After the calling of Jesus’ first apostles, Mark records that they went to Capurnaum, which was a major city in Galilee. Although his ministry was mainly among the Jewish people, much of his time was actually spent in Galilee, well-known for its Gentile population and considered to be a center of loose morals. It wasn’t for nothing that it was called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” and I assure you that this wasn’t a compliment. So this was the type of people Jesus liked to hang around with. . . hmmmmm.
They attended synagogue (as was Jesus’ habit on the Sabbath), and our Lord was invited to teach. But there in the middle of the service stood up a man who wasn’t alone inside his body.
Do I believe that demonic possession is/was real? Absolutely. Does it seem that it was more prominent back in Jesus’ day than today? I believe so. Please keep in mind, of course, that the rest of the world has no problem accepting things like possession. Once you leave the U.S., it gets a lot more common, especially among people who are actively involved in the worship of spirits. But even with this in consideration, it seems to be more concentrated in that era than today. I personally believe that it was specifically because the Son of God had arrived. Once the King showed up, it was an open declaration of warfare, so of course the Enemy stirred up his forces in open opposition.
So we need to keep in mind that there is a Devil, and he’s active in the world today as surely as he was back then. It seems that he’s more subtle now than he was during that time, though. I mean, think about it--He doesn’t need to possess people. I once heard someone compare him to a pawn shop owner: He claims all the unredeemed. Why should he possess a guy if he owns him outright?
But in this case a poor soul was being tormented by a demon, a servant of the Enemy. Why was he there in a synagogue during the service? My theory is that he was hoping to disrupt Jesus’ teaching. I find his response to Christ’s presence to be very enlightening, however. To the human eye, this teacher from Nazareth was an ordinary man. Probably he had dirt under his fingernails, his hands were calloused from physical labor, and his clothes were undoubtedly nothing to notice.
But that’s not what the demon saw! He saw the Son of God, the One who threw his master out of heaven and whose very presence burned into him like a magnifying glass on an ant during a summer day. I just find it sad and humorous that most of the time the people in a town who knew him best were those possessed by demons.
I called today’s reading “First Round” since this is the first clash between the two great Kingdoms which is recorded in Mark’s Gospel. What happened out in the wilderness wasn’t a clash of forces as much as a temptation to take the easy way, the shortcut. This was the first (recorded) time in which Jesus’ power and Satan’s power came head-to-head. But really calling it a “clash” is a misnomer as well. I guess if you want to call what happens when you flip a light switch a “clash” between light and darkness, then you could do the same here. As soon as light steps in, the darkness flees as quick as it possibly can.
I find that really comforting, don’t you? We talk about the “struggle” between God’s Kingdom and Satan’s Kingdom, as if they’re two opposite and equal forces which are contesting control of everything. No, they’re not equal. Even before the Cross and the Resurrection, there wasn’t a real fight between the two.
And if I belong to Christ through faith in him, then I’m definitely on the right side of history. It doesn’t ultimately matter what battles we’re fighting right now, and it doesn’t even matter which battles it seems that we’re losing. The war’s won.
Lord Jesus, I thank you that your victory is my victory. I’m your co-heir, and that means something glorious. Can we see some more of that spilling over into my line of sight?