In both the Jewish and pagan cultures of Jesus’ time, exorcising demons was a strict ritual, fraught with risks.

Magical incantations (preserved for us today in some ancient texts) were used in many attempts at exorcism. Other efforts to expel demons included supposedly magical objects, special word formulas, and even invoking the name of a “favorable deity” (which, in some cases, might actually have been simply another demon). Ancients also assumed—with varying degrees of success—that if they could divine the name of a demon, that would give them control over the evil spirit and allow them to send it away.

As always, these kinds of approaches were hit-or-miss, risk-filled endeavors. Scripture even tells of a group of professional exorcists who tried to invoke the names of Jesus and the Apostle Paul to drive out a demon. The demon replied, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the possessed man gave the would-be exorcists such a beating that they “ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (Acts 19:13-16).

In stark contrast, Matthew reports that Jesus needed no magical incantations, wielded no supposedly-magical object, and made no appeal to any deity other than himself when brought face to face with demons. He made no attempt at any kind of ritualized exorcism. Instead, when people came to him for help, he simply expelled all demons effortlessly, with just a word of command. No spiritual force was able to resist his omnipotent grace toward those that were brought to him!

This would have been (and honestly, still is) a stunning display of power. It is no overstatement to read Matthew’s testimony of Christ in 8:16-17 and say, What a mighty God we serve!

 

Works Cited:

[ZP2, 450-451]

 

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