This is part two of Deliver us from Evil – see Part 1
And this brings us to the central difference between authority and religion.
Jesus began his role as teacher by teaching about the Kingdom of God but he didn’t stop at simply teaching about it. Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom of God by demonstrating His authority over the Kingdom of Darkness. “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” [MAR 1:25] The people are amazed by Jesus casting out this demon.
Why? Is it that they have never seen a demon manifest before? Are they much like us here in the West? No, demonic affliction was quite common in these times and the “teachers of the law” did exorcisms regularly but there was a very big difference between how they did it and how Jesus did it. The same was true for how they healed disease and how Jesus healed disease. The thing that they are so amazed at is the way Jesus dealt with the demon – it was with authority!
Here is a typical healing by the teachers of the law, this one for night blindness; “…a cord is to be made of the hair of some animal, one end of which is to be tied to the foot of the patient, the other to that of a dog. The children are to strike together pieces of crockery behind the dog, while the patient repeats these words: ‘the dog is old and the cock is foolish’. Next seven pieces of meat are to be taken from seven different houses, and hung up on the doorposts, and the dog must afterwards eat the meat on a dunghill in an open place. Lastly the cord is to be untied when one is to repeat: ‘let the blindness of X. the son of Y. leave X. the son of Y. and pierce the eyeballs of the dog!'”
Jewish exorcism was just as convoluted, involving the repetition of meaningless words and rhymes and magic rituals and incantations. Although magic was strictly forbidden to the Jewish people it had become a part of their faith in the areas of healing and exorcism.
Contrast with this the simple words of Jesus; “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Here is genuine spiritual authority, coming through the presence of Jesus, being contrasted with dead religion and legalism. Magic is the last resort of the practitioners of dead religion who seek power.
What the people are seeing here and what amazes them is the difference between religion and the simple presence of Jesus and his divine authority. Religion works through works – you have to make it happen through human effort and you have to earn it. Religion must rely on rules and rituals to accomplish its purposes. The Law of the Old Testament contains no rules for casting out demons so the priests of the Law are left to their human resources to cast them out. And so they resort to magic.
Remember the story in the Old Testament where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest between Baal and our God? The contest is to ignite an offering of a bull. The prophets of Baal start by calling on the name of their god from morning ‘til noon. Nada. Then they danced around the alter. Nada. Then they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears. They did this all day. Nada. Now it is evening.
Elijah soaks the wood with water three times then he offers a short prayer and fire falls from heaven and consumes the bull, the wood, the stone altar, the ground around it, and the water in the trench he built. One simple short prayer of authority.
In Math. 28:18-20 Jesus delegates His authority to a long line of Christians which stretches from the moment of that first act of delegation until us today! We are not a people of religious ritual and self effort. We are a people in intimate relationship with a God who has delegated His authority to us to use as His indwelling voice instructs us. We need no ritual. We are not people of religious magic. We are people of authority and this includes authority over evil.