When you finish this session you should be able to:
- Understand how Jesus came to wage war with the devil
- See how the war is waged on the demonic front
- Comprehend how the enemy uses disease to wage war
- See how nature runs amuck in the heat of battle
- Know how the final weapon of death was defeated
There is a war going on! This session will take you behind the scenes to observe how the master General waged war against his chief enemy and won. First, we will see how Jesus assaulted the camp of the enemy in the arena of demons. Then, we will see the waging of war on disease. Next, we will observe how Jesus responds to the battlefront of nature. Finally, we will see Jesus wipe out the ultimate weapon of Satan, death.
Where Are We Going
The Words and Works of Jesus: An Assault on the Kingdom of Satan
The Works of Jesus over Demons
The Works of Jesus over Disease
The Crippled Woman: Luke 13.10-17
Peter’s Mother-in-law: Luke 4.28-39
The Demonized Boy: Matthew 17.14
The Scourging of the Enemy
Are You the One?
The View from Today!
Two Aspirin and Call Me Tomorrow
The Works of Jesus over Nature
The Storm at Sea: Mark 4.25-41
The Fig Tree Cursed: Mark 11.12-14
The Works of Jesus over Death
The Widow’s Son: Luke 7.11-17
The Daughter of Jairus: Mark 5.21-24, 35-43;
The Words and Works of Jesus: An Assault on the Kingdom of Satan
There is an indispensable relationship between the words of Jesus and the works of Jesus. His preaching and teaching ministry and his miracles are in essence teaching the same thing, i.e., carry the same message. Some have suggested that the miracles of Jesus were no more than a form of great advertising. The heightened interest in the message of Jesus, often startling men and women into paying attention to his message. Others have suggested that the miracles are rewards for having faith. When a person has gained enough faith, then a miracle can occur. The words of Jesus in the Gospels, Go your way, your faith has made you whole, could validate this kind of meaning. However, there are other places where miracles occurred in which an individual did not have a personal faith response. Certainly, the widow’s son who was resuscitated would certainly fit this category. It would be hard to press meaning that the dead man’s faith brought him back to life.
Yet another reason offered for the miracles of Jesus is that he had compassion for people in need. Certainly, we are shown his compassion in the Gospels (the widow’s son, Mark 6.34ff.; the feeding of the five thousand, Matthew 14.21ff.). However, it must be pointed out that Jesus did not heal everyone that he passed. He left many sick and hungry, more people than he healed and fed.
If miracles were rewards for people’s faith, then it follows that one left unhealed who has genuine faith might deduct that his or her faith is insufficient. If miracles are evidence of the compassion of Jesus, the unhealed person might come to believe that in his or her case Jesus has no compassion. We must look elsewhere to discover the purpose of the works of Jesus.
Remember, the message of the words and works of Jesus are identical. There is no difference between them in terms of meaning. The works have the exact same meaning as the words. The words of Jesus announced that the kingdom of God is at hand. The works of Jesus demonstrate what the kingdom of God “at hand” was/is like. His preaching, teaching, parable telling, healing ministry were announcements of the fact that the kingdom had arrived and the rule of God would destroy the rule of Satan.
It seems certain then that the miracles of Jesus should be understood in the context of warfare with Satan. John understood this concept when he wrote, The whole world is in the power of the evil one…(1 John 5.19). Paul tells the Corinthians that Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4.4). In his circular letter to the ecclesiae around Ephesus, he told the congregations that the ecclesiae does not fight against flesh and blood, because the real enemy is Satan. He described the frightening dimensions of satanic power and insisted that his readers stand against their cosmic foe, the principalities and powers, the world rulers of this present darkness. Paul is convinced that this present evil age is entangled in the snares of Satan and estranged from God and under the rule of fallen powers and principalities (Gal. 1).
The Second Testament believes that while Satan is not in control of the world, he does have limited power and authority. The ills and woes of humankind originate with him. Suffering, tragedy, and pain are not punishments of an angry God. They are the result of living in a fallen world and are sometimes a direct attack of the kingdom of Satan.
The miracles of Jesus are attacks on Satan and his demonic forces and reverse the stronghold of Satan and demonstrate the kingdom of God. Jesus both announced the kingdom with his words and carved out an arena in which the kingdom intruded into the rule of Satan with his works.
The miracles of Jesus can be viewed within four different areas: expelling demons, curing diseases, dealing with nature, and overcoming death. Let’s look at these ideas one at a time.
