Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.Mark 7:24-30
A woman outside of the covenant––a woman who wasn’t a part of the people of God––asked Jesus to do deliverance on her young daughter. The phrase, “little daughter” in the Greek likely means the girl was 12-years-old or younger. The mom had likely heard about Jesus’s ability to set people free from demonic torment from news that had spread from Galilee. Jesus had done a lot of ministry is northwest Galilee (like in the town of Chorazin) which was only a two and a half days walk from Tyre.
We learn a lot from Jesus’s initial response. Jesus used the analogy of bread and essentially called deliverance ministry “the children’s bread.” In other words, Jesus was announcing that ministry which sets people free from demonic torment was primarily for those inside the covenant, for those who are members of the people of God.
Think about the implications of this! At the time, the people of God were the Jewish people. But since then, Jesus has expanded the people of God to include Gentiles under the new covenant. Those who believe in Jesus and surrender their life to Him are the new people of God. This is how Paul explained it to the Galatians:
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.Galatians 3:27-29
That means “the children’s bread,” which is ministry that casts out demons so that people are free from demonic torment and oppression, is primarily meant for the people of God today (that is, followers of Jesus). It is part of the inheritance of the Kingdom, the ability to experience freedom from demonic torment. It is one of the perks of being in the family of God!
After people discover that I do a lot of deliverance ministry, sometimes a person will ask me, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a Christian?” First, I try to make it clear that I am not able to cast anything out of anyone on my own (see Acts 19:13-16). I am simply operating in the delegated authority of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We get to do that as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Demons aren’t scared of me, but they are terrified of Christ in me, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
But, secondly, I let them know that I’ve only cast demons out of Christians. Deliverance ministry is the children’s bread. It’s not that I wouldn’t pray for an unbeliever to be set free from demonic oppression, but they would then need to give their life to Jesus to stay free. The Holy Spirit must backfill any area vacated by a demon. If not, the person can end up worse off than they were before. Jesus warned us about someone whose inner life is “unoccupied” by the Holy Spirit.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.Matthew 12:43-45
We also learn from Jesus’s interaction with the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter that children can sometimes be attacked and affected by demons. Demonization isn’t like the movies. It is often much more hidden and subtle than that. And we as the church need to know how to help a person get free. Jesus paid for their freedom, and we must learn how to enforce what Jesus enacted by His death and resurrection.
The good news is that there are a number of churches awakening to this reality in the Kingdom of God. This week I met with leaders from five different churches in Northern Virginia who have themselves experienced deliverance and who want to learn how to bring deliverance ministry to their congregations. People all over this country are hungry for real freedom, real life-change. They are hungry to experience more of the full, abundant life that is promised to us in the gospel, not only for themselves but for their friends, family, and church community.