“And immediately there was a in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out…” v. 23
I wonder how long it had been going on. Every Sabbath he came to hear the scriptures read, to sing the songs and mumble a few prayers. As a child he had begun attending with his father according to tradition. Then came his Bar mitzvah, when he read from the scriptures in front of the whole assembly. Now, many years later, he was still attending the synagogue, meeting with the other men. From all appearances his life was great. No doubt he had a good trade and a nice wife and children. He was a faithful attender of the synagogue. But something was wrong. It was unexplainable to him and undetectable to his friends. The dark voices tormented him at night, stealing his sleep. In the day he was able to stay busy and keep his mind on his work, but at night they came again. Dark, sinister, condemning voices in his head. Sometimes he awoke in an unexplainable rage, sweat pouring from his body. He considered ending his life to make them stop, but what would his family do without him? He kept hoping that going to prayer at the synagogue would make the voices stop. But it never helped. Mindless recitations and empty sayings are no match for the darkness of the soul. So he tried to hide his torment whenever he was around the priests, lest they put him out of the community.
Then one Sabbath…he almost didn’t go to worship, but he numbly marched in like he had done a thousand times before. He sat in the back, plastic smile in place, near the entrance so he could leave as soon as it was over. But as he sat down he felt an eerie inexplicable uneasiness. Something like dark volcanic rage shot up from somewhere deep in his stomach. His heart began to race with panic, “Oh no! not here! It can’t happen here! They’ll kill me! Oh God, please don’t let happen here!” Suddenly his consciousness seemed to fade to the back of his mind and he felt like a bystander listening within himself. His mouth was moving, sounds were coming out, but he wasn’t the one speaking. Someone…or something was screaming in terror from within him. He felt like a puppet being controlled by something sinister. He knew the voice well, but this time it was different. The voice was reacting in sheer terror. Like a trapped animal fearing for its life, the dark voice shouted at a man who was standing in front of the synagogue. The voice, screamed out like a child in the dark, “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!” The man thought he was finally going insane, listening to himself, yet not himself, screaming in horror. There was nothing he could do but listen as if he were a spectator at the games. The next thing that happened he would never forget. The man up front, looked right through him and with a gentle but unstoppable power, said, “Be silent, and come out of Him!” Like a saber of bright light those words cut into his consciousness with unimaginable force. He had never felt such a surge of power. He was hurled to the floor gasping for breath, eyes turned back, body stiff as a corpse.
Then as quickly as it began it was gone. Really gone. The dark voice faded like an echo falling into an abyss. Golden silence bathed him in peace for the first time in his life. Gradually, the man wept and laughed with uncontrollable joy at the freedom in his soul. Energetic light seemed to fill every cell in his small frame. He knew after today he would never have to pretend again. He could sleep at night. He wondered for a moment if his family would even recognize him when he came home. He was free. Truly free. For years he had sat in church with a demon hiding within him. The demon was happy to attend services as long as there was no threat of exposure. The demon didn’t care about religious traditions and scripture readings, prayers and so on. Religion can make a great cover for darkness. But this day was different, because Jesus came in with authority, not like the scribes. When Jesus shows up at church the demons can’t handle it and they have to leave. This Sunday you can be sure someone is bringing a demon to church, maybe it’s you. Demons love to go to church. It’s a great place to hide. That is, unless Jesus shows up, then the party is over. When He comes around people start being set free and religion gets messed up. So make sure you bring Him with you.