I have a confession to make: When I read the Bible, I tend to focus on those parts that fit neatly into my pre-existing worldview. This has always been true. I remember in high school I always focused on the places where Jesus had “ethical teachings,” and talked about himself in more human terms. I glossed over the places where Jesus emphasized his uniqueness and divinity, and I pretty much skipped the gospel of John altogether!
This question feels particularly relevant for me right now as I become more aware of a part of the Bible that I have always sort of glossed over: Jesus’ acts of miraculous healing and exorcism. Throughout his three years of public ministry, Jesus was constantly healing people of physical ailments and exorcising demons that held people in bondage. He cured people of physical, psychological and spiritual sickness. Quite frankly, Jesus did some crazy stuff.
It is almost impossible to miss this aspect of Jesus’ ministry if one is reading the gospels with any attention at all. Until recently, however, I was able to mostly bypass those passages. I did not intentionally ignore them, but I did not give them much weight in my reading. I read them metaphorically and focused more on the way Jesus’ actions revealed a “deeper meaning.” In a real sense, I sanitized part of what is the scandalof Jesus for modern readers. My Lord and Savior went around casting out demons, healing the sick and raising the dead!
It was a pretty big step for me to believe that these events really happened at all, but for years now I have accepted that Jesus performed all of these miracles. I have even come to believe that these kind of things happen today. The Holy Spirit is alive and active, at work in the world in ways we cannot understand. This whole thing about faith healing and demon possession is a little bit outside my comfort zone, but I can deal with it as a possibility.
What is truly challenging for me now is that Jesus did not simply perform these miracles himself; he commanded his followers to do the same. When Jesus sent out seventy of his disciples, his charge to them was to “cure the sick… and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you.’” Faith healing and casting out demons is not just special work that only the Son of God can do; it is the living demonstration of the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom.