Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another Visit With the (Now) Not So Silent Demon

This week's scriptures are (still) Jeremiah 1:1-10 and Luke 4:31-44.

This past weekend's snow caused us to cancel our worship service. And so we'll be continuing to look at the passage from Luke that was discussed in our last blog. What I want to do now is to build on that blog and those thoughts as we continue to peel away the layers of that particular story.

Last week's blog talked about the silent suffering of the man in the synagogue and some of the sources of that kind of silent suffering among us now.

But now; watch what happens when the demon does open its mouth....when it senses the threat coming from the presence of Jesus (by the way, you can find some of this discussion for yourself in the Anchor Bible):

The Greek word that is translated "Ha!" is an expression of displeasure or suprise. It's followed by the question "what do you want with us? Have you come to put an end to us?" First of all the whole conversation is screamed at Jesus. It is an expression of hostility based on the demon's understanding that the Day of the Lord meant the end of demonic control of human beings (the "us" in the question is not the demon and the man; but demons as such).

Jesus' coming represents the end of the dominion of the demon and its cohorts...and the demon knows it. No wonder it screams.

One of the other things that comes up in my reading around this whole issue of 'demons' etc. is that they weren't just thought to be personal in nature. One of the phrases used is the "dominion of Belial" who is translated in the OT as "worthless" and seen as the personification of arrogance and pride. Some translate the name as "yokeless" which is an interesting idea since a 'yoked' oxen or other animal is often paired with another so that its strength can be put to use. Jesus invites His disciples to "take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The indication may be that 'Belial' is worthless because in arrogance this demon is unwilling to serve. The name is also applied in the OT to persons with these attributes (e.g. the men of Gibeah in Judges and the sons of Eli in Samuel).

My point in this little 'word study' is that the evil that Jesus encounters here in the synagogue isn't just associated with the personal difficulties of one individual (though that is important); but with issues of social justice (the Judges account) and religious corruption (the sons of Eli)....with greed and guilt and sin in all its forms.

The demon asks Jesus, "have you come to destroy us?" and the answer is most assuredly "Yes." When Jesus screams back at the demon and restores the man in the synagogue the first expression of the Kingdom promised in Jesus' visit to his home synagogue ("to let the oppressed go free") has been realized.

But it doesn't stop here; and it doesn't stop with Jesus. Our liberation from our own tormenting difficulties (the personal) cause us to follow Jesus in seeking the liberation of all and to combat all that oppresses them (the call to personal care for others as well as social justice).

The battle with all that would seperate us from God goes on. We are called to live in the hope of the promise that "nothing can seperate us from the love of God" even as we work against the things that make relationship with God difficult: "I was hungry and you feed me, naked and you clothed me, homeless and you took me in."

In these two stories: first in Nazareth and then in the synagogue in Capernaum; we see the unfolding of Jesus' understanding of His mission and of the Kingdom of God which He will bring to pass. Luke lays this out for us before he has Jesus inviting anyone to follow Him or become His disciple. Luke's reason for this, I believe, is to make clear the importance of that decision and the magnitude of the claim it will make on Jesus' disciples in what ever time they are found. We'll talk more about that next week.

Hope you'll join us in worship on Sunday.

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