Exorcising Demons

December 18th, 2012

He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” (Luke 4:31-35 NRSV)

Jesus left Nazareth and made his way to the lakefront village of Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. There he attempted to teach and preach in the synagogue, as he had at Nazareth. But what a difference! The people “were astounded at his teaching.”

While teaching, Jesus was confronted by a man who was possessed by a demon. This was the first of many times in the Gospel record in which Jesus encountered the demonic. What we find in these encounters is that the demons were always afraid of Jesus, and they had no power compared to his. In Luke 4:34, a man possessed by a demon shouted at the top of his voice, “Jesus of Nazareth, have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God” (NRSV).

Recently I sat down with a young man struggling with what the doctors diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He was having thoughts that God did not want him to sit in a certain chair, or to drive on a certain road, or to walk into a certain place, and if he disobeyed, he believed he was betraying Christ and serving the devil. This was an otherwise healthy, successful, and intelligent young man.

The OCD was using his spirituality to rob him of life. I suggested that the OC thoughts were destructive and in fact were the antithesis of the freedom Christ intended him to have. In this sense his illness was demonic— demonic being the opposite of Christ’s way. I said that I did not know if the voices he was hearing were merely his own, shaped by OCD, or if there was a spiritual entity behind them. Either way, the stories of Jesus’ exorcism of demons could be helpful.

I reminded the young man about the story of the demon-possessed man in the synagogue at Capernaum, and how the demon was silenced when Jesus said, “Be still!” Then the demon left when Jesus said, “Come out!” I suggested that, in addition to receiving therapy and medicine, the young man should say to the voice he was hearing, “I know you are lying to me. In the name of Jesus Christ, leave me alone!” Several weeks ago I heard back from the young man, who told me this approach had provided a degree of relief from his OCD that medication and therapy alone had not provided.

When I have thoughts that I know are not of God— such as temptations, fears, or ideas that would lead me astray—I speak aloud to the devil, and perhaps to myself, “In the name of Jesus Christ, leave me alone!” Whether the thoughts are the whispers of demons, or merely the dark side of my own psyche, they are almost always silenced when I command them to leave in the name of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, in your presence the demons were silenced. When you said, “flee” they were forced to flee. Set me free from the voices that would lead me away from you. Help me to walk in freedom and joy. Protect me from the evil one. Amen.

excerpt from: The Way: 40 Days of Reflections by Adam Hamilton Copyright©2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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