Jesus, Lord Over Demons

Matthew 8:28-34

Witchcraft and sorcery are on the rise. Books are coming out by the droves. Despite her public denunciation of the idea, author J.K. Rowlings (author of the Harry Potter series) has privately encouraged young boys and girls to follow wizardry and witchcraft. Horoscopes are in almost every major newspaper. What are we to think? How are we to react biblically to this phenomenon? I believe that our passage here gives us some answer to that question. The passage states in no uncertain terms that Jesus is Lord over demons.

Jesus has just demonstrated that He is Lord over nature, and over the forces of nature that can cause utter chaos. Jesus’ power for order is greater than any power for chaos. Now, what Jesus does next is that He goes into a Gentile territory. This is highly unusual in Jesus’ ministry. There are not many accounts of His dealings with the Gentiles, since He was sent first to the lost house of Israel. Therefore, since we are Gentiles, this passage has special interest for us, especially since we are often just like the townspeople in this story: blissfully ignorant of spiritual matters, and overly concerned about our pocketbook. As I said, Jesus went to a Gentile territory. How do know this? Well, for one thing, the other side of the Sea of Galilee was Gentile territory at this time. But, furthermore, we know that pigs were unclean animals, and no self-respecting Jew would have been a herdsman of even one pig, let alone the 2000 that Mark tells us were there.

When Jesus was in this territory, two demon-possessed men came out of the tombs to meet Jesus. Now, we have a couple of issues to deal with here. First of all, Mark and Luke only mention one demon-possessed man, whereas Matthew mentions two. Is this a contradiction? Is there error somewhere in this report? Not at all. Mark and Luke could very well have been thinking about the more prominent of the two demon-possessed men. Mark and Luke do not say that there was only one. They merely say “a demon-possessed man.” So, if Matthew chose to remember that there were two, as he often does (probably because of the two witnesses required by the law in Deuteronomy), whereas Mark and Luke choose to emphasize the one-on-one encounter, then who are we to say that there is a contradiction? They have different emphases, which cause them to emphasize different parts of the story. But they do not contradict.

Secondly, we see that the demon-possessed men were in the tombs. Jewish thought connected demons with death quite closely, and so it was fitting that they came out of the tombs. Jesus had the power of resurrection. Indeed, it is no accident that when Jesus died, many came up out of the tombs at His resurrection. So, what we have here is nothing less than the resurrection of these two men from their demon-possession to normal life. It therefore foreshadows the greater resurrection that happened when Christ was raised from the dead. We also are dead in our trespasses and sins, and it takes the power of Jesus Christ to resurrect us from that.

Thirdly, these two men were demon-possessed. This is quite uncomfortable for modern man to deal with. How can anyone be demon-possessed? Modern man would rather say that they were “psychologically troubled,” or some such jargon. In fact, modern man would rather say that the supernatural did not exist at all at any time. But this plays right into Satan’s hand. Satan is a real demon. The Bible, every time he is mentioned, implies that he is a real, personal, spiritual being, who is fallen from his original state of righteousness, and is now chief of evil. He likes nothing better than to work in the dark. If people deny that he is there, then he can work untroubled be confrontation. The other extreme that Satan likes just as well is for people to put so much stock in his existence that they make him out to be equal and opposite to God in power. Both extremes are equally dangerous. The spirit world exists. However, they do not even begin to have the power that God has. And that is proven decisively in this passage.

Notice what the demons say to Jesus. They ask Jesus whether Jesus has come to torment them before the time. What do they mean? Well, the demons know that there is going to be an end to their own power and freedom. At the end of all things, Jesus will throw them all into the lake of fire prepared for them, and described for us in the book of Revelation. That is the time about which these demons are speaking. What is so important for us to understand is that the final time has already started with Christ’s first coming. Christ is empowered to deal with demons even during the time of His first coming. The final judgment, in other words, has been inaugurated. It has not been completed yet, of course. However, it has begun. Notice the language of verse 31, “the demons begged Jesus.” The demons can do nothing unless Jesus gives them permission to do it. Remember the beginning of the story of Job? Remember that Satan was not allowed to touch Job when he took all his possessions away? And then remember further that when, in “round 2,” Satan was allowed to touch Job, he was not allowed to kill Job? Satan can only go as far as God lets him. Plainly here we have a clear statement that Jesus is Lord. He is God Himself, come in the flesh. He has the authority and power to limit the activity of demons, and of Satan himself. Isn’t that a comforting thought? Paul said that no principality or power can separate us from the love of God. If you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, including Lord over your life, and that Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away your sin, then no demon can ever take that away.

Notice the reaction of the townspeople to this whole incident. After the demons go into the pigs, and the pigs can’t handle it, but go crazy, and drown themselves in the Sea of Galilee, then the pig herders go the townspeople to tell them what happened. The townspeople then tell Jesus to leave! Instead of asking Jesus to make more people well, and heal them of their diseases, they ask Him to go away! They rated the demands of their pocketbook as higher than the value of human life. Instead of rejoicing that these two men could enter society again without terrorizing the people, they complain that they lost 2000 pigs. How do we react to Jesus? Do we reject Jesus because He is interfering with our pocketbook? Are we rejecting Jesus because He calls on us to take up our cross and follow Him? Jesus gave up His life for us. Why do we find it so hard to give to God? It all belongs to Him in the first place! In the eternal scheme of things, what difference does it make whether it is in our bank account or in God’s bank account. It is still God’s property. He owns all things. That is the first principle of good stewardship: God owns all things.

