96. The Devil Cares (Mark 1:21-28)
“Here it is fitting for us to think of that great, true, eternal light… namely Christ our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, who was made man and came to the last extremity of the human condition.”
- St. Gregory Agrigentinus
Mark 1:21-28: They went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority. In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
Christ the Lord Authority: coming from the “author.” Those who heard and saw Jesus were impressed most by his authority. The “scribes,” the teachers of the Jewish law, prided themselves on a detailed knowledge of the scriptures and on the myriad scriptural commentaries that rabbis and teachers had made through the centuries, but their words lacked the force of Christ’s. Jesus Christ in himself is the fulfillment of all previous and partial revelation. He “has seen the Father” (John 6:46) and reveals him.
Whether we realize it or not, in our hearts we yearn for God, and so when we come into contact with someone close to God, our hearts are moved. When the crowds came into contact with Jesus Christ, the Son of God become man, their hearts burst with astonished joy. Jesus is no average teacher, nor even a great human preacher. Jesus Christ is Lord, the “Holy One of God,” and when he began his public ministry, the people could tell.
Christ the Teacher We are only in the first chapter of St Mark’s Gospel, and already the devil makes his appearance. One of his minions has taken possession of a child of God and cries out in panic at the Savior’s approach.
The story of Christ’s life and ministry cannot be told without giving due space to Satan’s activity. The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between cases of mere physical ailments and cases of a demonic character (both of which Jesus cures). Jesus frequently refers to the devil in his parables and other teachings, and the devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert and returns again later to engineer Judas’ betrayal (cf. John 13:2).
This Gospel motif teaches us an undeniable, if uncomfortable lesson: the devil is real, and he is interested in counteracting the work of grace. In one sense, accepting this fundamental truth, and keeping it always in the back of our minds, can comfort us tremendously: it helps us make sense of all the unpleasant influences at work in and around us. We are not crazy; we are not failures; we are simply engaged in a spiritual battle. If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also believe in the devil – doomed as he is, he would love to take as many souls as he can along with him.
Christ the Friend Imagine how the man with the unclean spirit would have felt after this incident. He had been tormented by an evil presence perhaps for years. His life was a series of momentary respites from unending and violent demonic attacks. He had no comfort in family, no rest in friendships, no capacity to carry on a normal, peaceful existence. To a great extent he had lost his most precious gift, freedom. His only hope in the face of such a hell on earth was the direct intervention of God – a miracle.
Perhaps while he was listening to Jesus in the synagogue he felt the agitation of the evil spirit. Perhaps he could sense that the demon felt threatened; perhaps he moved closer to the Lord, drawn by a mysterious, subconscious hope. Suddenly the spirit exerts his usual power and takes over the man’s body and senses (who can describe the agony of such an experience?) in order to lash out at the Holy One. With a mere word, Jesus silences him and orders him to depart. The man is thrown to the ground in a final burst of evil fury and then, silence. Peace. Dare he believe it? He opens his eyes and knows that he is now himself again, freed at last from the unspeakable torment. His eyes meet Christ’s…. What gratitude fills his heart! What love and gladness he finds in the glance of Jesus! Jesus Christ came to bring new life and new hope to every human heart, and he rejoices whenever we let him have his way.
Christ in My Life Lord Jesus, please help me to experience the power of your grace. Let me hear the words that astonished your listeners when you first came to earth; let me witness the divine authority that flowed out of your every decision and deed. Dear Jesus, it’s so hard to stay in tune with your truth; please let me see you, hear you, and love you more and more…
Parts of me are still in chains, Lord. I am still possessed by selfishness. Free me, Lord. Free me from this weight of egoism that keeps me from being all that you created me to be! You are the Lord; come rule in my heart, my mind, my words, and my actions. Rule them all today, tomorrow, and forever…
How many souls are enslaved to sin and unknowingly under Satan’s evil spell – confused, depressed, headed for destruction! Jesus, you came to save them all. Your Church is your sacrament of salvation. Here I am, Lord – send me as your ambassador. Fill me with love so I might bring your light to those around me who are in need…
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