A typical day in the life of Jesus—on the Sabbath—in the synagogue—with a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit. Everybody was looking to see what Jesus was going to do. Obviously they heard the insulting words for the unclean spirit, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”
Notice that the devil refers to himself in the plural, as if he were several people—split personality—schizophrenia. Fact is that the devil does not know who he is because no one can have an identity outside of God. The possessed man was in the synagogue—a holy place. Sometimes we think that evil only exists in sinful places—apparently not. Usually, as in other episodes of the Bible possessed people exhibit certain characteristics—like violence, nakedness, foul language. We do not know what the manifestations were in this episode. However, St. Mark presumes that we would conclude that the possessed man made himself obvious, in order to attract attention. Consider all the publicity that is on the air in order to sell products. The main goal is to attract attention. Flashy, glittery, dazzling—and we forget simple truths. It’s a movie, it’s trick camera, it’s a lie! Loud, addictive, catchy—just some of the trademarks of evil in our society. And Jesus said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” And the only reason that the devil came out of the man was because the man desired to be restored. Neither God or the devil stay where they are not wanted. Possession is not a thing of the past—hasn’t gone out of style. Trouble comes in our failure to recognize evil or when we have no desire to get rid of the unclean spirit. Often the unclean spirits are comfortable.
We enjoy the familiar, even at the cost of ignoring what might be leading us into sin. For example, some TV programs sprinkle topics of adulterous behavior into the plot. Others have scenes with nudity. Some songs sneak provocative lyrics in the melody. Many of us have become callused to the illusion present in what we classify as “popular” or “modern” or “in style”. Not that we want to be paranoid and start seeing evil at every corner; but we want to discern what is from God is what is from the enemy. Negativity is all around—to the level that we might be tempted to be apathetic. Not caring is one of the manifestations of evil.
God made us communal. We are made to care for each other. That’s the reason that Jesus reached out to the possessed man. He could have saved Himself a lot of trouble by ignoring him. But He dared to touch the untouchable. “All were amazed and asked, ‘What is this?’ A new teaching with authority.” Someone dared to care when the majority did not. Insurance, lawsuits, liability—we are concerned if getting involved will get us into trouble. So we keep quiet when we hear about injustice, or the ridicule of our Faith, or the blatant abuse of innocent people. “I might loose friends, what will they think of me if I express my opinion? Perhaps I should mind my own business.” Christianity is about getting dirty in the messiness of life, especially when others are in trouble. We cannot be indifferent when people need help. God works through us to bring healing—to destroy the unclean spirits.
We do not have to look far to find folks who are hungry for a kind word, a touch, a smile. The Lord can work through us when we allow Him.