Skip to main content

Storms Within



The really good news of the passage in Matthew that we looked at yesterday is that Jesus can not only calm the storms that rage outside, he can also calm the storms that threaten to wreak havoc in our souls.

When Jesus and his disciples landed on the east side of the Sea of Galilee they were immediately approached by two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs. These men were so violent everyone in that region gave them a wide berth.

Many people today question the reality of demon-possession. They say, “Aren’t the people that the Gospels call demon-possessed what we today would call mentally ill?” Perhaps that is true. However, noted psychiatrist Dr. M. Scott Peck, argued about twenty-five years ago, in a book entitled People of the Lie, that there is a category which lies beyond the normal definitions of mental illness, a category properly called evil. If you need some sort of scientific proof of demon-possession, I suggest you read Peck’s book, but I think, if you read it at night, you will want to read with all the lights in the house on. All I can say is that I believe in the existence of Satan and his demons, who the Bible calls fallen angels. I believe in the existence of demon-possession and I believe I have witnessed it.

I know someone who was diagnosed as schizophrenic, both homicidal and suicidal in the teen years. This person often set fires and threatened to hurt both self and others. For some twenty years this person was in and out of mental institutions and jail. Finally, a very kind woman minister took on this person’s case and got the mental patient out of the mental institution and living somewhat successfully in an apartment. One day, during a counseling session, demons began to manifest themselves. The woman minister had never seen such a thing, nor even believed in the existence of demon-possession prior to that time. She called in a Catholic priest to perform an exorcism. That was not completely successful. Then the minister called in a team of people from an African-American church, a team experienced in deliverance ministry. After some days of work with this patient, the demons were gone. The person has been different ever since. Signs of mental illness lingered, but after the exorcism this person was no longer in and out of mental wards and jail. No longer did this person start fires or threaten the lives of others.

The Gospels assume the reality of Satan, of demons, and of demon-possession. And the fascinating thing about the Gospel of Matthew is that the demons are the first to call Jesus “Son of God”.

You may remember back in Matthew 4, Satan said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” And, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” That was the first use of this title “Son of God” in Matthew’s Gospel. Now the demons are shouting, “What do you want with us, Son of God?”

“Son of God” is a messianic title, as the high priest’s use of this title in conjunction with the title “Christ” in Matthew 26:63 makes clear. This title will later be used by Peter in Matthew 16:16 and by the centurion at the foot of the cross in Matthew 27:54. It is ironic that the disciples’ question, “What kind of man is this?” should be answered by demons shrieking, “Son of God”. But Matthew has no doubt that the demons here have an inside track on Jesus’ identity. Those who believed in the coming of the Messiah believed that he would put wrong to right, and so it should come as no surprise that the demons would recognize they were in trouble when Jesus came on the scene.

But of course the faith of the demons is not enough to rescue them. Just believing that Jesus is the Son of God is not enough to save anyone. As James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” The demons believe full well that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. But such faith is not enough to save them. No. Faith in the full-bodied Gospel-sense means trusting in Jesus as Messiah to rescue us from sin. It is not enough to believe a list of facts about Jesus; we must believe in Jesus, entrusting our lives to his care.

The bit about the demons asking leave to go into the herd of pigs is, without question, a very strange part of the whole story. But demon-possession itself is strange so why should we be surprised at how this story gets weirder and weirder? I happen to think this is a sign of the story’s authenticity. Who would have made up such a thing?

Some people even find this part of the story offensive. “Why would Jesus destroy someone’s livestock?” they ask. But to ask that question is to miss the whole point. Two demon-possessed men are far more valuable to Jesus than a herd of pigs. That’s the point.

The reaction of the townspeople to Jesus’ healing of the demon-possessed men is interesting too. They pleaded with Jesus to leave their region. They didn’t ask him to heal the rest of their sick or demon-possessed inhabitants. Were they afraid that Jesus was going to destroy more of their property? Were they apprehensive at this Jewish Messiah entering into their Gentile territory? No one knows for certain.

But what is clear is that Jesus never struck people as simply being a nice guy or a good teacher. Wherever Jesus traveled, people were in awe of him. Some were drawn to follow him, others were scared spit-less, but there were no lackadaisical responses.

