There was a moment, early in the ministry of Jesus, when he visited a Synagogue. He had just finished giving the sermon and all of a sudden an interjector took the floor. The Bible describes him as someone possessed by an evil spirit - a demon. He shouted something like this. "Ha! You have no power over us, Jesus. Come to try to destroy us have you? I know who you are and that means I've got it over you." Of course, as you can imagine, the demonic power was sent packing.
Now we have to be honest and say that this type of story is totally beyond our experience. Although, not completely, because I was watching the film Predator with my son-in-law one dark evening and he begged me to walk him to his car after the movie. There was no way I was going out into the dark! So, what's the point of the story? How does it affect us?
Many believe there are no such things as demonic powers. The man was mentally ill and Jesus simply treated him in a way that was applicable to the age. Demon possession is a myth.
We could take a literal line. Jesus was in the business of casting out demons because it was a major problem facing mankind. The problem is still with us and we can still cast out demonic powers from those who are possessed, as long as we do it in the name of Jesus. With all the satanic style films around today, it's no wonder that demon possession has become big business. I recently read of a church member who claimed that over a hundred demons were cast out of him. I can't quite see how it was possible for a person possessed by Jesus to be possessed by Satan.
A conservative approach to the story would have us see Jesus as someone who has authority over the surging troubles that disturb our psyche and make life miserable. Such troubles may be inspired by forces of evil, but often they are the product of chance - lady luck. So, we can look to Jesus to handle the troubles of life, but that just turns him into a Mr. Fixit.
So what do we say about demon possession? The truth is, I'm not sure, but I do know that although my experience of life is primarily lived at the sensual level, there is a deeper reality. We are encircled by cosmic powers, both good and evil, and we can relate to them and live our lives under the influence of either light or darkness. So, the cosmic battle between good and evil filters down to our day-to-day life. Jesus came to release his people from the bondage of darkness, and when he set out to do that, those same powers rose up against him, confronting him and claiming their power over him.
Today we are confronted by those same powers of darkness. Jesus was "sent to proclaim freedom to the prisoners." "'Be quiet!' Jesus said sternly. 'Come out of him!' Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him."