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Miracles: Casting out demons
What happened when Jesus met a man named Legion?
Jesus was known in his day as someone who could cast out demons: evil spirits that would possess people and alter their behaviour. According to Matthew’s gospel, many people were brought to Jesus who were demon-possessed. Jesus was able to cure them all. He was able to “drive out the spirits with a word." Jesus has the authority to make the evil spirits obey him, which shows his unique power.
One of the most famous of these encounters with evil spirits concerns a man who called himself “Legion.” In this story, Jesus meets a person who has been possessed by an army of evil spirits, in an area that is just outside Israel. Jesus challenges the spirits to leave the man. They do not want to go but then decide that they would be prepared to leave the man if they can go into the pigs that are being farmed nearby. Jesus allows them to do so and then when the spirits enter the animals, there is another dramatic turn of the story: the pigs run off a nearby cliff and are killed. The man, who is now in his senses, starts telling people about what Jesus has done for him.
Despite the fact that Jesus was removing evil spirits, some of the religious people of his day suggested that he had power and authority to do this by actually being a servant of Beelzebub, the prince of Demons.
Jesus answers by telling his opponents that this is not logical. If Satan uses the power of Satan to remove evil, then he can only expect defeat. Jesus says, “But I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28) In the days of Jesus, the activity of demons and the Devil was seen as a powerful influence on people’s behaviour and their health.
In the story of the healing of a demon-possessed boy in Matthew 17, we see how Jesus is able to bring this boy to a wholeness of mind and spirit. Some Christians today see these miracles as an example of how they need to take care of the whole person, not just their physical health but also their mental health, so that people can live happy and peaceful lives.