Why Were The Jewish Exorcists Astounded At Jesus’ Authority?
We’ve been talking about deliverance ministry in the last few weeks. First, we looked at the simplicity of how Jesus cast out demons. Then we looked at casting out demons in the book of Acts. After that, I shared my experience with seeing deliverance in the Universal Church, and then we examined the notion that demons have a “legal right” to afflict people.
As I was writing on this subject, one of my friends posted a video by a guy named Bradford McClendon. I liked the way he carries God’s presence, and I started listening to a few of his other “God Stories” videos.
Jesus Delivering The Deliverance Minister
I really resonated with a lot of what Brad said as he shared his testimonies. In the video below, Brad shares a story of a deliverance minister who gained extensive knowledge about the names and methods of various demons and how to deal with them. He said “You need to know a demon’s name to cast it out,” and he had a book and notepad with hundreds of demon’s names and information about what they were, what they did, and how to cast them out.
Brad said “I thought we had to know the name of Jesus and not the name of demons.” The deliverance minister got really upset. He continued to talk about knowing demon’s tactics and Brad responded: “Well, how much do you know about Jesus?” From then on the deliverance minister got more and more upset!
The next morning the deliverance minister walked up to Brad crying. He had felt a tug on his foot in the night, and it was Jesus at the end of the bed. Jesus whispered, “Come into the kitchen.” When they went into the kitchen Jesus turned and smiled, saying “You’re delivered now.” He started vomiting as the religious spirit left. Then Jesus smiled and disappeared.
You Connect With What You Focus On, So Let Jesus Capture Your Attention!
Long ago I warned a friend that he didn’t need to learn much about demons to overcome them. He needed to know Jesus. Brad’s story is not one-of-a-kind. People have often become demonized by studying demonology, and I didn’t want my friend to fall into the same trap. In the spirit realm, you connect with what you focus on. Focus on Jesus and what he’s done.
Another thing Brad said was “If the love of God shows up, everything else has to go that’s not of love.” I wanted to shout “Yes!” As Corrie Ten Boom’s father said “Love is the most powerful force in the world.” I’ve experienced a love that drives everything else out. This was how I got set free when nobody could help me. It was a love so real that it became physically tangible, enveloping my face and then spreading over my body. After one such experience when I was 15 years old, I was continually near the point of tears for several months and I kept thinking “How is it possible for me to love so much?”
What if we manifest God’s love to other people in such a tangible way as I experienced? With all my heart, that’s what I want to grow into by God’s grace. God has given us the Holy Spirit to manifest His love.
The powerful manifestation of God’s love can quickly end any kind of torment. So what we need isn’t more special knowledge or methods. It’s a greater manifestation of God’s glory. It’s the person of Jesus revealed through us. This comes through us and it increases as we behold God’s glory revealed in Jesus and then let it transform us.
I’ve felt God’s love manifest so powerful through an individual that I physically felt something like warm oil pouring over my head. I know from experience, that can help when nothing else can. People need to know God’s love and they need to see truth revealed in Jesus.
How Was Jesus Different Than The Jewish Exorcists?
As Brad was talking, he mentioned that the reason Jesus’ casting out demons was so scandalous to the Jews was that he did it so differently. They had their system to cast out demons. Jesus broke their tradition and was ruining the whole system.
I’d been aware that Jews cast out demons before hearing this video. In fact, various religions, including witchcraft, have exorcism practices. And scripture mentions the Jewish exorcists. In fact, it seems to contrast Christian deliverance ministry with their methods.
Matthew 12:27 (NIV) And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.
Acts 19:13 (NIV) Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”
As we read in Acts 19, some of those Jewish exorcists were the seven sons of Sceva, who was a Jewish high priest. They tried to use Jesus’ name ritualistically, and they got beat up by the man with the evil spirit. This story contrasts with verses 11 and 12 of the same chapter, which tells us that demons fled when even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul were brought to people.
What does this tell us? It’s not about a ritual or a method. It’s about knowing Jesus.
Brad’s comment about Jewish exorcists made me curious. I’d noticed them in scripture, but I knew very little about the way they cast out demons. So I googled “Rabbinical exorcism” and “Jewish exorcism” to read several articles. Here are the links to some of them in case you want to read more for yourself, but I’ll summarize what stood out to me.
Jews were known for their expertise in casting out demons. It was a long and laborious process. It involved repeated ritual actions and many threats and rebukes. It focused heavily on learning the demon’s name because the exorcists believed they overcame the demon with the power of its own name. It also focused on gaining knowledge about the evil spirit, including learning why it was there and how it had entered. They also could include various other things such as incense, Torah scrolls, blowing a shofar, and even amulets. Jews sometimes invoked angels or “beneficial spirits” to help with the exorcism.
One or two sources stated that Jewish exorcists were usually involved in Kaballah. (A form of the occult.) Some were demonized themselves, and believed “such possession could on occasion be benevolent.”(Likewise, a friend who was formerly involved in the occult told me that they had expelled demons with the help of other demons.)
If Jews Were Already Familiar With Exorcism, Why Were They Astounded At Jesus’ Authority?
Mark 1:21-28 (NIV) They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure 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 impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
When we understand the background of Jewish exorcism practices, it sheds some light on why they were amazed at Jesus’ authority. In this story, all Jesus said was “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
He didn’t need to learn the demon’s name in order to have power over it.
He didn’t burn incense and blow a shofar.
He didn’t spend three hours threatening the spirit, conversing with it, and trying to find out how it entered and why it was there.
Jesus’ authority stood in sharp contrast to the methods of the Jewish exorcists.
I didn’t mention Jewish exorcism practices in my latest book, “What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War.” I hadn’t yet read much on the subject. However, I did share several reasons that people become vulnerable to attack because of their approach to confronting evil. Today’s article ties in closely with some of my conclusions in “What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War.” If you’re looking for more insight on this topic, you might want to get a copy!