Jul 30, 2012

       For quite some time I have been wondering, pondering what is it that Jesus heals in us. Oh, I know, demons and leprosy and fevers and bleeding in the Biblical stories, but what does that mean that he heals us? Here is the result of the research I have been doing in the Gospels about Jesus’ healings.  There are four categories of physical and mental problems that Jesus transforms in crowds and in individuals. The first is demon-possession and sickness of spirit; second is all the physical disabilities—blindness, deafness, the paralyzed, lameness or crippled, seizures, dropsy, and edema; third is illness, pain, bleeding, leprosy, fevers and the fourth is death or near-death states. I’ll be writing about each one of these categories in the next four weeks.

             Today I’ll focus on demon-possession. It’s been a long, long time since belief in demons was widespread. We modern people are more likely to attribute all this talk of demons to mental illness, but I am wondering if Jesus is not pointing to a condition in most of us in which we suffer from being buffeted by the many voices inside us, distracted from our true selves and from God, beholden to all the voices of authority internalized within, and unable to access our deep soul-selves. These distractions are a kind of possession. Whether this condition leaves us functionally in this world or in a state of mental illness, the fact is that we are not true to ourselves, inconsistent in our relationship with God, yearning for something more than we have, but not having a clue as to what that something is or how to get it.

        Jesus said that “no one can serve two masters,”[Matthew 6:24] This is the truth. If we have a split focus, we are not progressing toward either end. And God wants us all, whole and attentive, devoted and acting out his agenda in the world, putting God first in our lives. Split between the culture and God, our families and God, any other “gods” and God, we are not God’s people, although we may try to be. Money, wealth and mammon(“wealth as evil” at all call us away from God. Money and wealth symbolize preoccupation, worry about the future; the “Good News” of the Gospels is that we are not to worry, that God will provide everything. All the references in the Gospels about demons and possession are from the same Greek word: daimonion. It means demon, pagan god or gods, suggesting that it is the worship of other gods(money and wealth for instance) that Jesus is talking about. In the verb form, daimonizontai, the meaning is to be demon-possessed or suffering from demon-possession.

        Jesus casts out the demons, the split focus in many people. The iconic story of demonic possession is in Mark 5:1- 15 about the possessed man who lived in the tombs. He was exceedingly difficult to handle, no chains could hold him.  All day and night he cried out and cut himself with stones. When Jesus landed at Gerasenes, the man immediately approached him and recognized him and he shouted at him: “What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God?”  Jesus called out the unclean spirit and asked it, “What is your name?” “Legion” was the reply for there were many.  Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs that ran off the cliff. The man of the tombs is then seen sitting, dressed and in his right mind.

             The instant the demons possess the pigs, the pigs are thrown off a cliff and die.  This suggests that the demons “kill” the host person or at least “kill” all tendencies in that person to life, to integrity, to wholeness, towards God. Once we are possessed by something alien to us, we have lost the battle for ourselves. Jesus’ healing us means he casts out that which is alien to us, what which tries to divide us, that which comes between us and God, so that we can be whole, undivided selves. Now that is good news!

        So how do we avail ourselves of this healing? First, we have to recognize that we are not who were created to be; then we lay all that is “not us” at Jesus’ feet in prayer, setting our intention to be a son or daughter of God. Then Jesus can heal us of all that is “not us.” Like the man in the tombs, we are restored to our true selves, able to proclaim what God has done to heal us, for that is the assignment the former man of the tombs receives from Jesus.

        Jesus heals. Jesus calls out of us what does not belong. Jesus restores us to ourselves as we were created to be. We might call this healing of demon-possession harmonizing our lives.






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