The Works of Jesus Over Demons
When Jesus expelled a demon from a person it was a direct attack on Satan. At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (Mark 1.15), Jesus withstood the attacks of the enemy in the wilderness and demonstrated that one area of nature in the presence of Jesus had been restored. The wild beasts were with him but did not harm him (Mark 1.13). When Jesus left the wilderness, he came to the synagogue of Capernaum to preach that the rule of God was present. No sooner than he had opened his mouth, the demonic forces attacked. One can only surmise that he may have been teaching about the kingdom. A demon recognized Jesus (I know who you are—the Holy One of God) and the demon knew that Jesus had come to destroy him.
Jesus rebuked the demon and told him to be silent (Mark 1.25). The two Greek words are very strong. Rebuke can be defined as to scold, denounce, censure in order to bring an action to an end. Be silent can be defined as muzzle, strangle, or tie shut. Jesus clashed with the demon, denounced him, and choked him in order to set the man who was demonized free. It is not only Satan, the strong man of Mark 3.27, who alone is to be bound. It is his co-workers who would also be attacked, strangled, choked, and destroyed.
When Jesus delivered the young boy with a dumb spirit (Matt. 17.18; Mark 9.25; Luke 9.42) he used the same word rebuke. Driving out demons and the smashing of the ruling grip of Satan on the stolen world was proof and fulfillment that the kingdom which Jesus had announced had arrived. The arrival of the kingdom is simultaneous with, dependent on, and manifested in the throwing out of demons from people’s lives in the present. The kingdom will arrive in its fullness on a worldwide basis at the second coming of Jesus.
Until that future moment, the battles go on, even though the decisive battle has been won by Jesus on the cross. The call of the army of God is to rout out Satan and his demonic friends.
The Works of Jesus Over Disease
A second arena in which Jesus attacked the rule of Satan was disease. The mindset of those living in the first century was that sickness was a work of Satan, a heavy weapon of his demonic force. Sickness and disease were ways in which Satan ruled the world. When Jesus healed those who were sick, he was in the act of pushing back the kingdom of Satan. In healing, Jesus not only attacked the demons, but he also attacked their work. He undid their damage.
| The Crippled Woman: Luke 13.10-17
The mindset of the medical world is that sickness is always caused by physical factors. Jesus, however, ascribed sickness directly or indirectly to the perversity of Satan. He pointed to a little old lady, tied like a horseshoe for eighteen years, and claimed that her physical infirmity was caused by the power of Satan (Luke 13.16). One might want to note that Dr. Luke’s worldview was different from today’s medical worldview. (This is not an argument saying that the ancient world’s medicine was superior, only that one doctor saw sickness from a different perspective.)
We who are living with a Western mindset often see crippling diseases as the will of God in a person’s life; or that we will understand it better when we get to heaven. Western theology does not make room for satanic intervention in illness. This was not so with Jesus. On many occasions, he looked at a sick person and called his or her infirmity the work of the devil, not the will of God (Luke 13.11-16). This passage is loaded with profound theological significance. One might note that the woman had a spirit of infirmity. The doctor confirmed the idea that illness can be inflicted by a supernatural force. Luke equated this spirit of infirmity with Satan, the one who stood behind the twisting and binding.
Jesus attacked the demonic host when he healed this sick woman (Luke 13.13). In Essentials of Demonology, Edward Langton says, “Special demons came to be associated with particular forms of disease or sickness. Certain diseases were held to be caused by particular demons.”[ref]Edward Langton. Essentials of Demonolgy. Wipf & Stock; Reprint edition (September 23, 2014). 49.[/ref]
| Peter’s Mother-in-law: Luke 4.28-39
Jesus rebuked the fever when he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He used the same language that he used on the demon in Luke 13. Since words are clues to our thoughts, it is my conclusion that Jesus used the same word in addressing the fever that he did when addressing the demon because he saw a lethal unity between sickness and Satan. He spoke to the fever directly and told it to stop.
| The Demonized Boy: Matthew 17.14
Matthew tied sickness and demons together in his story of the demonized boy. Mark only shared that the boy was demonized. Matthew added the information that the boy’s condition was epilepsy. Jesus rebuked the demon by attacking his works and the boy was cured.
The Scourging of the Enemy
The words disease and suffering in the following passages do not communicate the force of the original language.
- For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him (Mark 3:10).
- Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering (Mark 5:29).
- He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).
The original word here is matrix, which is defined as a whip or a lash. It is the same word that is translated as scourging in Acts 22.24 and Hebrews 11.36. It appears that whip is closer to the meaning in these passages as in Mark 3.10; 5.29 and 34. The idea is that sickness can be viewed as being “whipped” by the enemy.
