March 10, 2014
Mark 1: 21-28
My seminary professors taught me a lot of important things, but how to perform a demon exorcism was not one of them. So, when I was actually called upon to do one I found myself way out of my comfort zone!
In January of 2013 I was in India with a team of other pastors and teachers for the purpose of conducting a two-week training seminar for local Indian pastors. While visiting in one of their churches a woman began lurching and shaking and making guttural sounds. When the pastor of the church asked me through an interpreter to lay hands on her and pray the demon out, I was quite intimated. Sheepishly I touched her head and began praying, though I can’t remember exactly what I prayed. At that point I was relying on the Apostle Paul’s promise in Roman 8:26 – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Other from the church gathered around and added their prayers to mine. The sound of our languages mixing together in that small church was a real Pentecost-like experience (read Acts 2). A few moments later the woman was calm and appeared to be in her right mind. She sat up and the service continued.
The New Testament does not attribute every ailment to demons. Ancient people did have a concept of good ole’ fashioned bodily sickness. But they also did have a concept of the reality of demons, a fact that manifests itself in the various confrontations Jesus has with demons in the gospel accounts. We in the western world have worked hard to separate the material from the spiritual, so we don’t know what to do with these stories. But the Bible does not recognize that distinction. The Bible simply recognizes that there is creation, and that all of creation – both the material and the spiritual – is subject to sin and evil. And Jesus is victorious over it all.
My Indian friends seem quite comfortable with this. They didn’t seem especially disturbed when a woman fell out with demon possession during a worship gathering. They weren’t nonchalant; they took her seriously and prayed over her with fervor. But they also treated this as something to which they were thoroughly prepared to respond in faith.
Demons may not present themselves in our world the same way they do in that world. The problem with evil is that it often knows how to disguise itself. But evil is evil. This morning as I drove into the office I listened to the story of a former prostitute who is working to help young women in Sarasota who are trapped by the sex trade. Ask her if demons are real.
Lord Jesus, you conquered demons, healed diseases, quieted storms, and raised the dead. Help me to recognize the evil that is at work in my life today. And by your power, help me to cast it out. Amen.