After Pentecost Devotional - Day 60

Jesus healed all kinds of terrible diseases and forced out a lot of demons. But the demons knew who he was, and he did not let them speak.” Mark 1:34

Sometimes we encounter passages and themes in the Bible that make us somewhat uncomfortable. We don't know exactly what to do with passages like this one in Mark, as we are rather determined to deny the existence of demons. Often as not, we want to consider that demons existed and acted in earlier times, but have somehow been left aside in our more advanced understanding of the world of God's creation.

Then Mark comes along and is determined to dash our expectations to the ground. He not only assumes that demons exist but describes Jesus speaking to them directly and even at times having them respond to his questions. Jesus goes on to cast out demons in several notable instances within Mark. All along the way, Mark takes pains to demonstrate that Jesus has the higher authority and power. The demons may not want to obey Jesus, but they seem to have no choice in the matter.

We may be troubled with the concept of demons, but they did not seem to bother Jesus or Mark, for that matter. The Greek term used in the text is a word that referred to the gods of the nations. From a Jewish perspective, they were all of a similar nature, authority, power, and position. They were subservient to the will of Yahweh, whether or not they wanted to obey. That did not mean that Yahweh always coerced obedience from them, but on occasions such as this, we see Jesus making demands which are followed.

In some passages, we take Mark's words and fashion them after our current understanding of the world. We take the description of a boy who convulses and froths at the mouth as a case of epilepsy, rather than demonic possession. At other times, we have interpreted descriptions as evidencing other psychiatric disorders. Interestingly enough, however, Jesus never attempted to correct faulty scientific definitions of his day. He seems to accept the definitions used by his people and responds to them accordingly.

In the final analysis, what we learn from Mark is that Jesus exuded an authority that was above that of any demon or competing deity. His authority encompassed what we might consider as psychiatric or psychological disorders. Most interestingly, however, he would not allow these forces to become the basis for attributing an identity to him. He would not allow people afflicted, by whatever the source, to become the basis for anyone believing him to be Messiah or Son of the Most High.

Jesus was not interested in pointing to what could be considered superstitious or supernatural influences in a manner that credited or validated them. He was unwilling to use them as crediting his identity. He wanted God alone as the validation of his life, message, and ministry. He did not want to confuse understanding of his ministry with esoteric claims that might redirect attention to signs and wonders and something other than God. It might have been the quickest course for people to understand that he was more than a man, but it would have been a distraction from the purpose and identity of his ministry. The character of that ministry was too important to allow for questionable shortcuts which might turn into distractions.

Take stock of your own focus on Jesus. Are you following his essential character?


"Lord, grant that I might understand your appropriate impact on my earthly life."

©Copyright 2016, Christopher B. Harbin

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