This promise, spoken over the Jews living in captivity, is a classic offer of hope to all who find themselves yearning for deliverance from oppressive situations.
“Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” Luke 13:32 NIV
This week as I have been reading through the gospel of Luke I have been struck by how much of the focus of Jesus’ ministry was in casting out demons. His message for Herod quoted above, who was seeking to kill him, put driving out demons right at the top of His priority list. Depending on how you read the Gospels, Jesus spent up to 30% of his time in deliverance ministry dealing with demons. In fact Jesus touted it as the imprimatur of the authenticity of His ministry. “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28 NIV)
It has caused me to wonder why there is such a stark contrast between the ministry of the church today, particularly in the west, and the ministry of Jesus and His followers two thousand years ago. Where have all the demons gone? Why aren’t we casting out demons with the frequency and ferocity of the early church?
Dealing with the devil and his minions was at the heart of what Christ came to do. The Apostle John who accompanied Jesus throughout his earthly ministry writes “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 ESV)
Now the “works of the devil” include first and foremost sin and death which Jesus overcame at the cross. But in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles we also find the devil and his demons causing diseases and infirmities, deafness and dumbness, depression and oppression and all manner of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Jesus not only dealt with these works of the devil but also commissioned His followers to do the same. When He sent out the twelve on their short term training missions He specifically directed them and gave them authority to drive out demons in addition to curing diseases. It was an integral part of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom to set the captives free. (Luke 9:1-2) Jesus basically did the same thing when He sent out the seventy-two and they came back rejoicing saying “Lord even the demons submit to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17)