| For me, the story of Jesus casting the unclean spirit out a man in the synagogue is a difficult passage. If I were still in local church ministries and planning my preaching schedule, I might have thought to myself in looking at the upcoming lectionary text, "Huh, how am I going to have a fresh approach to this text?" Then I might have the passing thought of, "Hmm, I wonder if I could have a guest preacher on that day?"
Well, guess what? This past Sunday, when Mark 1:21-28 came up in the lectionary cycle, I was the guest preacher.
Ironically, in the story Jesus is the guest preacher and teacher at the synagogue that day. I thought about what it would have been like for Jesus to be interrupted in mid thought, in midsentence, while he was preaching. As verses 23 and 24 recount, "Then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "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."
As I tried to imagine this interruption, I was struck by something I never noticed before in this passage. Why does the man say, "What have you to do with 'us,' Jesus? Have you come to destroy 'us'?" Who is the 'us' the man is referring to?
Then I thought, what if the man with a broken mind and spirit, overcome with this disease that had robbed him of who he used to be, might have been saying 'us' in regards to all of the parts of himself.
As the man stands in the synagogue, I would imagine most people only saw
what he appeared to be at that moment; only few would know what he might have been in another moment. Only One would have known who he has been since the beginning of his existence.
The One who knew him in his mother's womb.
The One who knew him as a sleeping baby boy who his mother's heart knew at first glance.
The toddler full of curiosity.
The little boy full of joy and wonder.
The awkward teenager.
The bold and confident young man.
As well as the broken man that stood before Jesus on that day.
Perhaps the 'us,' to which he was referring, was the person at that moment, the person he had been, and the person he could be.
And so, this man with an unclean spirit...a spirit that is broken, disconnected, and avoided by others...is truly SEEN by Jesus.
This man with an unclean spirit-comes before Jesus and cries out...
"Will you destroy 'us' like others have done, dismissing all the parts of me,
denying my worth, denying my very being?" In a sense he cries out, "Will you, too, name me as unclean, unapproachable, untouchable and unworthy? Jesus, what will you have to do with 'us'?"
In verses 25 through 26, we read of Jesus' response. "Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him."
Jesus silences the parts of the man that have been holding him back,
that have separated himself from others,
that have stood in the way of others seeing who he really is
and of him being able to embrace the man he had created
and the man he could be.
The man with the unclean spirit interrupts and he shakes before Jesus
because his uncleanness, his tarnished, broken self recognizes the power of Christ.
To me what is beautiful is that the man shows up with his full self-
all of himself and he is healed.
The same is true for us. Yet, it takes courage.
Author and speaker, Brené Brown, says "the scariest thing is to show up completely before one another."
Yet, to show up completely, to show up with all parts of us, is the only way to be healed.
The unclean spirit cries out, "What do you want from 'us,' Jesus of Nazareth?"
Jesus answers the 'us' boldly, "Be silent, I'll take care of this for you."
He looks at all that is unclean, all that is chaotic, all of our demons we have guarded so fiercely in our lives, and Jesus says,
"Come out of there, she doesn't need you anymore."
"Come out of there, he doesn't need you anymore."
Jesus is saying to us now... I am here.
I am the one who can love you, as you need to be loved.
I am the one you can trust.
I am the one you can depend on.
I am the one who will never leave you.
I am the one who will heal you and make you whole by my love and grace.
Brothers and sister, THIS is the good news.
Thanks be to God!
Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister