Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We begin this season of Lent with the story of the temptation of Jesus by the devil. In the text for the second Sunday, Matthew 15: 21-28, a Canaanite woman cried out to Jesus: Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me, my daughter is seriously tormented by a demon. In our text for today also talks about the theme of the devil and his angels, that is, demons. In this specific case, like last Sunday, the possession of a human being by a demon and the expulsion of the evil spirit, or exorcism.
Many people think of "The Exorcist" as a classic horror movie. Supposedly based on true events, this movie is really a figment of the human imagination. What does the Bible say about demoniacs?
The Holy Scriptures affirm the existence of spiritual beings. There are only two kinds: the holy angels who serve God and the devil and the rebellious angels from him. The word "angel" means messenger, because God created all angels to be his heralds. Satan is the master of the demons and they do his will. Also, apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ, all human beings are slaves of sin and, therefore, of the devil. To live in sin is to live as a slave of Satan and to be baptized into Christ is to be free from the power of sin, death and the devil. Baptism is the most powerful rite of exorcism.
However, many people think that being possessed by the devil is being a puppet and spokesman for an evil spirit. Regarding this type of demon possession and its healing by Jesus Christ, we have reports only in the first three gospels, while John does not mention these miracles of Jesus, although in John several times our Lord was accused of being demon possessed.
The power of Jesus to expel was by the power of his word and we know that every word of Jesus is a product of the Spirit. The same fear that the demons expressed at the appearance of Jesus also demonstrates his power and authority. Jesus also gave this power to his disciples and apostles to perform exorcisms.
In our text for today, Jesus casts out a demon and this revealing action of his power provokes a triple response. The first is admiration and amazement. The second, blasphemy. The third, a reserved skepticism that asks for a surer sign.
The vast majority of people marveled and nothing else; that was the usual state after some extraordinary proof of the power of Christ. If they had searched the Scriptures and believed what Jesus said about himself, his amazement might have had some value. Therefore, our Lord answered the woman who said: Blessed is the womb that brought you, and the breasts that you suckled, with, Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.
The second class of people commented that in and through the power of Beelzebub (the god of flies) or Beelzebul (the god of manure), the prince and chief of the demons, Jesus cast out the demons. But, if the demon casting miracles that Jesus performed were due to the finger of God, the power of God that was necessary in true exorcism was incontrovertible proof that in and with Christ, the Prophet of Nazareth, the kingdom of God had come to them, he was coming upon them. In his person and in his message they had the means to obtain eternal life if they accepted the grace of God.
What strikes the reader of the Scriptures is the simplicity that Jesus employs in casting out demons. It is a far cry from all the gibberish that Jewish exorcists of that time included in their exorcism rituals. It's also a far cry from all the gibberish Roman Catholics go through as recorded in their "Rituale Romanum." We also note the authority and power with which Jesus cast out these demons.
The finger of God is a symbol of God's irresistible power and authority. This phrase translated "finger of God" appears only four times in the Bible. Once in our Old Testament reading, Exodus 8: 16-24 and in our gospel for today. Also the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy both say the finger of God wrote the Law of God on the stone tablets for Moses. False prophets may imitate God's miracles to a point, as we read in our Old Testament reading, but ultimately they do not have the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit, as we read in Acts 19.
And the third class sought from Him a sign from heaven, as if the many signs and wonders that had been done before the people were not sufficient evidence of the Lord's divine mission. To them, the Lord said in verse 29, "This generation is evil: They demand a sign, and a sign will not be given to them, but the sign of Jonah the prophet." He speaks of his resurrection; as Jonah remained three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, the Lord would remain in the tomb for three days and on the third day he would rise from the dead. This prophecy the Lord fulfilled and it is the only sign we need.
Jesus tries to show his audience what his coming into the world meant and included, as it pertains to Satan's rule. The latter, in fact, was a strong and powerful spirit, and was at all times fully armed, guarding his court, his palace, his castle, with all his might. Because he is the prince of this world and has his dominion over the children of unbelief. And he until now he had been at peace, with no problem to talk about; all his subjects had been willing and obedient.
But now the strongest had come, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah. He ran into the devil and defeated him. And not only that, but it reduced him to total subjection and helplessness by stripping him of his panoply, his armor, the practically limitless power he relied on, and dividing the spoils among his own followers.
But these spoils, the victory over death and the devil, belong only to those who have chosen this Champion as their own Lord; because those who are not with Christ, on his side, taking part of him at all times, are against him and must be counted with his enemies; and whoever is not working with him in all respects must be considered as part of those who scatter and spread the fruit of his ministry and labor.
"When the unclean spirit leaves the man, it walks through dry places, seeking rest; and not finding it, it says: I will return to my house from which I came. And when it comes, it finds it swept and fixed. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits worse than he; and entered, they dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. "
By his own efforts, a man may fix his life for a little while, but sin will always return, stronger than ever. Because apart from the Word of Christ, this world is the devil's territory. Not by right, but his power and wisdom surpass ours. Apart from the Word of Christ, if there are spiritual influences everywhere and they are all bad. Therefore, we should not belittle our baptism and remain in the Word. And as Saint Paul says in our epistle (Ephesians 5: 1-9), “Let no one deceive you with vain words; because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. So do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord: Walk as children of light (because the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, justice and truth) ”.
May you have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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