Jesus was a great healer. He was capable of casting out demons. The wise men, through methods traditionally condemned by institutional religion, knew of his birth. They brought him expensive healings oils. Somehow they were convinced this would be part of his calling in life.
Jesus taught his disciples to cast out demons, too. He said they would do greater things than he had done. Few people today think they could even do the things Jesus did, much less greater things. Who could have more power than the Son of God?
There are other possibilities that should be considered when hearing biblical stories about demons and devils so that they don’t prey on the emotions of readers and preachers.
Demons are emotion generators. If you can stir the people’s emotions, you can control them. I sometimes wonder if some leaders in all the religious traditions think this is their calling—to control the sheep rather than to assist and develop them in their return to the image in which they were first made.
I dealt in greater detail about demons in my blog post about how to cast out demons and unclean spirits. Demons are the stuff of mythology and fear. We teach it to our children.
The story of the serpent in the garden has a lot to do with that. Neil Douglas-Klotz says in Genesis, the Hebrew word is not the word for snake. Klotz interprets the word Nahash as having a deeper meaning. He says the word stands for and can be translated as “the aspect of a person’s mind that winds around itself, that becomes self-involved, that’s greedy or selfish.” (The Genesis Meditations, p. 202). That sounds a lot like human nature.
But the garden is a visual story that teaches a deeper meaning—like an Aesop’s Fable uses animals to get its point across. Try to tell that to a Bible literalist. It’s more memorable to keep perpetuating an emotional image that offers a false impression of what the story in the garden represents if you want to gain power over people whose emotions are on alert.
Unfortunately, many stories in the Bible perpetuate the fears and ignorance of the past. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing. It’s the absence of knowledge. Ignorance becomes a bad thing when you don’t correct the misunderstanding. Learning should drive out ignorance.
In Mark 1:29-39, there are several passages that mention “devils.” The story concludes with, he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
To stop the text there leaves out the example Mark provides to show one of the “devils” he cast out. That’s a very common literary tactic of the gospels writers. One story leads into the next. In the next story, Jesus casts out the devil of leprosy (a skin disease).
Jesus used what he had at his disposal. Sometimes he used healing oils like olive oil, Frankincense, myrrh, and golden balsam. Sometimes he may have used the healing properties of other kinds of plants, you know, like Echinacea or stinging nettle. Sometimes he calmed their upset spirits. He laid hands on people and used the unquantifiable energy of healing touch that many are using today.
In another blog post I gave instructions on 4 easy ways to cast out demons based on some of this same information talking about many different kinds of powers that can overwhelm you. And I gave the Greek definitions for the word translated too often as demons and devils.
To the people of the first century who had no explanations for this behavior, why wouldn’t they think someone was under the influence of a demon or evil spirit?
To the people of the 21st century, who have discovered many of the causes for disease, perpetuating a first century (and maybe more like a fourth through tenth century), fear-based understanding of physical and mental illness is clinging to the ignorance of the past.
Jesus demonstrated that healing is a significant part of the kingdom of heaven that I explained in chapter ten of my book, The Kingdom of Heaven is for Real and It’s Open to Everyone!
I think it’s time to de-mythologize the Bible in this subject matter of demons so we can remove the emotion and fear from it. Jesus will still get the credit and honor for the exceptional work of healing he performed. And you might begin to believe he knew you too are capable of the same kinds of healing actions that restore people to health.
What do you think?