There is a passage in the book of James that I recalled when I read these verses from Mark. In James 2:19 we read “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” When Jesus comes to this synagogue and begins to teach, people are never left the same. They are astonished. They are amazed. A demon hiding covertly within someone cannot bear it any longer. Apparently this man could go on living a perfectly acceptable life. He didn’t do anything so morally reprehensible that he was disqualified from attending synagogue. But when Jesus speaks, people are moved. Demons can no longer hide. Sometimes we approach the things of God too casually and without properly considering who in fact we are reading about and hearing from. God himself is speaking and when these people hear it, they are moved, they are changed. What is my response? What is your response? Do we allow the demons in their trembling to exhibit a more appropriate response to God than we give? Jesus isn’t a hobby. He’s not our pal. He is God in the flesh and he has made a way for us to be reconciled to God. Have you appropriately considered what this means for your life? Even the demons shudder.
Who is this man, Jesus? Who does this kind of thing? He teaches with an authority unlike the scribes. He has an authority that even demons respond to in obedience. Of course, if you read Mark 1:1, you know exactly who he is. He is God’s Son, Israel’s Messiah and the King bringing his Kingdom close enough to experience. This is what happens when God’s kingdom comes.
So he not only teaches with an authority that no one has ever experienced, and he not only commands demons to shut up, but he can also touch a sick woman’s hand and restore her health! Who is he?
Why does he tell the demons to be quiet? One would think this would be some pretty good press. Well, his ministry was going to take time to unfold. Teaching had to happen. People needed to see his authority practiced in healing and casting out demons, not in leading a charge on a Roman garrison. If news that the Messiah had come went out too quickly, people would begin to organize a rebellion. Jesus didn’t come to be this kind of Messiah. He didn’t come to kill, but to die. He didn’t come to rebel, he came to submit. This is why Jesus tells the demons to be quiet and not tell anyone what is happening. He wanted people to hear his words, not impose their conception of the messiah upon him. This should teach us something today too. We must be careful that we hear Jesus and not ourselves. It’s very easy to form an understanding of Jesus in our minds and then think of it when we read Jesus’ words. We have to be careful that we believe in Jesus and not ourselves in a Jesus puppet. It’s very easy to think of Jesus as an American, or as a middle class person, or as any number of other things. We must be careful to hear him, and now ourselves from his mouth. If Jesus hates all the same people you hate, then chances are you are not worshipping Jesus, but yourself.
When we read stories like this the inevitable question arises, does Jesus still do these kinds of things? Does Jesus still heal? I’ve experienced enough “coincidental circumstances” to believe that Jesus still does heal. But, I think there is an important biblical foundation that is underneath this belief that Jesus still does heal people. First of all (not trying to be morbid), even the people who Jesus healed in the Bible still died. We will all face death whether or not Jesus heals us in this life. 1 Corinthians 15:19 says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If we are expecting our ultimate healing to come in this life, we are sadly mistaken. God doesn’t teach us that bad things won’t happen. He teaches us that when they happen, and as tragic as things can be, our hope is in Christ and in the future he promises. He gives us hope for today and that hope is in the promise of the future he will give us. So ask for healing. Beg God to intervene. But maintain your hope in the day that waits for us.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 5:1-5
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
In this life we struggle, we suffer, and we learn to cope with it in different ways. We find ways to lose ourselves in hobbies and TV, but God calls us not to lose ourselves in the pursuits we find in this life, but to find ourselves in Christ. Verse 17 calls this life “light momentary affliction”. It may feel like forever, but it’s not. This is preparing us for the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. This is what God give us. This is our hope. Not that he doesn’t bring healing in this life, but ultimately, we weren’t created for this life, but the next. We will experience a weight of glory that cannot be compared to any experience we’ve ever had. So we are encouraged to not look to what we can see because those things are transient; here today and gone tomorrow. Our hope is in Christ for eternity. These bodies only allow us to experience part of the life that God has for us, and He has so much more waiting for us. We can taste it here, but the day will come when we will be filled with it. Are you ready for that day? Are you living in light of that day? Are you letting what Jesus has done to promise you that day be worked out in your life now?