It’s nice to keep our faith happy. We like to go to church where people smile and say kind things. It’s refreshing to hear/preach a sermon about God’s grace and forgiveness. “Let’s not talk about bad stuff. The world is dark and difficult enough on its own. I want church to be a place where I can go to get away from all this bad stuff.”
I don’t know what types of churches you’ve attended in the past, but the churches that I’ve been to don’t teach or preach very much about evil, the devil, or demons. It’s not a very pleasant topic but, on the way out of church the other day, I heard the remark: “I have some questions about evil and the devil.” “I don’t really want to talk about that,” I thought to myself. But then I remembered, “I’m supposed to be the pastor. If folks can’t bring those kinds of honest questions to church, where can they bring them?” It was a fair question.
In our Gospel lesson this past Sunday, Jesus taught in the synagogue and healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28). In our lesson this coming Sunday, (Mark 1:29-39), the author mentions multiple times that Jesus healed people and cast out demons. In a few weeks, we will begin our journey through the season of Lent, and we will once again hear together the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. With all this talk, I think it’s fair to say, “I have some questions about evil and the devil.”
Of course, this is a big topic that could move us in many different directions. Let’s first start with the question: “What did the demons say about Jesus?”
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” — Mark 1:24
“And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” — Mark 1:34
The demons knew who Jesus was. They didn’t hesitate. There wasn’t any uncertainty. Jesus had power. Jesus had authority. Jesus was from God. Jesus didn’t want them to speak. There are various theories about why it seems Jesus wanted to keep his identity (as the Messiah) a bit of a secret (especially in the gospel of Mark); however, I think it’s notable that the demons were some of the first to share this truth.
There are many depictions of evil in our culture and society. Each of us probably have experienced instances of encounters with supernatural forces or powers. These stories are real, and we should be willing to confront these truths. At the same time, there is no reason for fear or confusion, because God is more powerful than anything. Romans 8 remind us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. NOTHING.
I know this might seem like an odd topic for a weekly reflection. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. Hopefully next week will be more to your liking. If this article has stirred up some questions, stories, or memories for you, perhaps there is need for conversation. I don’t have all the answers, but I would be honored to listen and learn with you. May God bless us as we continue to encounter Jesus even in unlikely ways.