After Jesus is criticized for driving out demons, he addresses his detractors. In doing so he makes a curious statement. He asks, by whose power do you drive out demons?
Implicitly, Jesus was not the only one with the power and ability to drive out demons. In considering this, a bunch of questions come to mind:
If others were also driving out demons, why were the people so amazed when Jesus did it? Perhaps Jesus was more effective at it, did it easier, or exhibited more compassion, grace, and power. Whatever the explanation, this was one more reason why people were drawn to him. He simply was like no other.
What was the source of their power? We could debate whether or not this power came from God. It certainly could have — or it could have been Satanic. Recall when Moses was performing miracles before Pharaoh, for a while the magicians matched Moses using “their secret arts,” but eventually they could not. In the people’s criticism of Jesus, they could have merely been projecting the source of their power onto him.
Is the power to drive out demons more normative and accessible than we believe? I think the answer is yes. Jesus did it, others did it, and therefore so can we. Even though we may not see this happen, doesn’t mean it can’t. And that’s something to seriously contemplate.
Once Jesus drove a demon out of a man. The man had been mute, but when the evil spirit was exorcized, he began speaking.
The people should have been in awe of the power Jesus displayed. They were not.
Instead they chose to be critical. Some questioned the source of his power and others insisted he do another miracle, as if the first wasn’t enough.
Things aren’t much different today. When someone comes along with a variant understanding of God, lives life in a different manner, or walks with a greater degree of spiritual power, the common response is criticism.
People tend to fear what challenges their status quo, to vilify what is different. They criticize what they don’t understand. It was done to Jesus two millennia ago and it’s still being done today.
Instead of looking for what makes us different, the better response is to focus on how we are the same. Pursue unity; avoid division. Celebrate diversity and embrace variation. I think that’s what Jesus would want us to do.
When reading the gospels (the stories about Jesus) in the Bible, it doesn’t take long to run across the phrase “evil spirit.” (Some translations use “unclean spirit” or a “corrupting spirit.”)
What is an “evil spirit” anyway?
- As a teenager, I thought that an evil spirit was merely ancient man’s way of understanding mental illness.
- As a young adult, my perspective flipped and I thought that mental illness was merely modern man’s way of explaining evil spirits.
- Later on, I began to consider that both mental illness and evil spirits existed, but as separate, disparate phenomena.
- More recently, I’ve been thinking that they may just be two different ways of looking at the same thing, two sides of the same coin.
Although contemplating the meaning of an evil spirit may be intellectually inviting, the central point is to remember that regardless of what it was, Jesus healed people who had evil spirits—and he gave his followers the authority to do the same!
Now, that’s something to think about.