By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Demons believe in God. They are not atheists (who claim there is no God), and they are not agnostics (who claim that we can’t know whether there’s a God). No, demons are monotheists — they know and believe there is one God — and they even fear him. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder!” (James 2:19). However, while they believe in Him and fear Him, they also hate Him. They can’t stand Him, and they are against everything He’s for.
In Mark 9 we read the account of a concerned and broken father desperately seeking healing for his son, who is possessed by a demon. Upon first reading the description of what happens to the boy, it could seem like it’s a type of seizure (9:17-18). However, the description by the father that the spirit would often attempt to throw him into fire or water to destroy him … is a deliberate effort by demonic forces to steal, kill, and destroy (v.22).
Demons carry out the work of Satan to bind and destroy. In the description of what the boy went through on a regular basis when the demon exercised control over him, nothing is positive. Everything the demon did was negative towards the flourishing of the boy: it made him mute (17), threw him down (18), made him foam at the mouth and grind his teeth (18), made him rigid (18), and cast him into fire and water so as to destroy him (22).
This is the essence of what Satan and his demons want to do: hinder the flourishing of God’s creation in humanity. They long to undermine everything beautiful and good about creation by exploiting its brokenness. They seek to destroy because it’s the opposite of what God has done in making the creation beautiful — give life and order.
Jesus has complete power over demons. If Jesus overcame Satan — and he did (by not yielding to temptation (Matthew 4), by staying focused on the cross (Matthew 16:23), and by disarming him in the atonement of sin on the cross (Colossians 2:14-15), then how much more does he overcome his pathetic little minion followers? When Jesus says that all authority had been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), He means all authority. This is because in the cross, He has triumphed over every spiritual power or authority that had set itself up against Him. And in this story we see traces of that power when He cast the demon out of the boy.
Jesus has power to free us from our own lack of faith. There are two people in need of Jesus in this story. The most obvious is the boy. But the father has a great need too. The power of the demons to bind his son has also bound his hope and smothered his faith. He wanted to believe Jesus could heal his son, but he’s seen what the demonic powers can do, and he’s convinced they’re too much for him, if not too much for Jesus too. In honesty he simply answers, “If you can do anything … help us.” Jesus could do something, and He did. He healed his son, flexed His authority over the demonic forces, and bolstered the faith of the father, and He does the same for us who are in need of compassion and relief when we come to Him.