In the ancient book of Job, we see the Lord God summon the gods to report to him. Among them is the satan, a god who has been wandering the earth to and fro without rest. This is the same fate as Cain, son of Adam and Eve who murdered his brother Abel, for whom the earth would refuse welcome but over whose life God placed a mark of protection, in order that Cain would not be killed.
The compassion of the Lord God would appear to extend to the anguished satan, and, indeed, to the monsters of the deep, Tiamat, Rahab, Behemoth, Leviathan, who cannot be tamed by might but can be calmed by the Lord’s presence, and by attentive listening to their pain (whether self-inflicted or otherwise is a mute point). Brought back to equilibrium by being heard, in love.
In the Gospel reading set for Morning Prayer today, Mark 1:21-28, we encounter an unclean spirit. And I wonder if this spirit is, in fact, the first disciple sent out by Jesus to prepare for his arrival in all the places he would soon go?
This spirit is described as unclean, or impure. Lacking in purity, or having mixed allegiance, mixed motives. As the Gospel unfolds, it would be fair to say the same of the Twelve, of Simon Peter, and James and John, of Judas, and the others, sent out together ahead of Jesus.
We are told that Jesus tells the spirit, with some force, to be silent. The Greek word Mark uses refers to a muzzle, which is not so much a means of silencing as of exercising mastery over an animal. One might muzzle a dog because it is dangerous, or over-excited, or scared. One would not permanently muzzle a dog. There is, then, something also of training in this. A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
And then, in response to Jesus, who brings the unclean spirit from distress and heart pain to stillness and peace, the spirit goes out from the man, from the synagogue...and the news about Jesus, who he is and what he has done, goes out from the synagogue, from Capernaum, out across the region of Galilee. Carried by whom? Human messengers, undoubtedly, amazed—temporarily speechless—by what they have witnessed. But also, perhaps, by a spirit whose conflicted loyalties have been reordered by a fair hearing. Who expected to be destroyed, but found himself liberated instead; just as the Lord God liberated Behemoth and Leviathan, and would go to incredible lengths of patient listening to bring even the satan into peace.
If your allegiances are conflicted, if you a restless with your life, or even afraid of what God might do to you, these things do not rule you out of the scale and scope of divine goodness. Jesus enters in, bringing crisis that contains the possibility of peace; and sends us out ahead of him, to spread the news.
Post a Comment