My Bible’s notes and the sermons I’ve heard dealing with such stories are quick to explain that Jesus silenced them because he wasn’t yet ready to be revealed as the Messiah. We’re never told, though, why the demons recognized Jesus’ divinity in the first place. Maybe, because they were of the spirit world, they knew Jesus from there.
My question has never been why the demons recognized Jesus as God’s son, the anointed one, or why Jesus always went out of his way to shut them up but why just about every one of them announces Jesus’ identity. Why would Satan’s helpers want to let others in on the truth about Jesus and thus risk their believing? Or, to put it another way, how does publically identifying Jesus achieve their demonic ends?
It occurred to me, in thinking about it this time around, that maybe the demons can’t help themselves. Maybe they, already in some other realm, are proof that, as God promises in Isaiah 45:23 in a passage Paul paraphrases first in Romans 14:11—“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God’”—and then fleshes out in Philippians 2:9-11:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The demons say it because they have to say it. Paradoxically, though it’s not Jesus’ will for the word to get out quite yet, it’s nevertheless God’s will that, in his kingdom, every tongue—even the tongue of a demon—will proclaim the good news of the One God Sent.