When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons”(Lk 11:15).
There are consistent acts present in the Gospels that show Jesus teaching, preaching, healing, and exorcising demons. Many will accept that Jesus preached and taught, some might even agree that he healed, but there are many who might dismiss that he exorcised demons. The person in today’s passage did not scoff at the fact that Jesus dispelled a demon but emphasized that he did so through the power of Satan. Jesus corrected him with simple logic by stating that, “if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”
This account from Luke expresses the reality of the culture and beliefs of their time. Were, and are, all illnesses caused by demons? Most likely no. But to dismiss demons altogether, we do so at our own peril. There is a spiritual reality as well as a physical reality. Demons are fallen angels. They fell because they chose to follow Satan, the archangel, Lucifer, instead of God. The term śāṭan is Hebrew and is found in both the Old and New Testaments. There are some English equivalents depending on how it is used. Most commonly śāṭan can be translated as accuser, slanderer, or adversary. Clearly, Satan is one who opposes the will of God and the demons are his minions who support him in that effort.
Satan and his demons roam the world seeking to sow division, to do us harm, as well as seeking the ruin of our souls. Their power lies in false truths, temptations of apparent goods, deception, diversion, and condemnation. Although it is important to acknowledge that they exist, we need not fear them; for no demon, nor Satan himself, can possess or harm us against our will. The weakest Christian can overpower any negative spiritual influence because we have access to the name of Jesus. In invoking the name of Jesus, the powers of evil have no sway. We can take strength in the instruction of James from his letter: “So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Condemnation is one of the devil’s most effective attacks. First, we are tempted, and then when we fall, the hammer of accusation and slander comes down to invoke shame. We are not to feel guilty regarding our misdeeds or sins. Instead, we are to have a healthy sense of guilt. The difference is that when we walk around moping in a cloud of feeling guilty and berating ourselves for how awful we are, we keep the focus on our self and sink deeper into our own morass of self-pity and in so doing, we make fertile ground for spiritual mayhem. When we embrace a sense of guilt though, we acknowledge what we have done or have failed to do, then with humility admit that sin, and come to a place of contrition, meaning that we are truly sorry. Healing continues when we seek confession, absolution, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Satan, demons, and evil are presently active in this world, yet God did not create evil. All that God created he created good. One way of looking at evil is to see it not as some thing but as a deprivation, a twisting, and distortion of the good. God created angelic beings with a free will like us, and some turned away. Demons distort their original purpose as messengers of God. Be not paranoid, just aware. It is good to develop a spiritual discipline of discerning spiritual influences, opening ourselves to the guidance of our guardian angels as we resist the temptings of fallen angels. We can do this best when we build an intimate relationship with Jesus, knowing that we are God’s children and under his care and protection.
Resist any thought that says we are not worthy of being in a relationship with God, that our sin is too great, or that it is too late to repent. God loves us more than we can ever mess up, more than we can ever imagine, and he does not define us by our worst choices. Be confident, strong, stout-hearted, and be not afraid. Whenever you feel threatened, anxious, tempted, self-critical beyond a healthy sense of guilt, or fearful, just speak the name of Jesus aloud, he is our great deliverer, our light in the darkness, and will be present whenever we call.
One of the most powerful weapons against evil is music, a reflection for another time. But for now here is a quote from the chorus of “Trust in Jesus”, track 5, from Third Day’s album, Move. I am sure that you can pull it up on YouTube or any other music app. A good song to carry with you throughout the day!
Trust in Jesus
My great Deliverer
My strong Defender
The Son of God
I trust in Jesus
My Lord forever
The Holy One, the Holy One
Painting of St Faustina’s vision of the Divine Mercy by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski