Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-right through fifty of the twelfth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you find the plot surrounding Jesus’ life thickening and taking on an entirely different turn. At this stage in the game you find the religious system and community beginning to rise up and vehemently oppose Jesus. By this particular stage in the life and ministry of Jesus you find the scribes and the Pharisees seeking to destroy Jesus by any means necessary, for they sought to effectively remove Him from the picture. It’s as you begin coming to this stage in the life and ministry of Jesus you find H beginning to upset and intimidate the religious system with all its traditions, rules and regulations. One of the most interesting facts surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is that His teaching as well as His ministry directly challenged the religious system of that day and was quite honestly too much for them to handle. It is without a doubt blatantly obvious that the religious system felt entirely and altogether threatened by the teaching—and even the ministry of Jesus Christ within the earth—and sought to completely remove it from the picture altogether. We dare not miss or lose sight of this reality, for to do so would be to miss the gravity of Jesus’ life and ministry. WHEN LOVE UPSETS RELIGION! WHEN COMPASSION UPSETS RELIGION! WHEN TRUTH UPSETS RELIGION! It is obvious from reading the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that the religious system of that day could not handle His teaching, nor could they handle His ministry. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the fact that not only did His teaching, but His ministry also greatly offended the religious system and community during those days. What would begin with disagreement with His public speaking and doctrine would go on to include their strong distaste for the ministry He engaged in with all those around Him who were in need.
The more I read and the more I study the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the more I am confronted with the fact that there were essentially two fronts where a battle was being waged and wrestled. If you read the account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew you will find that on the one hand Jesus threatened the religious system and establishment of His day, and on the other hand the life and ministry of Jesus Christ threatened and greatly upset the supernatural realm. As you read the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus you will find continued interactions with the demonic realm, as Jesus continually rose up within that generation and directly confronted the demonic realm head on. What I so love about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is found in the account of His journey with His disciples unto the region of the Gergesenes which is found in the ninth chapter of this gospel account. As you read this particular chapter you will find that while Jesus and His disciples were upon the sea making their way over to this particular region, a great storm and tempest rose up upon the sea causing the wind and the waves to threaten the disciples and Jesus in the midst of the sea. Completely panicked and frightened, the disciples woke up Jesus declaring unto Him that they would perish. Immediately upon rising from His sleep Jesus stands up in the midst of the storm and not only rebukes the wind, but also the waves, and immediately the sea became both calm and peaceful. It’s important that we recognize and understand this reality, for if you consider the front which Jesus was about to enter into, you will see this tempest and storm as a way to utterly and completely destroy both Jesus and His disciples. With the wind and the waves now completely calm, there was nothing at all that could stop Jesus and His disciples from reaching their intended destination and location. Matthew records how Jesus and His disciples would eventually arrive at their destination and would march straight into the territory of the enemy.
One of the things that I absolutely love about the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that it paints a picture of a Jesus who is neither threatened nor intimidated nor afraid of the demonic realm that has been set up within and upon the earth. Within this particular passage of scripture you will find Jesus marching straight into the territory of the enemy, and doing so without hesitation and without fear. This particular chapter brings us face to face with the fact that Jesus was willing to take the right straight to the doorstep of the enemy, and was not willing to back down regardless of how great the stronghold, regardless of how strong the oppression, and regardless of how strong the torment was. Within this passage of scripture we find Jesus taking the fight to the enemy’s territory, which is quite interesting when you consider that up until this particular point within the passage those who were possessed, tormented and oppressed by devils were brought unto Him by others. Oh, there is a special place in the world for those who were willing to confront the demonic realm by bringing those who were possessed and oppressed by demons unto Jesus. Not knowing what would happen as a result of encountering Jesus these brave and courageous men and women were willing to bring these individuals who were possessed and tormented by devils directly into the presence of Jesus in order that He might drive them out. If there is one thing Scripture is absolutely clear about, it’s that the supernatural realm is very real, and the forces of darkness with the demonic forces and evil spirits sought to absolutely control and dominate the lives of men and women. The gospels are chalk full of example after example and account after account of evil spirits and devils possessing, tormenting and oppressing men and women, and in some cases—even children. If you journey to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find a father who out of love and compassion for his own son brought his son to the disciples of Jesus in order that they might drive out the demon that had so tormented him that it often threw him into the fire and threw him into the flood. At the risk of getting ahead of myself in a later writing I would draw your attention to this particular passage of Scripture found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the fourteenth verse we find Jesus and three of His disciples having just come down from the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before them having spoken with Elijah and Moses. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular passage beginning with the fourteenth verse:
“And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall re move; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:14-21).