The whips, scourges, and lashes inflicted by the evil one were not ordinary diseases that the Western mindset often accepts as ordinary experiences—fevers, cancers, and heart problems—Jesus considered the result of satanic oppression. Satan uses a spiritual whip to inflict pain on humans.
Sickness is not a part of the play of God for his creation. Satan rules his captured realm by causing suffering and agony in the world. Jesus came to take the whip off the backs of those enslaved by Satan (Luke 7.21).
Are You the One?
When John the Baptist received a report that Jesus was healing people, he sent his disciples to question Jesus. When his disciples found Jesus they asked, “Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?” Jesus responded by “curing many who had diseases, sickness, and evil spirits” (Luke 7.18-21.) In this verse, the word sickness means lash or whip. One should note that in this context the word is used with disease and evil spirits.
Later when John was in prison, he sent word to Jesus asking for assurance that Jesus was indeed the one to bring the kingdom. Jesus replied to John by first performing a healing and then sending his disciples back with this word, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard” (John 7.22). Jesus summarized his ministry by talking about what had been seen, his works, and what had been heard, his words.
He told John that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hears, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them. What good news? Satan’s power was being broken by the ministry of Jesus. How do the poor know this message? The blind were being healed. The lame began to walk. The lepers were made clean. The deaf could hear. The dead were alive. The kingdom/rule of God was invading the kingdom of Satan.
The View from Today!
Today’s Westerner still has difficulty in believing that sickness can be a work of Satan. They rather see this belief as medieval, superstitious, and totally incredible in an enlightened age. The ancient world is seen as immature and adolescent in their belief that sickness could be caused by the demonic. For the Westerner to accept sickness as demonic is to have a primitive animistic mindset. The Western medical community is persuaded that sickness is caused by viruses and germs, not demonic sickness. While it is certainly true that viruses and germs cause sickness, it is my contention that they are not the only cause. In the Western worldview, the belief that sickness can be the direct work of Satan is ridiculed, scorned, and rejected, but that doesn’t mean that it should be abandoned!
Take Two Aspirin and Call Me Tomorrow
What is the first thing we do when we get a headache or a fever? Do we pray or go to the medicine closet for two aspirin? If it is the latter, does it say that we do see sickness or disease as physical in origin and not theological?
It is not the point of this discussion to disdain medical technology or the medical practice of doctors. Every time we have a throbbing toothache we should not automatically cry that Satan is stabbing us in our molars. We can acknowledge the value of modern medicine and still have a biblical belief and practice which understands that Satan can be the cause of physical suffering.
Have we become more intellectually profound because we can isolate a death-dealing virus and give it a Greek or Latin name? A virus that destroys children, wipes away our hopes, and ravages our loved ones? There is an element of mysterious and malignant evil in sickness. When Jesus encountered it, he did not philosophize about it; he did not do a psychological study on it; he did not theologize about it, and he did not explain it in medical terms. He simply healed the disease. Oh, to be like Jesus!
The Works of Jesus Over Nature
Demonic forces play havoc in the lives of humankind through demonization and sickness. They also indirectly exert their perverted influence by causing nature to run amuck. This is a key to understanding the nature miracles.
The Storm at Sea: Mark 4.25-41
Often this story is used to posit a meaning of the ability of Jesus to bring inward harmony. “As the winds and the waves of life begin to sink your boat, Jesus is there to speak, ‘peace, be still!’” While it is true that Jesus can bring peace into a stormy life, this is not the primary interest of Mark in telling this story. Rather, he wanted to demonstrate to his readers that Jesus was in conflict with nature itself.
According to Paul (Rom. 8.21), the forces of evil hold creation in bondage and decay. In the beginning, when God created, he gave humans dominion over all things. When Jesus and his disciples were in the boat, Satan was attempting to take that dominion away. The twelve, in fear, cry, “Master, we perish!”
They woke Jesus and immediately he rebuked the wind. The word which Mark used for rebuke is the same word spoken to the demonized man in the synagogue and to the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus spoke to the storm and told the sea to “be quiet.” Again the same word was used by Jesus as the one he spoke to the demonic in the synagogue. He simply scolds the sea in the same way he did the demon.
It can be reasoned that the same words are used by Jesus in dealing with demons and sickness that he used in dealing with the storm at sea because he saw them as having the same cause. In bringing the demonic to wholeness, Jesus attacked the person of the demon. In healing the mother-in-law and bringing the sea into compliance, he attacked the work of the demon.
