“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Matthew 8:16)
For the Christian believer, the most central part of the Bible will probably always be the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: they all provide essential pictures of our Lord. For many of us, these may very well have been the first portions of Scripture we ever read. They further comprise the most likely places for us to return. Though I don’t have any statistics in front of me, I’d wager to guess that they are–by a large margin–the most commonly preached parts of the Bible. But then all of this makes sense. For a group of people called Christians, it stands to reason that we would focus a significant amount of our attention on the life and teachings of Christ.
While I agree that this is appropriate, I can also tell you that such an overfamiliarity with the story of Jesus can have a strange effect. It can make “normal” what is very unusual and blind us to the real power of what we are reading.
Consider Matthew 8. Jesus casts out demons and heals a lot of people here. I don’t know about you, but these are not everyday occurrences for me. To be sure, I affirm and believe in the presence of the demonic and God’s power over evil. I trust that God can and does heal today. But I also know that these are powerful miracles that are out of the ordinary. Not just one more story to be glossed over as we so often do when reading about them in the Bible.
“Yep, there’s Jesus again, doing his healing thing.”
“Didn’t he just heal somebody last chapter?”
“Ya, but this is somebody else.”
“OK, well, let’s move through this part quickly. I want to get to some really deep teaching. Or hey, maybe there’ll be a fun parable.”
I exaggerate for effect, but I hope you take my meaning. Because Jesus heals so many and casts out so many demons, it is easy to suffer from a little “supernatural fatigue” when reading the gospels. While at a certain level this is understandable, I’m convinced we should guard against it. Because every instance of healing and every demon cast out is not just another in a litany of “stuff” Jesus does that we can quickly pass over. No. This is God at work. These are actual lives that have been changed forever.
To be sick, perhaps to the point of death, and be instantaneously healed? That’s miraculously transformative. Imagine being that person. Imagine seeing that. I would weep with joy and fear at the power and holiness of God. To see the demon-possessed suddenly delivered? That’s no small thing. It is simultaneously terrifying and awe-inspiring. It is the power of God in the lives of real people.
The importance of really grasping what is going on here is vital, and worth pausing to consider. Because while all of these episodes may not often seem the most interesting to us, even the most offhand report of healing or exorcism was almost certainly one of, if not the, most powerfully transformative events in a person’s life.
I hope I can remember this when I read the gospels. I hope we all can.