Within this particular passage of Scripture we find that it wasn’t merely men and women who were possessed, tormented and oppressed by evil spirits and devils, but it was also children who were being targeted by the enemy and adversary. Please don’t miss the tremendous importance of this, for it brings us face to face with a wonderful reality concerning Jesus the Christ, and how Jesus had all authority and all dominion and all power over absolutely every force of darkness found within the earth—regardless of whether the demons within an individual were legion, or whether or not it was just one who had taken up residence within the life of a man or a woman. Perhaps one of the most interesting and alarming realities concerning the presence of the demonic realm within the lives of men and women is the tremendous degree and measure they would take in order that they might effectively destroy those whom they had targeted. Thus far within the New Testament gospel of matthew we have found one possessed with a devil, and as a direct result of the devil which tormented and oppressed him, this one was dumb and completely unable to speak. When this one who was possessed with and by the devil was brought into the presence of Jesus—not only did Jesus drive out the devil from this one’s life, but as a direct result of the devil being driven out, this one was able to speak. Later on within the gospel of Matthew you will find another possessed with a devil being brought unto Jesus—this one, however, was possessed with a devil, and was completely unable to see and speak. The devil which tormented and oppressed this particular individual had such a tremendous stronghold within and upon his life that he was completely unable to speak or see. Not only did Jesus drive the devil out of the life of this particular one, but as a result of the demon being driven out of this one’s life, his sight was restored, and his speech was restored. Imagine not only being completely free from the torment and oppression of the demonic realm, but also having your sight restored unto you, as well as your speech restored. Imagine having spent so long being tormented, oppressed, and possessed by a devil that not only robbed your ability to see, but also your ability to speak. Consider if you will the accounts of these two men as they were recorded by the apostle Matthew—the first written and recorded in the ninth chapter, and the second written and recorded in the twelfth chapter:
“As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in israel. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:32-38).
“Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and He haled him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house” (Matthew 12:22-29).
What I so love about this passage of Scripture is that not only does Jesus drive out the devil which so possessed, tormented and oppressed this particular individual, but when addressing the thoughts of the Pharisees within their own hearts, Jesus not only speaks of His driving out devils by the Spirit of God, but also one entering into the strong man’s house, spoiling his goods, and doing so by binding the strong man. Within this particular passage of Scripture, not only do we read of one who is stronger than the strong man coming unto and entering into his house, but we also read of one who is stronger binding the strong man, and once the strong man is bound, this one’s house is completely spoiled and ruined. Please make note of this particular reality, for I am convinced that it has direct application to what we read and find in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for it’s within this particular account where—as I mentioned earlier—Jesus seems to march straight into the strong man’s house, and straight into the strong man’s territory in order that He might directly confront the demonic realm that so oppressed the lives of men and women. In the ninth chapter you find Jesus marching straight into the territory of the enemy—and not only Jesus Himself marching straight into the territory of the enemy, but also marching straight into the enemy’s territory with His disciples. Oh, please don’t miss this incredibly important reality, for within it we are confronted with a wonderful and awesome truth that Jesus the Christ wasn’t afraid to take the fight straight to the doorstep of the enemy, and was even teaching His disciples to do the same thing. Within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus the Christ taking the fight straight to the doorstep of the enemy, and even into the place of death where these two men who were possessed with devils were found. On one occasion within the gospel of Matthew we find one who was possessed with a devil, and as a result of that oppression and possession, this man was dumb and unable to speak. On another occasion we find one who was possessed with a devil, and as a direct result of that oppression and possession, this one was not only dumb and unable to speak, but also blind and unable to see. When we come to this particular account of the two men found within the region of the Gergesenes, we find them possessed with devils, and as a direct result of this possession and torment, these men were forced to dwell among the tombs. What’s more, is that not only were these men forced to remain within and among the tombs, but they were also completely isolated and shut off from the outside world. Scripture records how these men were so exceedingly fierce that none dared pass by where these men out of fear of what might happen as a direct result of the demonic activity present within their lives. WHEN DEVILS INVADE GRAVEYARDS! CONFRONTING DEMONS IN A GRAVEYARD! DEMONS IN A GRAVEYARD! Consider if you will the account of these two men who were possessed with devils, and how Jesus took the fight—not to them specifically as individuals, but rather to the devils which had possessed them:
“And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought Him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts” (Matthew 8:28-34).
