Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday, the focus of the gospel, Matthew 15:21-28, was on a dialogue between Jesus and a Canaanite woman. That text does not deal much with the woman's specific problem: her daughter was seriously tormented by a demon, although Jesus casts out the demon only by her word. Our gospel for today touches on this topic in more detail.
Let's understand that, the sacrament of holy baptism is the most wonderful and effective exorcism. All those who have not received the spiritual regeneration of the Holy Spirit in baptism are slaves of sin and therefore slaves of the devil. This is spirit possession. That is why the devil said to Jesus in his temptation, over the kingdoms of this world: "She has been handed over to me, and I give her to whomever I want." And in 2 Corinthians 4:4, Saint Paul named Satan the god of this world who blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ does not shine on them.
Baptism frees us from the spiritual possession of the devil. Through baptism, we have new life and the promise of eternity with Christ. That is why Saint Paul says in our epistle (Ephesians 5:1-9), “For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” We are free from condemnation in Christ, but we cannot walk both ways. “Because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. Do not be partakers with them."
However, the Scripture also speaks of the phenomenon that many people think of when they hear the word, exorcism. This is bodily possession, when a demon, one of Satan's rogue angels, afflicts a person physically or uses him as a mouthpiece. In the Old Testament, we don't have many examples of this kind of thing. In 1 Samuel 16:14 and 18: 10-11 is the story of an evil spirit that tormented King Saul as punishment from Jehovah for his arrogance and disobedience.
In the New Testament, we have reports of demonic bodily possession and healing only in the three synoptic gospels, not in the gospel according to John and the book of Acts. The three, Matthew, Mark and Luke, distinguish the demon-possessed from the ordinary sick. For example, the words of Mark 1:34, "He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons." Therefore, it would not be correct to say that these demoniacs were simply sick. The fact that evil spirits often confess to Jesus as the Son of God is clear proof that it is demonic possession. Jesus has the power to expel demons: with this the advent of the kingdom of God is demonstrated.
This full power is also transferred to the disciples, who, returning to the Master after completing their mission, joyfully report: "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name" (Luke 10:17). On a certain occasion, the disciples suffer a defeat because of their little faith and because they have not prayed and fasted enough (Luke 9:40; Matthew 17:20, 21). In all cases, the one who heals is Christ. The disciples were his instruments through which he performs his cures. Faith, fasting and prayer should not be considered as human factors that guaranteed healing; rather, liberation was effected exclusively by God.
The Book of Acts mentions healings of demoniacs done in the name of Jesus. Such healings also reveal the approach of the kingdom of God and the decisive destruction of the power of Satan.
When Jesus cast out the devil in our text for today, the vast majority of ordinary people were amazed. But it was some, recruited from the Pharisees, who disdainfully commented that in and through the power of Beelzebub (the god of flies), the prince and chief of the demons, Jesus cast out the demons. Jesus responds to the blasphemers by warning how foolish and dangerous it is to try to interpret his power over demons as anything but his victory over Satan and the coming of the kingdom of God. At this point, there is no longer any room for a neutral stance. Only guided by the word of God, men can arrive at a correct distinction between the Holy Spirit and an evil spirit.
Also, if that accusation was true and Jesus' power over demons came from Satan, how were they going to explain the fact that his own children, his disciples, were acting as exorcists, touring the country and trying to cast out demons? ? If the miracles of casting out demons that Jesus did were due to the finger of God, the power of God that was necessary in true exorcism was incontrovertible proof that in and with Jesus Christ the kingdom of God had come upon them.
A question, then, can demonic bodily possession occur today? We have the testimony of the reformers, including Martin Luther and his associate, Johannes Bugenhagen, from cases in the 16th century. In our time, missionaries in various parts of the world testify to the reality of demons, particularly where there is much spiritism and witchcraft. Many times spiritualists and sorcerers are frauds, deceivers, swindlers. But, sometimes, there are reports of phenomena without explanation by natural laws. If someone truly appears to be in contact with a spirit, they are not a spirit of God. The holy angels of God exercise the will of God, but they do not listen to our prayers, nor do the spirits of the dead.
In baptism, we are set free from the power of the devil. The Bible does not warn against witchcraft, spiritualism, divination, and any practice of emptying the mind for spiritual influence, including drugs. That is to open the door for the demons. Saint John, in 1 John 4:1, advises us not to believe all the spirits, but test the spirits by the Word if they are from God. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that no one should speak in tongues, supposedly by the Holy Spirit, without an interpreter, or who knows if it is the Holy Spirit speaking?
Above all, we must remember these words of the Lord: “When a strong man armed guards his palace, his possessions are in peace. divide their spoils." The strongest of the devil is Christ. However, as Jesus says to the devil on the pinnacle of the temple, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God."
May the peace that surpasses all understanding be with each of you. Amen.
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