At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one; he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew he was the Messiah.
HOW DID THE WORK AND PRESENCE OF THE ENEMY BECOME APPARENT?
At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness,
Much of what was said in the previous story about sickness being a work of the devil applies to this and every other occasion where people were healed and set free from demons. Each story adds something to the basic bottom line: sickness and demonic control need to be lined up in our sights and fired upon until they are completely destroyed. Every biblical image of the new heaven and new earth makes the matter clear. As such, truceless warfare against all forms of sickness and oppression is core business for us.
In this case, the work of the enemy was brought to Jesus by family or friends of sick and demonised people. I assume that it happened after sunset because the day was the Sabbath and sunset was the end of restrictions. As we know from other events in the life of Jesus, healing people was deemed by the religious authorities to be forbidden, so a lot of people were not willing to risk the disapproval of religious police or zealous neighbours.
WHAT WEAPONS DID JESUS USE TO ENGAGE THE ENEMY?
‘and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew he was the Messiah.’
To state the obvious, on this occasion Jesus didn’t rebuke the sicknesses as in the former incident. Instead, he placed his hands on each person brought to him. He didn’t question them or seek to qualify them in any way. If they came, he responded by placing his hands on them.
Responses came in two ways. If a person was sick, the sickness left, and they were immediately healed. If people were demonised, the demons left but not without protest. As we saw in the the synagogue, these demons also tried to cause as much trouble for Jesus as they could. They knew more than most of the humans present. They were being brought into the presence of the Son of God. As such, they were confronted with legitimate Power and rightful authority and knew they were outgunned.
Take your time and allow the sequences of the story to move slowly. Jesus didn’t go looking for demons. His presence and intention flushed them out. The universal principle is that we should measure anointing by the degree to which a person represents the agenda of heaven in any given space. That will be measured, not just by the intention, but also by the outcome. Jesus consistently offered the kingly rule of heaven. That proclamation challenged every illegitimate power that happened to be present. We should similarly focus on what God wants to do rather than whatever the devil may have in mind. Let a commitment to proclaiming the kingdom do its own work in exposing things that signify demonic presence. Anything more than that will only glorify the devil and fail to offer anything of eternal value.
As observed, people came, and Jesus laid hands on each one who had a need. The question that arises is, “Why did he lay his hands on these people rather than rebuking the sicknesses as he had done inside the house earlier in the day?” There is no definitive answer. But the fact, in itself, needs to be carefully noted largely because of what we have seen throughout Christian history. I refer to the fact that the church has tribalized their identity around things like this. Some people would take the previous method of healing used by Jesus and build a denomination around rebuking sicknesses. A different group would become the ‘laying on of hands’ denomination. They would argue with one another and compete for supremacy. Soon they would forget about seeing sick people healed and spend their time grooming their distinctives.
A read of any one or more of the gospels will show that Jesus used many different ways to create what some have referred to as a “point of contact.” It will also show that there were occasions where Jesus engaged with the enemy without any point of contact or even without being physically present with the sick person. In each of these cases, the healing was carried out in response to the faith request from a family member. On this occasion, Jesus did the same thing for everyone who came. One by one he laid his hands on them. The presence of the enemy, in the form of sicknesses, lost his influence and the people became well. There is no mention of anything being said. So we don’t want to be making any hard and fast rules about the process.
I don’t expect anyone to suggest that Jesus’ hands were the weapons. They were the tangible expression of the weapon or the conduit for the weapon. A gun barrel is not a weapon. The weapon is an explosive device called a bullet (or a shell) inserted into the breach. The barrel is the conduit through which the weapon is transferred to the target. An electric cable has no power of itself. It carries the power from the source to the place where it is needed. The same is true of the ministry happening here. A good example of this is the occasion recorded in Acts 19 where some Jewish exorcists try to use words they had heard Paul using to drive a demon from a man. Since the words themselves had no power in themselves, the demon responded to their attempt by giving the man superhuman strength, and he beat them up. The words were the conduit of the weapon. The weapon was Paul’s faith in Jesus and the authority flowing from a relationship given to him as part of the gift of salvation.
The text says Jesus laid his hands on everyone. I am assuming it includes the demonised. When such contact was made with demonised people instead of being quietly healed, they began to shout. In these cases, the demons had control of people’s faculties to the point where they could control what they said. The presence of Jesus and his touch carried spiritual firepower. As previously in the Synagogue, Jesus WAS the weapon. That authority flowed from him through his hands. When the demons realised they were outgunned, they tried to intimidate as we witnessed before, but Jesus was in command of the situation and, when they were told to be silent, they stopped. Even though the people were doing the talking, their voices were expressions of demonic presence and intent. Even though Jesus spoke to the people, he was not talking to people, but the demons. This is a significant example of Paul’s statement in Ephesians 6, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The people were so demonised that they had lost any power to exercise their own will. Jesus neither blamed them nor asked anything from them. He wrestled with the spiritual powers controlling them. But he did it by talking to the human people involved. This is how the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God co-exist or intersect. We have to learn how to wield these weapons so that we are clear about how to fight.