One of the most powerful realities concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is that He was never shaken up or taken back by the demonic forces that were present within the earth during those days. This same Jesus was the one who victoriously triumphed and overcame Satan himself in the wilderness—Satan who made every attempt to tempt Jesus before He was released by the Father into public ministry. When Jesus emerged from the wilderness after having been driven into the wilderness by the very Spirit of God to be tempted of the devil, Jesus emerged not only full of the Spirit of God and full of power and authority, but He also emerged having completely overcome Satan and the temptations which he sought to overcome and overtake Jesus Christ with. This same Jesus who overcame Satan there in the wilderness was the same Jesus would directly confront the demonic forces and devils which so ransacked and tormented men and women during those days. Jesus being full of compassion and full of the Holy Spirit was unwilling to watch the demonic realm oppress, torment and possess men and women, and as a direct result of this authority, this compassion, this power within Jesus, He brought the fight directly to the demonic realm. What I so love about the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus was willing to march straight into the territory of the enemy—straight into the place of death, straight into the place of possession, straight into the place of torment—and to directly engage it without flinching and without hesitation and reservation. What’s more, is that I am convinced that what Jesus was doing on this particular occasion was marching His disciples straight into the territory of the enemy, for there would come a day when they themselves would march straight into the territory of the enemy, and would directly confront the demonic forces that were present within the days after His ascension. What I love about Jesus is that He is willing to march straight into the enemy’s territory—even the enemy’s territory within our hearts and lives—in order that he might bind the strong man, overtake the house, and spoil the goods. We dare not miss or lose sight of this awesome and tremendous fact, for to do so would be to miss and to lose sight of the awesome and tremendous ministry of Jesus Christ—one that was willing to march straight into the territory of the enemy and bind the strong man in order that He might spoil his goods. Jesus calmed the raging storm that threatened their lives upon the sea, and after just exercising authority over the wind and the waves, Jesus now exercised authority and power over the devils who possessed these two men. In fact, I would dare say that the devils which possessed these two men were directly connected—if not responsible—for the storm which raged upon the sea, for you will find that when Jesus arrived in that region, they came out to meet Him. These two men who were so exceedingly fierce that none could pass by that location came out from the tombs and actually met Jesus.
What’s more, is that not only did they come out and meet Jesus, but the devils within these two men asked Jesus what they had to do with Him, and whether or not He had come to torment before the appointed time. Why would they come out to meet Jesus if they weren’t expecting Him, and if they weren’t aware of the fact that Jesus had just exercised authority and dominion over the storm which was sent to destroy them? There is not a doubt in my mind that this storm which threatened the disciples and Jesus upon the sea was not only one that these devils were aware of, but also perhaps caused in order that they might prevent Jesus from crossing over into their territory. This storm was very well an attempt at preventing Jesus from crossing over and entering into their territory—a reality that I am convinced is demonstrated with and by the fact that Matthew records how these men were so exceedingly fierce that none could pass by that way. If no man might pass by that way, then logically it holds true that the devils within these two men would make every attempt to thwart Jesus intention of crossing over the sea and entering into their region and territory. Jesus was determined to cross over and to enter into the region where these devils were—and even into the very tombs where these men were confined to—in order that He might directly confront the devils head on. Jesus marched straight into the territory of the enemy, and upon arrival, these two men came out to meet Jesus. I am utterly and completely convinced that these devils came out to meet Jesus because they were aware of the fact that Jesus had just exercised His authority over the wind, over the waves, and over the rain, and over the storm that came upon the sea. Having just exercised dominion and authority over the tempest that came upon the sea, Jesus made it to the region of the Gergesenes, and it was in that region where these two men who were possessed with devils were present. What we must recognize is that not only could the storm not prevent Jesus from crossing over into this region, but once Jesus had exercised authority over the wind and the waves and caused the storm to be completely calm, he exercised His authority over the devils who possessed these two men. What an absolutely incredible and wonderful picture this truly is of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and how Jesus was able to completely overtake and overthrow the demonic presence within the lives of these two men. Jesus was aware of the conflict, the warfare and the struggle that was present within this particular region, and was determined—not only to deliver and set these men free from the oppression and possession of these devils, but also drive out the devils from within the region. Jesus exercised authority and dominion over the wind and the waves because He knew and He was aware of the fact that He needed to make His way into this region where these two men were in order that He might directly confront the devils which so possessed them that they not only confined them to the tombs, but they also completely shut them off and isolated them from those who were present all around them.
