continued from yesterday
What did Jesus' exorcist ministry mean? For one thing, it certainly fit well with his overall mission to "proclaim freedom for the prisoners... to set the oppressed free" (Luke 4:18). It fit with Jesus' mission to include all of Israel in the coming kingdom, not merely the privileged and "normal" of society. The good news was not just for their equivalent of the employed, middle class today.
As we saw in the previous chapter, Jesus did not come for the "healthy." His primary audience was those who were not currently included. Certainly those possessed by demons were an extreme example of people who were completely outside. They so just how far the good news could go.
When we look at applying these values today, we in the Western world do not often run into the demon possessed. For some, it is because we do not have the eyes to see them. For some, Satan has convinced us that it just doesn't happen any more. Yet even the Roman Catholic Church continues to have exorcists on hand. While every possible medical diagnosis is explored before turning in this direction, there is a recognition of a point where such explanations are exhausted.
But there are others on the edges of society to whom we are to bring God's love. The mentally ill and those whose minds are deteriorating in their older years come to mind. Society has always found it easy to forget such people and even has put such individuals to death in the past. Jesus' care for those possessed shows us that he would not only have noticed these sorts of people, but he would have focused on them more than the "normal" person with a comfortable life.
There are also all sorts of addictions to which we humans are prone. Drugs, alcohol, smoking quickly come to mind. Our enslavement can be more subtle but just as destructive. Addiction to possessions and material things has probably destroyed just as many homes and families as drinking has, with individuals getting themselves into levels of debt that eventually destroy them. A whole generation of young boys is sabotaging itself in gaming, unable to leave the screen in front of them, and in the process throwing out the very education and livelihood necessary to live. Right now, the continued existence of sex trafficking has powerfully been brought to our attention.
Attention to how Jesus approached demon possession is instructive of how we might approach addiction and enslavement today. Jesus did not preach against demon-possession, as if the individual possessed had a choice not to be possessed. In the same way, it would be foolish for us to preach to an alcoholic that he or she needs to stop drinking. They can't. It is not in their power. It's foolish to preach against addiction. Instead, we should work for their deliverance.
The person who is addicted, like many people in a cycle of poverty, does not have the power in him or herself to change. I have heard stories from the 1800's and 1900's of people instantaneously freed from their addictions, stories of these "demons" instantaneously cast out. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to happen so much that way any more. People seem healed much more these days by a process. I personally don't know why things might have changed, although I have heard some say it is because we no longer expect instantaneous deliverance.
The key points, though, seem to be these. First, those enslaved to demons of various sorts cannot help themselves. If they are going to be delivered, it will take someone coming alongside them from the outside. Secondly, Jesus cares about them and wants to see them delivered, and we can be his agents of deliverance. Thirdly, the process of deliverance can differ from time to time and place to place, but we should be committed to it.
There are people with expertise in such things. We should not overestimate ourselves or our own abilities. God can work through anyone, but it would be senseless to let some messiah complex keep us from referring those in dire need to those with special knowledge and training. Human enslavement is pervasive and dire. Some have a special gift to minister to those who, more often than not, seem to return over and over to their chains. Yet we must always remember that Jesus died for them as well...