There is one more observation I would make. I know the people who assume expertise in this area seem to suggest that a demonised person cannot be delivered unless they repent, or acknowledge certain things about their condition. I’m not sure that the outcome is very dependent on what they do or not do. It wasn’t the case with the many people who were set free from demons in the gospel stories. The principle I have drawn is based on one condition and one condition only: that they were willing to be brought to Jesus. I think we could presume that if someone were willing to receive ministry from a person who followed Jesus, we should add no further conditions involving repentance or renunciation or even go delving into their past to find out how the demon got there in the first place. Those issues are not raised in any of the stories. Willingness to come should be enough. Once in the zone, we should be able to exercise authority and faith in the same way as Jesus, and the apostles did. That should be the goal of our faith.
The weapons Jesus used should now be more familiar to us. Paul tells the Ephesian church to “put on the whole armour of God” to prevail against the real enemy. If Jesus is modelling spiritual warfare for us, the presence and work of the enemy were evident as different kinds of sickness and as demonic presence in people’s lives. The fact that those people agreed to be brought to Jesus meant the battle was on. It is a battle of two wills and two conflicting purposes. The purpose of the enemy was to steal, kill and destroy the quality of life of people loved by God and created in his image. The purpose of God, represented by the presence of Jesus was to destroy all the work of the evil one. But the tangible battlefront happens between two people: one representing the purpose of God and the other representing the intention of the prince of darkness. In this case, Jesus engages in the battle by laying his hands on each person. Consider the following as a series of actions that engage the enemy:
Truth – sickness is a work of the enemy that can be defeated by the power of God
Righteousness – every person who came with a need was equally honoured and loved. Jesus met all of their presenting needs.
Gospel – the fact that they experienced the love and power of God provided an opportunity for them to believe in Jesus.
Faith – Jesus was wholly convinced that as he laid his hands on people, they would be healed.
Salvation – even though Jesus never needed the gift of salvation in the way that we do, he did learn sonship and the authority that preceded from oneness with his Father.
Word of God – we know that Jesus never took any initiative of his own. He only did what he “saw” his Father doing. I am aware that when most people see the phrase “word of God” they think Bible. Although God does speak through the words of the Bible, we should not limit it to verses of texts from one or more of the 66 books. We should think of it as “what God has said” about the given situation. In the case in question, we don’t have a record of verbal interaction between Jesus and his Father, but Jesus knew what the Father intended: the people who came should be healed and delivered.
Prayer – again, we don’t have a record of Jesus praying “in-situ.” We do have plenty of evidence that prayer was an essential consistent part of his daily life.
HOW MIGHT I RECOGNISE A SIMILAR WORK OF THE ENEMY AND DEAL WITH IT?
I have noticed that when I become more aware of a particular battle going on, I definitely go to prayer, often with fasting. If Paul’s words in Ephesians 6 are a summary of the way Jesus and the apostles fought battles, I need to learn to use all of them, not just the ones that seem the more accessible. If I look through the list above, the last two of the seven, the word of God and prayer, are constant activities regardless of the particular battlefront. Jesus didn’t welcome the crowd and tell them he was going off to pray. He didn’t pull out a scroll or two of Scripture and search for an answer. We need to be armed with the word of God and prayer in the same way. When we are confronted by the enemy, we need to have a reasonable idea of what is written in the Bible but we also need to ask if God has anything to say by the Spirit that might be specific to the situation. The weapon is to know what God has said: the Bible made alive by the Spirit or the Spirit checked against what is revealed in the Bible. These will only have integrity if they happen in the context of constant prayer.
The other five weapons all operate in the battle situation. I am challenged by the way these weapons were synonymous with Jesus own presence. They were expressed through his actions as well as his words. I already pointed out that when he moved to place his hands on each person as they were brought to him and as that process repeated, again and again, the actions themselves revealed what was true (real) but could not be known with physical senses. Like the song says, “The natural things speak of the invisible.” Of course, this phenomenon is a core theme of the whole Bible. The Psalms say the same thing: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon.”  Take that up a notch in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, and it is no surprise that his actions carry as powerful a message as his words. By moving to lay his hands on each person Jesus was proclaiming unseen truth. God is present and has the desire and power to heal. When Paul talks about truth as a weapon this is what Jesus consistently does: he makes known what is real but cannot be seen. That reality is the presence of redemptive love and power.
