Summary: We need to domesticate the word Demon to imply anything that desires to negatively control and influence us. Once we do that, so much of what Jesus does become incredibly applicable to us.
Did you happen to bring a demon to church on Sunday or maybe just sit beside one? Hard to tell isn’t it, Botox is really screwing up my ability to spot them in a crowd.
In Luke 4:31 we find Jesus is teaching in a Synagogue, and at some point a man interrupts and an evil spirit speaks to Jesus and asks him to go away. It asks what Jesus’ intentions are, and declares that it knows who Jesus is. Jesus shuts him down immediately and commands the spirit to come out of the man. And everyone present this Sabbath was amazed and asked who is this guy that he can even command an impure spirit to leave and they do?
I’m intrigued that this man was in church. I personally have a hunch that on this certain morning, this outburst would have not only surprised Jesus, but all who were present. I think this way because I find the same reality today in our churches. This man most likely came to sabbath somehow hoping that it would help. I find it interesting that this Spirit was so accommodating. I am pretty sure this was not the first time this man was in this synagogue. He would have been apart of this community. But something this one morning caused this Spirit to react. This one day was different. When you do the math we know that the difference was-Jesus. This leads me to an interesting conclusion. If Jesus isn’t in church, we go home with our demons.
We are not told what Jesus was speaking on, but if his message several weeks earlier is any clue, it was on freedom and liberty. You will recall just a week or two prior he was in another synagogue and read from the scroll of Isaiah 61 announcing that this freedom Isaiah wrote about, this Jubilee they were all anticipating had arrived in the person of Jesus. I have no question that this Spirit knows that Jesus has come to set people free from what ever holds them captive. Some might call it a demon, some might call it an impure spirit, some might call it apathy, or greed, hatred, narcissism, you fill in the blank. Anything that has controlling negative influence on our life is a target for the freedom Jesus offers.
There are many extremes people can come too with passages like this. One extreme can be that because we don’t have a demon or know anyone with one this passage is irrelevant or only cultural. Another extreme is that demons are the root cause of all our problems. Having grown up in a very charismatic faith experience I am more familiar with the second, and it’s abuse. Having travelled a little in the third world and in the middle east, I have come to understand these passages a little differently. Someone once asked me why demonic possession isn’t as obvious a problem here in the west as it is in the poorer third world nations. While I don’t have an answer, I do have a hunch. Anything that negatively possesses, or oppresses us is harmful. While a demonic spirit sounds terrible, the consequences of being possessed by greed, or apathy can be far worse because they affect so many other people. In the west, our demons might look slightly different, but they are just as ugly and just as evil. The apathy of the largely Christian continent we live on is allowing the death of millions each year due to starvation or disease. While we pray for god to bless us. How many come to church each week the farthest thing from free. Like this man in the story maybe believing that by going he might find some relief. But this Jesus doesn’t just talk about freedom, he offers it.
We need to quit excusing ourselves from stories like this and instead find ourselves in them. We need to identify the negative things that control us and label them as the evil that they are. Jesus still comes to church each week embodied in those who gather around his mission and purposes (Matt 18:20).
I have no question that people would be just as amazed today to see those of us living in the west delivered from the money that consumes us, from the apathy possesses us, from the narcissism that is killing us. And as we are set free, may the news of his kingdom come spread and may it truly be on earth as it is in heaven.