Hunger was also believed to be the work of the devil. Before the fall of humankind, there was an abundance of food to eat, just for the taking. But when Satan’s rule became the controlling rule, the abundance went away. Humans had to toil in order to gain food. The harmony of the Garden had turned to the disharmony of sweating to get food to eat. Abundance changed to deprivation and feasting to famine and hunger. Mark saw famine as one of the signs of the devil’s increased resistance in his fight to retain the stolen property. It appears that Paul has the same view (Rom. 8.35).
The nature miracles can all be viewed from the perspective of the kingdom of God at war with the rule of Satan. In the nature of miracles, the strongest attacks of Jesus against Satan are demonstrated. In nature, the work of Satan stands in all its malignancy, exposed in all its perverse, starving, crippling, destroying forces of evil that crush humankind at every turn.
The Fig Tree Cursed: Mark 11.12-14
One of the most difficult passages in the Gospel of Mark is the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree. At first sight, it appears to be the only negative miracle, a miracle of destruction, recorded in the ministry of Jesus. In the Intertestamental literature, there is a recurring theme that Satan had revolted against God. He had become God’s enemy. He had stolen the world and the world had taken on the effects of this great sin against God. Nature was believed to be corrupt as observed in simple things like worms in fruit, famines, storms at sea, and the refusal of trees to bear fruit, all shreds of evidence of a world that had gone berserk.
The most usual interpretation of this passage is to understand the fig tree as a symbol of the Jewish leadership of the day that was barren and unfruitful. Jesus rejected the barren leadership of the Jewish priests and Pharisees. There is nothing in the reading of the text that demands such an interpretation. We must learn to take the worldview of Jesus seriously. Jesus was hungry (v. 12). He went to the fig tree to find something to eat. The tree had no fruit, therefore, it had no right to exist (Luke 13.6-9). In the kingdom of God, there is no right season for fruit-bearing. Trees under the rule of Satan may promise one thing and deliver another and, therefore, receive the curse of death for not bearing. All that was barren, fruitless, or enslaving would be no more in the kingdom of God. The fruitless, worthless demonic was being rooted out and destroyed. Both the storm at sea and the nonbearing fig tree have a common link. Both were demon-inspired perversions of a God-created function. In the kingdom this will be reversed.
The malignancy of the rule of Satan will be neutralized and the bounty of the world will be restored. Luke took this position when he told the story of Peter fishing all night with nothing to show for his efforts. When Jesus went along with Peter, they caught more fish than his boat could hold. In the Garden, humankind had been given dominion of all things. In the fall, that God-given right was forfeited. The kingdom of God restored what the rule of Satan violated.
The Works of Jesus Over Death
Death was the last bastion of rule for Satan. It was his most powerful and feared weapon. It was final! For those who suffered famine, there was hope that they would live to eat again. For those who suffered sickness, there was hope that they would be cured. But, for those who died, all hope was gone. The grave wrote final over all the hopes of humankind. It was in the arena of death that Jesus broke the back of Satan. The miracles of resuscitation are important aspects of the kingdom ministry of Jesus.
There are three specific accounts and one general account of raising the dead in the Gospels.
| The Widow’s Son: Luke 7.11-17
Nain was about twenty-five miles from Capernaum. As Jesus was traveling toward Nain with his disciples, he met a burial procession. Moved with compassion for the mother of the dead boy, he touched the coffin and spoke to the young man. To the surprise of the processional, the dead boy sat up and spoke. When Jesus spoke the rule of God into the arena of death, its power was broken. Into the coldness and finality of this widow’s life, Jesus brought the warmth and compassion of the kingdom.
| The Daughter of Jairus: Mark 5.21-24, 35-43
Jairus was the ruler of the local synagogue. He had been faced with the illness of his twelve-year-old daughter. He sought Jesus for help. On the way to the home of Jairus, Jesus paused and healed a woman who had been hemorrhaging for as long as Jairus’ daughter had been alive. As Jairus, Jesus, and his disciples were returning to Jairus’ home, he was greeted with the tragic news that his daughter had died. The pause for compassion for the hemorrhaging woman had been costly. The servants told Jairus that there was no longer any need for Jesus. Death had shattered all the aspirations and optimism of Jairus’ family. His girl was dead. It was final!
One difficulty we have as Westerners some 2,000 years after the stories of Scripture is the two millenniums of the Christian tradition. We stand on the positive side of Easter. We no longer see death with the same eyes that the people before the resurrection of Jesus saw death. We see death as a door to the hereafter, an entrance into the presence of a loving parent with whom we will have fellowship forever. Struggle for a moment to let your Christian understanding of death be temporarily modified. Look at death as it was before the resurrection of Jesus. It was final. No hope, for life itself had gone. Stand for a moment in the graveyard of the ancient past and see a father bury his only daughter of twelve, dead before life had had its fullest expression. Comprehend the agonizing note of finality wrapped in the shrouds of death as you adjust to the cold hard fact that your only daughter was gone with no promise of ever seeing her again. Feel the emptiness, the void, the hollow, vacant feeling that Jairus must have felt when he heard the word that his daughter was dead. Dead must have struck his ears like the blow of a hammer. She’s dead; don’t trouble the teacher any longer. Depression was already setting in.
