Making the Bible Real

Posted on January 6, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Too Much Distance
A problem many Christians have regarding the Bible is that we distance ourselves from the events we are reading about. This causes our Bible reading to become a mere intellectual exercise void of emotional involvement.

A perfect example is when we casually read the accounts of demon-possessed individuals Jesus healed. We glance over them so briskly and never think about just how terrible their plight was.

Demon-possession in Jesus’ day was a horrible ordeal not just for the inflicted one, but for his or her family. It is no small thing, then, when we read in Matthew 4:24 (emphasis added):

“And the news about Him [Jesus] spread throughout Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and severe pain, demon-possessed, people with epilepsy, and people who were paralyzed; and He healed them.”

Let’s take a closer look.

Symptoms
What were some of the symptoms of demon-possession?

  • Matthew 9:32-33 tells us victims were often left mute as “the man who was previously unable to speak talked.”
  • In Matthew 12:22, “a demon-possessed man … was blind and unable to speak.”
  • In Matthew 17:15, a demon-possessed man “has seizures and suffers terribly; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.” Luke 9:42 adds that as Jesus was approaching this man, “the demon slammed him [the possessed man] to the ground and threw him into a convulsion.” How dreadful!
  • In Mark 5:3-5, a demon-possessed man was so dangerous he had to be bound with shackles and chains. Despite this, his demonic strength allowed him to tear them apart. His torment was so great that, “Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and cutting himself with stones.” What a hideous existence!
  • Luke 4:34 and 8:1-2 tell us that men and women were often possessed by many demons.

The Awfulness of It
And just think of the awful ordeal the family underwent. Take, for example, the young man of Matthew 17:15 whose demon caused him to have seizures, suffer terribly, and – either of his own volition or induced by the demon – was cast into fire and water.

In ancient times, people worked outdoors year-round. Merchants in the marketplace operating their kiosks during the winter months lit contained fires to keep them warm.

Fires for warmth were also present in the streets, caravan roads, marketplaces, and tax-collector booths scattered throughout the Galilee. At any time the demon possessing this young man could launch him into one of these fires. Or perhaps, as we know that this man had seizures and suffered terribly, perhaps his agony was so great that he tried to end his own life.

Also, try to envision the home life of his family. It was unlikely this young man could have been left alone for even a second, lest tremendous harm come to him. When would the demon strike  – in the middle of the day, at 3 in the morning? The family had no idea.

Did the family members divide up lookout duties? Did they have to work in shifts 24/7 to make sure someone was always awake to prevent their possessed loved one from bolting out of the house and casting himself into a body of water or burning fire?

You can see what kind of nightmare it was to be the loved one of someone who was demon-possessed, let alone being the victim of demon-possession. And if you really want to feel the pain, the next time you read one of these accounts, substitute your son, daughter, or other loved one into the demon-possessed one’s place

Making It Real
As you can see from the biblical accounts alone, though demon-possession is a foreign reality to 21st century Westerners, it was an actuality in Jesus’ day, and it was harrowing!

These are the things I think about when I read the Bible, and it brings Scripture alive to me in a profound way. I understand that the people of the Bible were real, suffered in heart and soul, and sought relief, even salvation.

May God give us the desire to want to make the Bible real when we read it, that we may better understand the heart of great and glorious Savior!