the cause of many physical ailments. And practically everybody thought that demons were behind mental instability. So sickness and demons were closely associated during the time of Jesu. There are a few examples in the Gospels of physical impairments being attributed to demons: the man who was mute (Matt. 9:32); the man who was both blind and mute (Matt. 12:22); epileptic seizures (Matt. 17:14); the crippled woman (Luke 13:10). Can someone say with certainty that a physical condition was caused by Satan? We know better than to underestimate the wiles of the devil and the effects of spiritual warfare, and so certainly his strategy could include the physical side of reality. Perhaps we could also look at in this way… Ever since Satan lured Adam and Eve into rebellion against God, to sin against God the Creator, nature has been a part of the Fall. Nature, natural life, is now tainted with fallenness, cursed by sin, and will be so until the new creation is brought into being. There was no disease or sickness or disability before the Fall of man. Our physical nature is fallen, and is vulnerable to all manners of problems, to unnatural intruders like injury, sickness and disease. There may indeed be many immediate causes of a physical condition, but everything broken and unnatural can be traced back to the source of sin and fallenness, the devil. It’s like tracing tributaries back to the original river. We know so much more now of physical health and ailments, and so we may not necessarily attribute a disability or disease to an evil spirit, but we can with certainty point to the ultimate source of the brokenness, to Satan and his devils. However one looks at this, we end up knowing that Satan is the culprit, whether directly or indirectly.

When it came to the demonic realm, Jesus wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty. He was unafraid to mix it up with Satan and his minions. He seemed to welcome a confrontation in order to set a person free, and at no time did a demon spirit resist Him for long. The entire world of demons were well aware of Jesus and His spiritual power and authority. His ministry of touch was evident in His work as an exorcist. One example is in Mark 9:14-29, when He took a young demoniac by the hand, raised him to his feet, and healed the boy in the process. Another vivid example is Mark 5:1-20, when Jesus established human contact with “the man of the tombs,” a raging insane demoniac who fell at Jesus’ feet, and was seen later as he was calmly sitting with Jesus and enjoying a civilized conversation (Luke 8:35).

Another incident of Jesus’ touch regarding the demon-possessed was in Luke 13:10-13. There was a loving encounter between Jesus and a woman crippled by a demonic spirit. As we look at this story, it just seems the tender heart of Jesus is full display. Perhaps we could even use the term “sweet.”

Jesus was an orthodox Jew in good standing, spreading the Word in the presence of other orthodox Jews, in the local meeting place for such things, the synagogue. He was teaching Scripture, reading from Torah, leading discussion, answering questions. Jesus did this virtually every Sabbath, it was part of His ministry, his duty as a well-respected rabbi. Good things tend to happen when you’re just doing your duty. There was a woman at the synagogue who was seriously handicapped, painfully disabled, doubled over for 18 years. She couldn’t straighten her back all that time, she was unable to stand up straight and look people in the eye. Luke says that she was crippled by an evil spirit, that her infirmity was caused by a demonic spirit of bondage. What quality must this woman have had, to endure this misery for 18 years? What would be going through her mind and emotions in the synagogue, standing near Jesus? Jesus saw this woman who was suffering. He had compassion on her, and He called her over to Him. She did her part, she came over to where Jesus was standing. He then gently touched her and spoke words of healing over her, and she was immediately released from her terrible disability. She instantly stood up straight and tall, looked Him in the eyes, and she began to praise God. Jesus didn’t have to mumble some special formula for exorcising the spirit. He didn’t even ask about her faith. He just spoke sweet words of endearment, “Dear woman,” and released her from her miserable condition. There was no conversation. In fact, we didn’t hear from the woman until after she was healed. Can you imagine the joy and relief she must have felt? The leader of this synagogue was offended that Jesus would do the work of a doctor and heal someone on the Sabbath, when there wasn’t any type of emergency with a life hanging in the balance. He considered it unlawful labor, and he told the crowd what he thought of Jesus the law-breaker. The leader even accused the sick people of starting the whole problem by coming to get healing on the Sabbath. How dare they want to get healed on this of all days! After the leader spoke his piece of nonsense, Jesus in return called his critics frauds for believing this sort of thing. He called them hypocrites, since all technically break the Sabbath every week by caring for their animals. Isn’t a woman crippled by Satan valued more highly than farm animals, Jesus asks, since she needs someone to care for her? And this beloved woman is a true daughter of Abraham! The leader and the critics could say nothing in return. They were red-faced with shame. They were made to look silly and they were humiliated in public. The rest of the crowd was delighted, they were overjoyed with what they saw Jesus say and do, not only for silencing His enemies, but also advocating for and healing the sick. They rejoiced in loud voice, Luke says, over the glorious things Jesus was doing.