Jesus, on the other hand, had a different view. He began to change the atmosphere around him. He sent everyone outside the girl’s room except his small team and her mother and father. He spoke to the dead, lifeless body, and life came rushing back like a torrent of water. Victory had been snatched from the jaws of defeat. Death had been conquered with the rule of God. Jesus had come into the enemy’s camp and abolished his greatest weapon.
Jesus was on the attack. Out to plunder the strong man’s house. He drove out demons; stilled storms; healed the sick; cursed the unfruitful; fed the hungry; and threw death back into the pit. The victory over the grave was the final blow. It was a foretaste of the ultimate stroke of victory when Jesus was raised from the dead by the powerful rule of God.
| The Resurrection of Jesus: Mark 16. 1-8, Matt. 28.1-10, Luke 24.1-44, John 20.1-29
The writers of the Gospels do not present Jesus as some kind of victim being led to slaughter. He was the conquering one who submitted to the cross so he could ascend to the throne. The death of Jesus was not an end. Satan may have thought he had won. But he did not. The death of Jesus was only a means to his final victory over Satan, his resurrection. Jesus never announced his death without announcing his resurrection (Matt. 16.21; 17.22-23; 20.17-19; Mark 8.31ff.; Luke 9.22).
The cosmic overtones of war and judgment are all there in the cross: darkness at a strange hour, rocks splitting, an earthquake, people coming out of the graveyards. The war had been fought and Satan had lost.
The resurrection of Jesus assures, confirms, and completes the victory of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of Satan. It is for this very reason that the resurrection is at the very heart of the message of the early church. It was the final authoritative announcement that God had won the battle and the firstfruits of the age to come had arrived. Paul insisted that there was no Christianity apart from the resurrection (1 Cor. 15.14, 17). It was a decisive event in history. If Jesus had not been brought back from the tomb, Satan would have indeed been stronger than God.
Death has been somewhat romanticized in Western Christianity. It is often seen as a sweet release provided by a loving Father who gently calls us home to be with him. Not so with the early Christians! They saw death as an enemy, a work of Satan to destroy them. Paul told the Corinthians that death was the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15.26). It was last chronologically and last because it was the most powerful stronghold of Satan. The author of Hebrews sums it up: through death, he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2.14).
| The Resuscitation of Many. Matt. 27.51-53
Matthew is the only one who mentions this episode in the combined gospels. It is recorded that they appeared to many during the Passover period. This small historical clue suggested that there were many who saw the results of this amazing event. It appears that Matthew wanted to note for historical purposes that the Resurrection of Jesus actually occurred and could be attested to by many families.
The kingdom ministry of Jesus can plainly be seen in his words and works. His ministry over demons, sickness, nature, and death are models for his followers to pursue. The kingdom of God is more than a theology to establish; it is a life to be lived.
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- How do you understand Jesus’ use of the miraculous? What led you to those beliefs?
- Have you ever had the experience of casting out a demon?
- What do you think your responsibility is in this area of warfare?
- How do you believe a disease is caused?
- What do you think about the idea that your worldview may have caused you to view disease in a non-biblical way?
- When have you spoken to a fever and told it to retreat? What happened?
- How does your worldview cause you to see or not see disease as a weapon of the enemy to defeat you?
- How long since you took a spiritual whipping from the enemy?
- Did you see it as an assault on you? Why or why not?
- In what way have you found yourself in the shoes of John the Baptist in his need to know if Jesus is really the one sent from God?
- When can you see the good news, or can you only speak the good news?
- In what way would you defend a belief that Satan may be at the root of some diseases?
- Which do you do? Pray first, then seek medical attention or seek medical attention and then pray?
- What might this say about your theology?
- When was the last time you took charge of the weather?
- Do you believe that you can talk to the weather when it is threatening?
- What results would be possible?
- In what way does your life portray that you live with less than the abundant life that comes with the rule of God?
- How do you think that Jesus might respond to you when you show great promise and fall short of producing what the kingdom should produce throughout your life?
- How does living on the positive side of Easter taint our view of death?
- What do you think would happen if you prayed and someone came back from the dead?
- How does the resurrection change your view of the finality of death?
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