I want to address a few things regarding Jesus’ healing ministry, as there has been a lot of confusion in the church abroad caused by errant teaching from false teachers pretending to heal in Jesus’ name. Then I want to talk about demons. Jesus’ opening ministry in Galilee described in Matthew 4:23-24 serves as the perfect springboard for this since it includes physical healing and demon deliverance.
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)
First, in every account of Scripture, when Jesus heals it is never partial, always comprehensive, and instantaneous. Jesus healed “…every disease and every affliction” (v. 23). Why is this? This scene shows Jesus busy healing in a demonstrative way proving that while he walked the earth, heaven had truly come down with him. This made clear that Jesus’ divinity and identity as Messiah were being vindicated as both real and true. Jesus being here meant God is here. God is “among the people” (v. 23). This was making a hug impact as Matthew records that Jesus’ “fame spread throughout all Syria” (v. 24). This meant that while Jesus stayed in Galilee, his reputation from what he was doing was drawing people like a huge magnet from hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Jesus’ “fame” more specifically influence was unique and one of a kind as modern medicine did not exist and his healings were complete and fully effective. Both Jews and Gentiles were pouring out from every geographical direction.
What made Jesus’ healings so popular was that he addressed every kind sickness someone could have. He was not a manipulative fake, so-called “faith healer” who selectively “heals” people designated in the front row. Our passage describes him dealing with three categories of severe pain. Those who were: Diseased, Demonized, and Delirious. Diseases were varied “multi-colored” and literally torturous. People who today would be placed on life support in the ICU, rather than someone coming to be healed from psychosomatic back pain.
These days we may have a real time taste of the fear people succumb to when there is a disease without a cure. Society at this stage had no medical remedy for any disease, no anti-viral or antibiotics. Unlike what we have with modern medicine, contracting anything meant certain death.
Now on to Demons. Demons being included smack dab in the middle of this list of maladies is curious though there is a reason for this. Because of the insertion of demons here, some understand them to be the cause of the diseases and seizures Jesus healed.
The solution for this is understanding how demons tie into this equation comes down to understanding that Jesus’ first mission was to preach “the gospel of the kingdom” (v. 23). What does “the gospel of the kingdom deal with?” Our sin! The effects of the fall. What does sin bring into our world? Sickness, disease, pain, death, and demons! So what is the solution for demons? Embracing the gospel by faith. When Christ takes over your life, demons leave.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1John 4:4)
In other words, a Christian cannot be demon possessed.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
It is a contradiction to say, “I am a Christian,” and, “I am demon possessed.” Still, this does not mean we should underestimate the significance of demonic temptation. This is a reality for every believer (cf. Ephesians 6:12 “…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but…against spiritual forces of evil”), but this is not a reality to fear or believe we have no recourse to deal with. Jesus helped “those oppressed by demons” (v. 24). His compassion was real for each one, as it was when he cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene, or the demon-influenced child throwing himself into fire or water, not to mention the two crazed demoniacs by the Sea of Gennesaret who were supercharged by Legion!
Jesus dealt with demons head on, literally casting them out of people, so the question is how are we supposed to deal with a demonic encounter. First, it is important to note that once the Apostles were gone, nowhere does New Testament instruct Christians to cast out demons. In fact, James 4:7 calls Christians to “resist the devil.” Ephesians 6 tells believers to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10). What I surmise from the New Testament is that by living the normal Christian life based in prayer and truth we are literally dealing with demons. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 10:5 in the context of battling demonized false attackers within the church. How did Paul instruct the church to deal with them?
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
So, what do we do if we believe someone is actually demon possessed? First, like Jesus, show compassion and second, give them the gospel. When a demon possessed believes the saving message that Jesus alones saves, then the demons leave!
Not too long ago I noticed a young woman beating her fists on our piano on the stage. The room was dark while our Christian school was just opening for the morning. She walked up to me and I knew something was wrong and that she might even attack me.
Thankfully, other staff members walked up beside me. This young woman was spouting forth a false gospel while we in turn gave her the true gospel. She was truly not all the way there – being cognizant while not being cognizant. As we intervened, she responded with sinfulness and even sensuality. Again, dealing with demons is dealing with the effects of the fall, which comes back to dealing with someone’s sin.
We tried to lead her out the door and she turned and stared me down. Ultimately, a police officer had to come and escort her away in restraints. Later, a different first-responder from our church showed video of this same woman attacking him while in uniform and he had to take her down, obviously making us all really thankful for God’s protection.
The final pain-category Jesus dealt with was physical seizures, epilepsy and paralysis (cf. v. 24). The English word for epileptics is lunacy or being “moonstruck” which tends toward the realm of mental health. Jesus’ healing addressed all-comers; those in physical pain, spiritual pain, and mental pain. The one point I would make is that the gospel brings clarity to the mind even when the body fails. We should not underestimate how the truth of the gospel can redirect hopelessness in the direction of hope.
Jesus instantaneously and comprehensively healed all who were brought to him. Heaven promises to heal all three severe pain categories! In heaven, there will be no more tears and no more death and no more demons. We know the effects of sin cannot follow Christians into heaven so the suffering of sin can neither follow. Observing Jesus’ ministry on earth from two simple verses like these, open up a portal into what heaven will be like. Being healed by Jesus while we live on earth is always preferable but we have to remember that this healing is temporal. We pray for healing now but pray more so for the ultimate healing of heaven.