Our next question is…
Well the piece of paper just said “Demons,” but I’m going to take that in a Jerry Seinfeld, “What’s the deal with, Demons?” sort of way, (go head do your best Jerry Seinfeld impression).
What’s the deal with Demons?
Great question, and I sort of have two answers. One, what was the Jewish way of thought about demons around Jesus’ time, and two, what about demons in our time.
One of the main characteristics of Jesus’ ministry was healing people who were being controlled by demons or unclean spirits (while both terms are used in the Gospels the writers seem to use them synonymously with each other).
Jesus was around during Second Temple Judaism. This was the span of time from 515BC – 70AD when the Jewish temple stood, rebuilt after the return from exile, before its destruction by the Romans. This time in Jewish thought was highly influenced by the Rabbinic tradition that had come out of the Babylonian exile. All that to say, the Jews in Jesus’ time had done a lot of thinking about spirits and the unseen world in their time in exile and afterward.
For Jews in Jesus’ time (and remember Jesus and most of the NT writers were Jews) demons/unclean spirits were linked to something that happened in Genesis 6:1-6.
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. … The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
Modern scholars have had lots to say about who these sons of God and Nephilim are but right now we’re just concerned with what Jesus’ peers were thinking.
These sons of God were seen as angelic or deistic creatures (below God, but above humans), and the Nephilim were their offspring. So in Jewish thought at the time, the demons or unclean spirits were the spirits of these Nephilim who were sort of trapped in the world of the living, not able to return to heaven but not able to be in Sheol (the Hebrew underworld). So what did they do? They wreaked havoc on the morals they encountered.
So what’s the point to take away when we read about these stories? Basically this, casting out demons was something that the Jewish people were familiar with, but there were specific rituals that needed to be done. The shocking, impressive move that Jesus pulls is that he just speaks to them and the leave. They even see him coming and beg for him to have mercy on them. The point to take away from the accounts about Jesus and demons is that there is something different and authoritative about this rabbi, he’s playing a whole new ball game.
So what about demons in our time?
There are lots of people who will say lots of things about this one, but I’ll keep it simple.
I think we can all agree, everyone has “demons” in their lives. Whether it’s things that haunt you from your past, or voices that keep telling you you aren’t good enough, we have things that twist who we truly are and are meant to be. We all face those things, and we can all see that there is evil or “uncleanness” lurking in the world.
So what’s the point?
Just like in the Gospel stories, Jesus still has authority now. We need to let Jesus speak into those things that haunt our past, and he’ll say, “Your sins are forgiven, now come live a new life with me.” We need to let him speak against the voices that try and define us, and let our worth be found in him. Jesus says he’s offering the chance to be sons and daughters of God. He gives the spirit of adoption, that tells us we are worth more than we could ever imagine. In those ways Jesus can cast out our demons and give us a new life. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Okay on to the next one! – Tats