The same actions wielded the second weapon. People who are sick or disabled in this society are considered to be under the judgment of God for some or other sin. As such they probably had experienced quiet or not-so-quiet community disapproval. Instead of being made to feel false shame, Jesus honours them by patiently laying hands on each one – until all who came were noticed, touched and healed. This is the weapon of righteousness. It is the manifestation of personalised indiscriminate redemptive love. Do you think everyone who came was the epitome of human niceness? Were they all decent and clean? Were they righteous? I don’t think so. They were people with needs. Such a qualification transcends all social distinctions. The presence of Jesus was the presence of love. Not only does this kind of love never fail, but, as the cross of Jesus showed, hell’s worst was rendered powerless by its presence. I wish we could learn this lesson. I wish this weapon were always the first to be drawn. I wish we were always willing to access its inexhaustible supply in the heart of God. Darkness would lose its power again and again.
The gospel of peace is the third. I am currently defining the gospel as “an act or word that makes Jesus known in such a way that enables those present to respond by putting their faith in Jesus as the King.” For my money, watching or experiencing supernatural healing happening qualifies as a proclamation of the gospel. Jesus called it the “gospel of the kingdom.” This is well documented in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but especially in the gospel of John.
On this occasion and in every other incident where Jesus was bringing healing and deliverance there were two expressions of faith. People exercised faith by coming and asking OR by being brought by others. That is a strong and important part of the arsenal against the powers of darkness in itself: the faith to come and ask Jesus for help. Jesus also exercised faith. That faith was not visible apart from his actions. In this case, he laid his hands on people. The coming together of those two expressions of faith was enough to overcome the power of the enemy every time. On the part of the people, their coming was the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things that are real but not yet seen.” On the part of Jesus, every time he reached out to place his hands on people it is clear that fingerprints themselves can’t produce healing. There was a time lapse between the reaching out and the healing becoming manifest. This is the weapon of faith in operation. The enemy had no power to resist.
The fifth weapon in Paul’s arsenal is called ‘salvation.’ This word refers to many different things in the Bible. My way of understanding it coming from the experience of Jesus and the apostles is to link it to the gift from God that comes when someone believes the gospel. I’m sure I don’t have to labour this point. The more pressing issue is to gain a working understanding of how this represents a weapon against the principalities and powers. My working hypothesis here is the wonderful experience of being reconciled to God. A relationship which was broken by my choice to live independently and to give, my primary loyalty to something or someone else was healed. This healing enabled me to discover my real and eternal identity: as a beloved son of my Father, God. This relationship is not just a nice warm homecoming, like that of the prodigal son, but an empowering to continue the work of Jesus. Jesus told the disciples that all authority had been given to him. They were to go in this authority to make disciples of all nations. As mentioned above, it is this oneness with the Father that gave Jesus his authority. It will be the same with us. Our restored relationship with God carries with it an authority like that of the eldest son in a first-century Jewish household. Paul speaks about this in another way in Romans 8. It is the source of our security, and that security is also the foundation of our authority. I am sorry to say that we often have some idea of the relationship but have not embraced the authority that goes along with it. We need to have a good look at Jesus to gain a greater understanding of how authority is to be exercised by a son or daughter of the living God.
, i.e. Luke 4:48,49 It is easy to think of the word “story” as if to refer to fiction. I need to emphasise that it is not the way I use it concerning Biblical narrative. This is an eyewitness account of something that happened in the three-year ministry of Jesus. But the idea of the story is an integral part of exegesis. Almost every part of the Bible is a narrative. It is either straight narrative or teaching in the context of a narrative. I contend that the message IS the story and the story IS the message rather than a word, phrase or sentence that can so easily be removed from the context. The best way to understand the meaning of any of these is from the context of the story it is telling.
 See Mark 7:24-30 the daughter of a Syro-Phoenician woman; Luke 7:1-10 the son of a Roman Centurion; John 4:46-54 The son of a Capernaum official.
 See Ephesians 6:12
 See First John 3:8 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
 See John 5:19, “So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds than these so that you will be amazed.”
See also John 5:30; 7:2; 8:29,42; 14:10
 Kevin Prosch was a worship leader in the eighties and nineties and wrote a song called, “God is So Good.”
 Psalm 19:1-4
 See Mark 1:16 “He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!”
 See John 2:11; 4:29,41,53; 7:31; 8:30; 10:42; 11:45; 12:42
Eg. John 2:23 “Now while Jesus was in Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover, many people believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs he was doing.”
 See Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the sign that the things not seen are true.” (Bible in Basic English)
 See John 1:12,13 “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
 See Luke 15:11-32
 See Matthew 28:18-20