God’s Word for You
Mark 1:32-34 demons
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 21, 2021
32 That evening, when the sun had set, the people kept bringing to him all who were sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door. 34 He healed many people who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. But he did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew who he was.
The detail that the sun had set tells us that the Sabbath was now over, and people could come from all over to bring their sick to Jesus. People who for whatever reason had stayed away now came to Peter’s house. There were two groups; Mark distinguishes between the sick and the demon-possessed. Jesus healed them all. The “many” in verse 34 is not a marker that he limited what he did, as if he healed “many of them” but not all. Rather, it is a marker of quantity: He healed them, and there were many of them who were sick.
There were also many who were demon-possessed. Today, most Christians go their whole lives thinking that demon possession is something for the movies, and many pastors only know of demon possessions second-hand. A former member of my congregation, now in glory, once told me that his (Missouri Synod) college professor was one of the two ministers called to deal with a demon-possessed boy. When the boy’s family moved away to New York, the demon returned, and when the family turned to a Catholic priest, the situation became much worse—and with certain details changed or omitted in Hollywood fashion, this became the story of the book and movie, The Exorcist.
What is a demon? It is one of the former angels who fell into sin and rebellion with the devil. Jude explains that the demons are angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home, now kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 1:6). Such chains are not made of iron or steel, but the word of God. The devil and the demons are spirits and can still visit our world, but they will never again be permitted into God’s heaven. There is no salvation for them. God is merciless to them. Paul uses this stern mercilessness of God like a shadow to throw light on the kind mercy he has with us: “Consider the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you” (Romans 11:22).
Demon possession is the state or act when one of those fallen angels completely rules and controls an individual. A demon operates through that human’s personality so that the person thinks the demon’s thoughts, speaks its words, and does its deeds. It is not a physical or mental illness, or insanity, and it is not a case of dual or multiple personalities. Demons are beings, spiritual beings, who are always evil. They are only driven away by the power and the word of Christ and by his name spoken in faith. They are also driven away instantly, as when Paul said to the girl in Philippi: “‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ And at that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18). If the demon resists exorcism, the problem is not in the possessed person, or in the power of God, but in the exorcist who covets God’s power but does not trust in it. Luke reported an incident like this in Acts 19:
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16)
Jesus did not permit the demons to speak. They knew who he was, but God will not accept praise from a demon, since such words are not really praise at all; their words are not spoken from faith, but from knowledge now turned into terror in their suffering. The demons know perfectly well who the true God really is, “and shudder” (James 2:19).
Why did Jesus encounter so many demons? Abraham did not see so many demons, nor Moses, or Samuel, or Isaiah, or even John the Baptist. It’s because people were turning to Jesus in faith, and therefore they were turning away from the devil and all of his hundreds of pathways away from God. There is only one path to God: Jesus Christ. “No one,” Jesus said, “comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). With so many turning to God in faith, the devil was working overtime with whatever means possible to grab them back. The fear of possession makes people do all sorts of crazy things, falling back into superstitions rather than falling into the arms of Jesus.
Do not hide your faith in Jesus. Pray out loud, pray in public when you go out to eat, pray with your children when you put them to bed. If you live alone, pray aloud anyway, so that the cat or the plants can hear you, because “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). And remember: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God is faithful. When Jesus healed these people at Peter’s door, Matthew remembered the word of Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4).
Human beings who are damned are not under the power of the devil as their jailor. He is a prisoner, too, with the worst dungeon reserved for him. When God shows his power over the demons in an event like this one at Peter’s front door, he shows that his arm is not too short to reach right into hell. And his power, which reaches everywhere, also reaches into your heart. If he can throw a demon out of a suffering body in Capernaum, he can also throw your sinfulness over his shoulder, never to be seen again. His mercy is as powerful as every other aspect of his almighty omnipotence. Your sins are forgiven in Jesus. Put your faith in Jesus, and know that you have a place, not a dungeon but a palace, reserved for you forever in heaven. God’s mercy, after all, endures forever.
Pastor Timothy Smith