As C. S. Lewis once wrote, “We may note in passing that He [Jesus] was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.”[1]

And in another place Lewis wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[2]


[1] C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970, p. 158.
[2] Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1984, pp. 55-56.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

C. S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Arthur Greeves
In light of recent developments in the United States on the issue of gay marriage, I thought it would be interesting to revisit what C. S. Lewis thought about homosexuality. Lewis, who died in 1963, never wrote about same-sex marriage, but he did write, occasionally, about the topic of homosexuality in general. In the following I am quoting from my book, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis. For detailed references and footnotes, you may obtain a copy from Amazon, your local library, or by clicking on the book cover at the right....
In Surprised by Joy, Lewis claimed that homosexuality was a vice to which he was never tempted and that he found opaque to the imagination. For this reason he refused to say anything too strongly against the pederasty that he encountered at Malvern College, where he attended school from the age of fifteen to sixteen. Lewis did not rate pederasty as the greatest evil of the school because he felt the cruelty displayed at Malver…

A Prayer at Ground Zero

Christmas Day Thought from Henri Nouwen

"I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful "crib" I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand - nearly too small to attract attention at all.
"But then - a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
"While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the ge…

Sheldon Vanauken Remembered

A good crowd gathered at the White Hart Cafe in Lynchburg, Virginia on Saturday, February 7 for a powerpoint presentation I gave on the life and work of Sheldon Vanauken. Van, as he was known to family and friends, was best known as the author of A Severe Mercy, the autobiography of his love relationship with his wife Jean "Davy" Palmer Davis.

While living in Oxford, England in the early 1950's, Van and Davy came to faith in Christ through the influence of C. S. Lewis. Van was a professor of history and English literature at Lynchburg College from 1948 until his retirement around 1980. A Severe Mercy tells the story of Davy's death from a mysterious liver ailment in 1955 and Van's subsequent dealing with grief. Van himself died from cancer in 1996.

It was my privilege to know Van for a brief period of time during the last year of his life. However, present at the White Hart on February 7 were some who knew Van far better than I did--Floyd Newman, one of Van's…

Mentoring

The first of four posts by yours truly is now up on the Next Leadership Blog. Check it out by clicking here: Mentoring.

C. S. Lewis Tour--London

The final two days of our C. S. Lewis Tour of Ireland & England were spent in London. Upon our arrival we enjoyed a panoramic tour of the city that included Westminster Abbey. A number of our tour participants chose to tour the inside of the Abbey where they were able to view the new C. S. Lewis plaque in Poets' Corner.


Though London was not one of Lewis' favorite places to visit, there are a number of locations associated with him. One which I have noted in my new book, In the Footsteps of C. S. Lewis, is Endsleigh Palace Hospital (25 Gordon Street, London) where Lewis recovered from his wounds received during the First World War....


Not too far away from this location is King's College, part of the University of London, located on the Strand, just off the River Thames. This is the location where Lewis gave the annual commemoration oration entitled The Inner Ring on 14 December 1944....


C. S. Lewis occasionally attended theatrical events in London. One of his favorites w…

C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary…

A Christmas Psalm

Psalm 110
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn
you will receive the dew of your youth.

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
"You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek."

The Lord is at your right hand;
he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms,
Chapter XII, paragraphs 4 & 5:

"We find in our Prayer Books that Psalm 110 is one of those appointed for Christmas Day. We may at first be surprised by this. There is nothing in it about peace and good-will, nothing remotely sugg…

Fact, Faith, Feeling

"Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods 'where to get off', you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith." Mere Christianity


Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, I remember seeing the graphic illustration above of what C. S. Lewis has, here, so eloquen…

C. S. Lewis on Church Attendance

A friend's blog written yesterday (http://wesroberts.typepad.com/) got me thinking about C. S. Lewis's experience of the church. I wrote this in a comment on Wes Robert's blog:
It is interesting to note that C. S. Lewis attended the same small church for over thirty years. The experience was nothing spectacular on a weekly basis. For most of those years Lewis didn't care much for the sermons; he even sat behind a pillar so that the priest would not see the expression on his face. He attended the service without music because he so disliked hymns. And he left right after holy communion was served probably because he didn't like to engage in small talk with other parishioners after the service. But that life-long obedience in the same direction shaped Lewis in a way that nothing else could.
Lewis was once asked, "Is attendance at a place of worship or membership with a Christian community necessary to a Christian way of life?"
His answer was as follows: &q…