He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 3 ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’ And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
It happens every now and again. A prominent cleric overtly criticises the government and the story briefly makes the news. A junior government minister then appears to trot out the line, ‘The Rev’d so-and-so should stick to religion and leave politics to the politicians’.
When God’s truth speaks to power, an immediate push back is inevitable. When God’s truth speaks to power, if that voice is not silenced – the powerful are in trouble!
We see this of course in the overarching story of the Gospels. Jesus’ whole ministry challenged and subverted the powers of religion and state to the point where it was inevitable they would join forces to silence him once and for all, or so they thought!
Here in this story, and in many others, we see an example of one small interchange in this growing confrontation, which contributes to Jesus’ increasing reputation.
The demon plays the role of the one in control of the life of another, and Jesus’ very presence challenges that oppression – that God’s truth is that all should have life in all its fullness.
The demon cries out, and reveals the fear of being treated as it would treat those it seeks to overcome, saying ‘have you come to destroy us?’ Jesus responds, ‘shut up, and leave them alone’. He need say no more for both know the truth of God sees right through this demon who now no longer has any hold here. It has no moral authority here!
There is no demonisation of this demon! It departs, and no one comes to any further harm.
A church unable to speak God’s truth to power, by their mere reputation and presence, for fear of being seen to be aggressive, or rude. Unwilling to risk disrupting the status quo, or embarrassing the elite, or meddling in things which don’t concern it; is a church which would never have known the demon was there, as it would have had no need to cry out.
God of love, in your truth we have the power to change the world. Not by argument or coercion, nor by force or violence.
But by confronting the powers with your truth and love for all people.
The Rev’d Mike Walsh, Pioneer Minister, Chorlton, Manchester