A little over 10 years ago I hurt my back. I’m not sure how it happened. All I know is I went downhill fast. Nothing helped. I tried physical therapy. I tried everything until one day my doctor said I needed an MRI. Sure enough, I had a ruptured disc. For weeks I was in so much pain I could not lie down or stand up. I was using a golf club as a cane. I resisted painkillers, but for those last few days before the surgery, my doctor insisted. They were so strong I lived in a haze.
I can remember meeting with the doctor before the surgery and being told how serious the condition was. But I also distinctly remember hearing how I would be free from pain as soon as I woke up. I’d been in pain for so long, I had trouble believing him.
The first thing I remember doing when I woke up was moving my feet. “They work. I’m not paralyzed.” And then I noticed I didn’t hurt. I was lying down flat on my back and there was no excruciating pain. For months after my surgery, people would remark on how different I looked. My response was that it was “like a miracle.” It felt like mercy. The difference between my life before the surgery and my life after was stark.
What gets lost in all the questions surrounding Jesus’ casting out demons is the mercy He is showing to those who need freedom. Most of the questions people ask about Jesus’ frequent practice of this particular miracle are valid questions. But sometimes, we miss the forest of His mercy for the trees of excursive questioning.
These stories are so remarkable to me because I know what my reaction would be toward demon-possessed people: judgment and fear. But Jesus is different. Regardless of how they came to Him, He showed them mercy. That mercy changed them, and the difference was stark. Jesus looked into the eyes of people who were cursing Him, and with a word, mercifully delivered them from their torment.
When the father comes to Jesus in Matthew 17 and says, “Lord, have mercy on my son” (v.15), Jesus shows him mercy. The reason is simple: Jesus wants us to know that when we go to Him begging for mercy, He is not only willing to give it, but He also has the power to give it.
You can draw a straight line from these miracles to the cross. The mercy Jesus shows in casting out demons who cause people to curse Him, fear Him, and want nothing to do with Him, points directly to the mercy shown to sinners who were once slaves to sin—enemies of God wanting nothing to do with Him. The power of Christ’s mercy is so great that, for those who experience it, life is starkly different from what it was before.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond