Jesus and the Every Day Demons - Mark:1:21-28
Every generation has its stories about the fight between good and evil:
The Lone Ranger, Superman comics, the Star Wars movies, Harry Potter.
Whether you’re a kid or an adult, there is something satisfying about these stories
where good and evil are carefully delineated, and where the good guys eventually win the day.
It gets at a fundamental wish:
That life was a bit more black and white,
That we could tell good from evil,
And that we had the power to stop the destruction around us.
You could read the Gospel of Mark as a similar tale.
First line of the Gospel is: “the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”-
Jesus is the good guy in this story.
Our reading for today introduces the villain.
It’s Jesus’ first day on the job as savior of the world.
As Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, he encounters a man in the grips of evil—he is possessed by a demon.
The demon immediately recognizes his mortal enemy:
“I know who you are, the Son of God!”
In a dramatic display of power, Jesus casts out the demon and frees man from evil’s grip.
You can almost hear the comic book sound effects as Jesus sends demon packing: POW! ZAP! ZOWIE!
It’s classic good v. evil stuff: Jesus takes on the powers of evil, and wins the battle.
If you were actually there, however, I am not sure it would have been so clear.
Mark carefully sets up a distinction between his readers and the characters of his story.
The readers know from the start who Jesus is; they know he is doing battle with evil in the world.
But the only characters in his story who know Jesus is the son of God besides Jesus himself
Are the demons.
Check out this week’s lesson: the people don’t seem to hear what the demons say.
Notice they don’t even comment on the demon’s declaration that Jesus is the son of God.
That would have been a shocking statement—blasphemy.
Instead they talk about his actions and his teaching.
The people in the temple were ignorant of Jesus’ identity; his mission was not yet clear.
At the same time, these folks probably knew the man possessed by the demon.
They could remember a time when he was a normal, productive citizen.
But now all they can see is his gnashing teeth, the thrashing of his body.
They knew him to be a good man, so why was he possessed?
Did he do something to invite this demon in? Was he simply an unwitting victim?
The interplay of personal responsibility, heredity and luck made this situation ambiguous
in a way the comic books rarely are.
It was hard to tell exactly what was evil or how it began.
It seems to me that this is what life is like for us.
We don’t get the black and white version where good and evil are clear.
Most often good and evil are mixed up in a complex web of actions and consequences.
We don’t necessarily think in terms of demon possession these days,
But we have our own experiences of people possessed:
Possessed by ambition or greed
Possessed addictions or cycles of abuse
Possessed by the desire to please, or the desire to retreat into one’s own comfortable world.
For each of these ‘possessions’ the compulsion to act in a certain way is clear,
and there are negative consequences that are destructive to self, others and the earth.
But just where do these compulsions come from? What is the evil that takes up residence in our lives?
Is it our individual choice?
Is it heredity, the sins of the past now visited upon us?
Is it an outside force completely that takes over like an enemy army?
It seems that if we could just figure out what was evil, then we could do something about it.
We can come to some clarity about the nature of evil in our lives.
12 Step programs identify character defects and help people to make better choices.
The Enneagram, a spiritual inventory that catalogues personality types and their addictions,
Points the way beyond self defeating patterns into the inherent strengths of each character type.
We can take advantage of counselling and find insight in literature.
Through self-reflection and maturity, we can learn about our weaknesses
and make choices to act out of our better selves rather than our lesser instincts.
But the truth that Mark has for us today, is that no matter how self-aware we are
No matter our discipline to put our compulsions and sinfulness behind us
There will be times when we are like the man possessed by the demon.
We are bound by sin and cannot free ourselves, as I John puts it.
It’s as if everyone carries around a suitcase full of past baggage—
Bad decisions we’ve made, stuff we’ve inherited from our families, systems that we live in.
We make a great effort to open the suitcase and throw out what we don’t want anymore.
We feel so much lighter! But gradually the suitcase starts to feel heavy again.
We open it up only to find all that stuff we threw out is back in there!
The truth is that we are powerless to save ourselves.
At our worst we are the demon possessed man, thrashed about by forces we can’t even see.
At our best, we are the crowd looking on, not knowing where to begin to help.
And this is why the gospel is Good News.
Because Jesus CAN help us.
He is the one who sneaks into evil’s house and ties up the villain.
It started in the temple on the first day of his ministry when Jesus sending the demons packing
And it culminated with a tomb broken open
Not even the evil of the cross, that cruel instrument of torture and death, could defeat Jesus.
Jesus continues to break into our lives
He enters our confusion and impotence and frees us.
He comes into our world that is so many shades of grey and brings it into high definition.
The healing starts for us when we connect to Jesus.
The man in the synagogue met Jesus in the place of prayer.
That’s our place of connecting to Jesus, too.
Its more important now than ever as we feel so confined by Covid, by winter, by shrunken social circle.
Its like we have a host of every day demons that want to pull us down.
We need to access the inner spaciousness that prayer provides.
We need to allow ourselves time to drink in God’s presence.
It can be as simple as a walk outside or taking time to listen to your favorite music.
It can be Pastor Brian’s contemplative prayer groups or a daily prayer app on your phone.
Call your pastor and talk about your struggles, and we will pray with you.
Whatever it is, don’t miss a day.
Don’t miss this time to receive the healing and freedom Jesus brings.
This is the ‘digging deep’ part of our mission statement:
“In Christ we are digging deep, reaching out, and changing lives.”
If we want to reach out, if we want to be a part of God’s life changing work,
Then we need to open ourselves to God in prayer each and every day in deep and significant ways.
Brothers and sisters, it’s a struggle right now-
But our struggle can be a gift.
It brings us in touch with our true state, our need for Jesus and his healing.
Jesus casts out the everyday demons that dog us.
Jesus releases from our self defeating patterns and the powers of evil that would keep us bound.
Jesus is the power and the freedom we need.