God even owns Satan. Martin Luther said once that Satan may be a devil, but he is God’s devil. God has Satan on a leash. Therefore, Satan cannot harm you ultimately. There is nothing that Satan can do to take away your faith. He sure does try, doesn’t he? But he will never succeed. Why? Because Jesus is Lord over demons.


  1. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    “Despite her public denunciation of the idea, author J.K. Rowlings (author of the Harry Potter series) has privately encouraged young boys and girls to follow wizardry and witchcraft. ”

    Huh? What has she done privately?

  2. Anne Ivy said,

    July 7, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I daresay Lane meant “inadvertently”. ;)

  3. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Did C.S. Lewis do the same?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    No, actually, I meant that she responds to letters from young girls (who ask the famous author how to become a witch), and she responds not only by telling them how, but also by encouraging them to do so. This is in spite of the fact that she publicly does not encourage it.

  5. anneivy said,

    July 7, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Mercy Maud! Lane, does she really? I’ve never heard of this.

    Of course, I don’t get out much.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    The Abanes book is especially alarming, although I don’t know if all the connections fit. He documents what I am talking about.

  7. Chris Hutchinson said,

    July 7, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    or these authors saw a way to make money by putting “Harry Potter” in their titles…. there are lots of pagan authors and of other religions out there, and if one writes to them asking advice, one would expect to get it.

    there is more than one way to be worldly….

  8. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Of course, you could be right, Chris. I don’t think that the Abanes book is on that track. He seems fairly concerned with the truth. I don’t vouch for the other book, as I haven’t read it. But it looks as if he would come to similar conclusions.

  9. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    What does Abanes say exactly? I have a hard time believing that the story was that Albanes has documentation of a child writing to Rowling and getting back advice from her on how to be a witch. I just don’t believe it. I’ll try to see this in the bookstore, but if you can summarize it would be helpful.

  10. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Rowling is not a pagan author, by the way. She is a Christian, a member of the church of Scotland.

  11. Keith LaMothe said,

    July 7, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Is there strong proof that Rowling has encouraged people into witchcraft? To say that she has is a very serious accusation (such a crime would have been punishable by death in Israel, I’d guess), not to be levelled lightly against even a standard issue secularist, let alone a professing Christian.

  12. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    The accusation is worse than that – it is not only that she encouraged it, but said one thing in public and another in private. I mean, in all the public interviews she says that she doesn’t believe in magic anyway.

    I’m having a friend look through that book right now to see how the author makes his argument. But in reading all the reviews, the guy seems out to lunch in his literary criticism at least. The fact that Harry and his friends break school rules in order to fight against evil is used as evidence that the books promote lawlessness; arggh.

  13. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Snopes seems to debunk some of this:

    Not to mention the direct quotes from Rowling that are real:


    E: You do believe in God.

    JK: Yeah. Yeah.

    E: In magic and…

    JK: Magic in the sense in which it happens in my books, no, I don’t
    believe. I don’t believe in that. No. No. This is so frustrating.
    Again, there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I’ve
    written book seven. But then maybe you won’t need to even say it
    ’cause you’ll have found it out anyway. You’ll have read it.

    Then there’s this one:


    Are you a Christian?

    “Yes, I am. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that, I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

  14. barlow said,

    July 7, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Far from promoting witchcraft, Rowling seems, to me and many readers, to be a new “inkling” like Lewis or Tolkein. I think she surpasses Lewis’s Narnia books even. Book seven might end up being a tract on self-sacrificial love if things go like it seems they will.

  15. Chris Hutchinson said,

    July 8, 2007 at 7:15 am

    This is the kind of thing where folks seem too eager to either baptize a book or burn it… why not just take the books for what they are worth, discarding the bad and appreciating the good?

    As far as church membership, that is one piece of data to be sure. Thomas Jefferson remained a member in good standing of the Anglican church in his day, but there is other data which shows clearly that he was no Christian.

    I am not saying that about Rowling at all. I just don’t know, and frankly, I don’t really care. That is sort of my point. It would be different if she were trying to write theological pieces rather than kid’s novels. Maybe there is more to the books than I realize.

  16. July 8, 2007 at 10:54 am

    “Notice what the demons say to Jesus. They ask Jesus whether Jesus has come to torment them before the time.”

    They know it is coming yet so many men and women refuse to acknowledge God as creator and redeemer.

  17. anneivy said,

    July 8, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I’ve always liked them, though I prefer the earlier books to the later ones. Maybe it’s a sign of my possessing little imagination (which is true) but to me it’s just a series of books. I’ve also read Anne McCaffery, Katherine Kurtz, etc. who also feature people with powers humans don’t actually have.

    Doubtless it’s because I’m an adult, but the Potter books never made me want to be a witch! Good gravy, too much goes wrong. It’d be nice to have a magical family living next door to help out in emergencies, but I’ve thought Rowling did a good job of making sure the downside of being magical was clearly displayed.

    Harry’s primary interest in the magic world is that he found acceptance there, with friends and adults who care both for and about him.

  18. Clay Johnson said,

    July 9, 2007 at 10:18 am

    A neighbor raised some of these questions regarding Rowling after hearing some teaching about her at the RCC parish church. I looked into it a bit, and one of the things I thought was helpful was Jerram Barrs take on Harry Potter. It is here:

    There seem to be various versions of it, though, so if you google his name and Harry’s name, you should come across one.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    July 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    is a good response to Jerram Barrs. Of course, it also raises questions about Tolkien and Lewis that he doesn’t answer (as being beyond the scope of his article). But it is a thoughtful piece.

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