Father Fortea, when Jesus was on earth, did the demons know He was the Messiah?
As we have said, demons do not know everything. They do not even know all that happens in this world; they are among us, but they come and go. The demons watch over the saints in a very special way, and they knew that Jesus was a man who was especially holy. They could see that He had never committed a sin or even an imperfection. The devil, though steeped in sin, is the consummate appraiser of virtue. Though the demons could observe Jesus living a perfect life, His divinity is an invisible attribute. When Jesus began performing miracles, the demons would have discussed among themselves whether He was just another prophet or the Messiah. They would have increasingly begun to suspect that Jesus was the Messiah, not only because of what He did but also because of His teachings. While the apostles, in their weak moments, may have been inattentive to Jesus, the demons certainly heard and remembered every word He said.
It was clear that Jesus was not an ordinary man because He performed miracles that were beyond that of angelic nature (e.g., raising the dead). At first, though, the demons could argue that it was not Jesus who performed these miracles but God. They could not distinguish whether He did them by His own power; they only saw their effect. But it soon became clear to them – from all the biblical and theological signs, all the miracles, and Jesus’ goodness – that this man was the incarnate God. This knowledge can be seen in the biblical stories of possessions when the demons ask, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? “ (Mt 8:29). These words indicate that they knew Jesus was God, the same God who would condemn them at the Last Judgment.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book, Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.
Art: Detail from Fastentuch Gurker Dom Daemonenaustreibung,Jesus Christ dispossesses (section of painting scenes on the abstinence cloth in the Cathedral of Gurk, Carinthia, Austria)],