Now, you might be wondering why I would spend so much time writing about Jesus’ direct confrontation of the demonic realm that so tormented, oppressed and possessed men and women during that generation. The reason I chose to spend a considerable amount of time writing concerning Jesus’ authority and dominion over the demonic realm is because if you study the New Testament account of the life and ministry of Matthew as recorded by Matthew, you will not only find Jesus directly confronting the forces of darkness in the supernatural front, but you will also find Jesus directly confronting the religious spirit that was so pervasive during those times. If there are two things you will find Jesus directly opposing and confronting within and throughout His life and ministry, it is the demonic realm and the devils and evil spirits which so possessed men and women, and the religious system and establishment of that day. When we come to the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the Pharisees and scribes speaking unto Jesus and demanding of Him a sign from heaven. This is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for I can’t help but see it as a manifestation of the temptation which Jesus experienced and encountered in the wilderness when Satan tempted Him on three different fronts. There is not a doubt in my mind that Satan heavily influenced the religious community that was present during the days of Jesus, and in fact in some cases incited the scribes, the priests, the Pharisees and the like to tempt Jesus in order that there might be grounds for accusation. Scripture records how after Satan left Jesus there in the wilderness, he did so until a more opportune time. You will recall concerning Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness that the devil tempted Him to turn the stones into bread since He was the Son of God. Not only was the devil seeking to tempt Jesus to use His power to satisfy His own needs, but the devil was also seeking to tempt Jesus to show a sign that He was in fact who He said He was, and was who the Father had just proclaimed and declared He was. It’s important for us to recognize and realize that the temptation to turn and transform stones into bread was the same temptation which the scribes and the Pharisees engaged themselves in by demanding of Jesus a sign from heaven. The scribes and Pharisees were demanding a sign from heaven in order that they might find fault and accusation. Remember when Jesus cleansed the temple and overturned the tables of money, and drove out the money changers? Remember what the scribes, the priests and the Pharisees asked Jesus upon His actions in the Temple? They asked Him by what authority He acted this way, and what sign He would give them to prove He had the authority and dominion to exercise such fierce authority within the courts of the Temple.
What we find and what we read in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of matthew is yet another temptation of Jesus to shew forth some sign, and to demonstrate that He was in fact who He proclaimed and professed Himself to be. That which is found within this passage of Scripture is a tremendous picture of Jesus being tempted to shew forth His authority within the earth, and to produce a sign from heaven that would confirm His authority and His dominion within the earth. The Pharisees demanded a sign from heaven in order that they might know that Jesus was who He in fact said He was. What’s interesting to note is that they didn’t ask for a sign from heaven in order that they might believe in and believe upon Him, but rather that they might tempt Him and find grounds to accuse Him. Please don’t miss this incredibly important reality, for it brings us face to face with the same temptation which Jesus faced in the wilderness at the behest of Satan occurring again among the scribes and the Pharisees. We dare not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for to do so would be to miss what the Pharisees and scribes were actually attempting to do within the life of Jesus on this particular occasion. The scribes and the Pharisees were demanding a sign from heaven in order that they might accuse, tempt, and trap Him in His words, and Jesus saw right through this front and their charade of smoke and mirrors. Jesus knew and understood the only reason they were demanding a sign from Him was because they sought to find grounds to accuse Him among men in order that they might destroy Him. Matthew already recorded how the Pharisees had gone out seeking for ways they could destroy Jesus and completely remove Him from the picture. So threatened and so intimidated were the scribes, the Pharisees, and the religious community that they actually sought to destroy Jesus. There is record that when Jesus was in His own home town of Nazareth, those within the town sought to thrust Him off a cliff because they couldn’t handle the words He was teaching. Time and time again within and throughout the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we find the Pharisees, the scribes, and the religious system seeking to destroy Jesus. It’s actually quite interesting that thus far within the New Testament gospel of Matthew—not only do we find the Pharisees seeking to destroy Him, but we also find the demonic realm and forces of darkness seeking to overtake Him in the midst of the sea. So threatened and so intimidated was the religious spirit, and the demonic forces and demonic realm during the days of Jesus on the earth that both sought to destroy Him time and time again. It’s worth noting that not only did Jesus confront the demonic realm head on without hesitation and reservation, but He also directly confronted the thoughts, the intentions, and the motives of the religious system during His day. What we find within the New Testament gospel of Matthew thus far is a wonderful and powerful picture of Jesus who was willing to march straight into the territory of the enemy, and directly confront the religious spirit that was so pervasive and prevalent during His day. Oh that we would read the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture and that we would recognize the tremendous authority and dominion Jesus had—not only over religion and the religious spirit, but also over the demonic realm and the forces of darkness that were so pervasive and prevalent in the earth during those days.