Demons and Disciples: Two Responses to Jesus

Jesus shows us two responses to His earthly ministry. One is from the demons, who knew who He was and rejected Him; the other is from His disciples, who, through faith, followed Him, even without full knowledge of His person. Today, He invites us to follow Him on faith, not on knowledge.

The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:27 NLT)

“And (the demons) cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:29 NIV)

TWO VERSES APART. TWO SEPARATE RESPONSES.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, two radically different responses to the man Jesus were presented a mere two verses apart.

In the first case, His disciples — that is, followers of Jesus himself — expressed amazement that Jesus could be awakened during a storm and, 

Two Responses to Jesus - Winds
Jesus calms the raging sea.

with a single word, stop a storm that threatened their small boat. They wondered who He was!

In the second case, evil demons — that is, followers of Satan — cried out in anguish that Jesus, whom they knew as the Son of Almighty God, had come to send them to eternal punishment before their allotted time. They were inhabiting a man who lived among the tombs and, knowing Jesus would heal the man, begged Him to send them to a nearby herd of pigs.

How strange that those who knew Jesus were following the wrong guy and those who one day would shape the world for His Kingdom still hadn’t caught on that this was God’s Son.

True enough, the disciples knew Jesus was special. After all, they had obeyed His call to follow Him and had seen Him feed 5,000 men (and many more women and children) from a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Top that off when, in a desperate panic, they had just awakened Him from a sound sleep to tell them their boat was taking on water in a sudden storm.

Jesus-heals-troubled-man
Jesus heals a troubled man.

Even so, they weren’t quite sure what to make of it all.

The demons knew. James, a half-brother to Jesus, assures us in his New Testament letter that “the demons believe … and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV). So, the point is made that, at least with Jesus Christ, seeing is not the same as believing.

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AT FIRST GLANCE, it would seem that the demons were more in tune with the Creator of the universe than the apostles were, even though the twelve men watched the Lord daily heal the physically and mentally ill and teach with authority in the various synagogues.

That would be deceiving.

The demons had made their decision at some point in the past. For whatever reason(s), they had cast their lot with Lucifer and rebellion. The disciples, as Peter told the Lord (Matt. 19:27) “have left everything to follow you!”

How do we explain this dichotomy?

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FAITH.

Throughout the Holy Bible, God’s followers are called to accept Him on faith, whether it’s Abraham trusting God when told to sacrifice his son on the alter, or Noah building an ark to protect against torrential rains that had never been experienced, or the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant aloft while stepping into the raging Jordan River.

The writer of Hebrews tells us in 11:1 and 11:6 that faith is “assurance about what we do not see” and that without faith, “it is impossible to please God.” God has not given us complete understanding of His world, calling us, instead, to accept him and His teaching through faith. God says His ways and thoughts are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9), and the apostle Paul says of this earthly life, we only “know in part” (1 Cor. 13:12).

Is it no wonder, then, that after calming the seas, Jesus rebukes His disciples (Matt. 8:26) for their “little faith” instead of their lack of knowledge?

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Demons Race to Water
Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs.

THAT LEAVES US with a demarcation between knowledge of Jesus on the one hand and acceptance of Him as our Lord and Savior on the other. Just “knowing” about Jesus, that He was a healer, a teacher, and a religious leader who claimed a unique relationship with the eternal God is not sufficient.

Both the demons and the disciples prove that. The demons knew who Jesus was and refused to worship Him. The disciples were unable to grasp the fullness of Jesus’ person during His earthly ministry, yet they devoted themselves to following Him.

Eventually, after Jesus’ death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples would understand so much more, but their commitment to Him was forged without complete knowledge.

What God calls us to do is accept Him at His Word, to trust Him, to place our faith in Him. This is true throughout Scripture, as God’s consistency is displayed (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13).

Fortunately for us, His Word is a saving grace, and all who call upon His name, who have faith in Him, will find salvation.

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PRAYER: O Heavenly Father, we ask forgiveness for our weakness, when we doubt Your omnipotent power, when our faith falters as we struggle through life on our own power. Merely knowing about You is not enough. Accepting You in our hearts is what You want. If we obey, You promise us life. Through Jesus’ Name we lift this prayer. Amen.

Author: Ward Pimley

Journalist/Author (retired) Evangelical Christian, Politically Conservative. Eager to share God's Message of Salvation and Grace.

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