On Wednesday evening (April 25) I taught an adult Bible class about the Syrophoenician woman and her demon-possessed little daughter (Matt. 15:21-28). This Gentile mother was incredibly persistent. She continued to plead with Jesus for the healing of her child, even though he seemed to be indifferent to her needs and feelings.
It’s a popular thing to claim that demon-possession still happens in the 21st century. But I have some serious problems with that. Demon-possessed people in New Testament times usually had characteristics associated with severe mental illness – screaming, self-injury, refusing to wear clothes. The “demon-possessed” people of our times are mentally ill too.
But demon-possessed people of the Bible often had supernatural powers also. They recognized the true identity of Jesus even before the disciples did (Mark 1:34). And then there was the supernatural strength of the Gerasene demoniac (5:4). Restraining him was impossible. He crushed shackles in his bare hands. If demon-possession still happens today, where is at least one person who can do such things? Some drug-crazed people have bursts of amazing strength, but they can be restrained and they don’t break handcuffs in little pieces with their bare hands. Of course, the demoniac wasn’t high on dope either.
And then there’s the uncomfortable question about the absence of spiritual power to heal demon-possession. Some people claim that power, I know. But casting out demons is always like healing blindness or raising the dead. It’s happening in some foreign place – in Peru, in China, in Zimbabwe. Why can’t we see it right here in Seagoville and record it with our cell phones?
Paul taught that spiritual gifts would pass as the church reached its maturity (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:7-14). The miraculous power to cast out demons belonged among those now-missing gifts. Would God permit demons to possess people but leave the church unequipped to cast them out?