What About All Those Demons? Part 2
But he replied, "I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent."
In yesterday's reflection, I focused on a story in Luke 4:33-37, in which Jesus casts a demon out of a man. This displayed the unique authority of Jesus and his words.
As we continue on in Luke, we come to a passage that summarizes Jesus' ministry in Capernaum. People from throughout the village were bringing sick relatives to Jesus so that he might heal them (4:40). Luke adds that "Many were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command" (4:41). So, once again we are confronted with the presence of the demonic in the Gospels. And, once again, we may ask: "What about all those demons?"
An answer to this question comes from the next few verses in Luke. After a full evening of ministry and, presumably, at least some sleep, Jesus got up early and "went out to an isolated place," where, no doubt, he was praying (4:42). The crowds came looking for Jesus. When they found him, they "begged him not to leave them." But he answered, "I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent" (4:43).
At first glance, this statement of Jesus does not appear to answer our question about demons. But, in fact, it helps to explain what is really going on in the clash between Jesus and the demonic. He came to proclaim the reign of God and to demonstrate the presence of God's reign through works of power. Jesus' healings, for example, are not only acts of compassion. They are also signposts to the fact that God is beginning to rule on earth in a new way.
But God's kingdom does not come without a fight. The "ruler of this world" (John 14:30, for example) and the powers of darkness do not simply roll over and die when God comes to rule. Rather, they put up a fight. It is ultimately in vain, because God is incomparably more powerful than the realm of evil. So, the appearance of demons in the Gospels illustrates the presence of God's kingdom and the reality of the battle between good and evil.
We who follow Jesus are soldiers in this war. We have the responsibility and privilege of collaborating with God in the work of his kingdom. For most of us, this doesn't mean we will be literally casting out demons. Rather, we will help to vanquish evil by proclaiming and living the Gospel. As we incarnate God's love and justice, as we seek to serve God and our neighbor, as we refuse to endorse evil but choose rather to seek the good, the reign of God will be present in our lives and, through us, in our world.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways is the reign of God evident in your life? How is God calling you to live out the good news of his kingdom? Where do you experience the battle between good and evil in your life?
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not His equal.
Did we in our strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabbaoth, His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And tho’ this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph thro’ us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let good and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" by Martin Luther. English translation by Frederic H. Hedge, 1853. Public domain.