Do you know anyone who feels like they cannot control their actions? I have known several people who, when deeply entrapped by some addiction, felt like they lost the power to choose and seemed to have no ability to stop their self-destructive habit, whether it was alcohol, drugs, porn, sex, or whatever. I’m not spiritually perceptive enough to know whether or not these people have been overtaken by “unclean spirits,” but there are clearly accounts of this happening during the time of Christ, and so it seems likely that evil spirits can possess people today. As 2018 draws to a close, I find great comfort in this next command of Christ, which wasn’t directed to a person per se, but to an evil spirit who was living within a man and causing great agony. The account is found both in Mark 1:21-28 and in Luke 4:31-37 (written out at the end if you’d like to read them). After the marriage feast in Cana, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, where Jesus began teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath days. Reading the Torah (Old Testament Law) was a common practice, but the people were astonished by Jesus, because the usual format was to ponder the meaning of the various readings, but instead Jesus was explaining authoritatively what they meant. During one of these teaching times, a man who was possessed with an unclean spirit became disruptive and started yelling for Jesus to leave “them” alone. I don’t know if the man was speaking his own thoughts, or if the “unclean devil” was actually speaking through the man. If it was the man speaking, then it sounds like he was trying to protect the evil within him . . . so like the addict who will lie, cheat, steal, and worse if necessary to protect the evil that is ruining his life. If it was the devil speaking, then the man had indeed allowed the evil spirit to take control of his body, and the man probably had lost the power to control himself.The next declarations coming from the lips of the possessed man change from plural to singular, and I believe this shows a transition from the man and unclean spirit speaking together to the devil speaking through the man: “What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” I believe that last statement—”I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God— came straight from the unclean spirit, because, at this early point in Jesus’s ministry, practically no human on earth understood that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.” Certainly the man with the unclean spirit would not have known this. However, Satan and his minions did understand this, as we learn from James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Evil spirits know who God is, and who Jesus is, and they fear, but rather than repenting, they are bent on destroying the works of God. Jesus—on the other hand—had no fear and had complete authority over the evil spirits. (Matthew 28:18, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”)Therefore, Jesus was able to command the unclean spirit: “Hold thy peace, and come out of him” (Luke 4:35). “Hold thy peace” sounds rather polite in the King James, although alternate translations from the Greek into modern English include “Be silent” or “Be muzzled.” The devil had no option but to obey: “And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not” (Luke 4:35). As 2018 ends and 2019 is about to begin, here is a wonderful insight for us: Jesus can free people from addictions. Are you or someone you love caught in a trap of evil so strong that it appears there’s no hope for recovery? As long as someone is alive, there is hope! Even if someone has lost the power to control himself, God can still intervene and heal that person. Could that person be you? Could it be someone you love dearly? Ask Jesus to intervene and rescue. If it’s within your power to go (or get your loved one to go) to a facility where you can get help, please do so! However, if that is beyond your power, you can always pray fervently. Ask day and night, in faith, until Jesus steps in and changes everything. I am praying for this in the lives of two precious friends. As long as there is life, there’s hope. Let’s never give up! If you’d like me to pray with you about your own needs or those of someone dear to you, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint . . . And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:1,7. Luke 18:1-7 tells the entire parable.)
“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.” (Mark 1:21-28).
“[Jesus] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. 32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, 34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. 36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37 And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.” (Luke 4:31-37)
(The photographs [versus paintings and woodcuts] are courtesy of BBM’s Lumo Project.)