We’ve seen that Jesus is getting a lot of attention. Crowds are coming from far and near, Judea, Galilee and Idumea (Edom) are mentioned here. This is causing problems for him because as his fame grows so do the crowds and this means that his movement and activities are restricted. We’ve already seen an example of this when Jesus had been teaching in a house and men with a sick friend had not been able to get to him through the door.
Now, the press of the crowd near the lake shore means that Jesus and his disciples are at physical risk from crushing, so Jesus has the disciples arrange a boat for him. t.
What is causing the attention? Well Mark places the focus on Jesus’ power to heal (v10), so that people hope to get close enough even just to touch him. However, it isn’t just about his healing power. Jesus’ presence has led to confrontation with Satan’s forces. As I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be a particular increase in demonic activity through possession around the life and ministry of Jesus. His presence draws the enemy out into the open. So, the demons are responding to Jesus.
It is perhaps worth saying a little bit more about the devil’s tactics at this point. We know that there is still demonic activity of the kind described here today. Indeed, whilst some people are too quick to spot demons anywhere and everywhere, I think we have been so affected by western secularism that we can be completely blind to that activity. One thing we need to be alert to is that the devil loves to see lives wrecked. Secondly, whilst not the same as demon possession, I don’t think we can ignore the damaging affect of alcohol, drug and other forms of addiction on people as it brings mental, emotional and physical destruction. The Devil will use the pleasures and addictions of this world to do harm.
However, our primary experience of spiritual warfare is in our day to day life. It’s fascinating that in Ephesians 6, the teaching on spiritual armour is set straight after teaching on worship, marriage, family life and work. The devil’s attacks will include
- Temptation as he seeks to get us to give in to sinful desires.
- Accusation as he seeks to shame us either when we do fall or through false accusation when we haven’t.
It is important then to remember that Christ’s power is at work today both for the spectacular exorcisms of a similar nature to the ones described in the Gospels and to help us to say no to sin and yes to godliness in our daily struggles. If you are struggling with temptation then the best and only thing you can do with that temptation is to take it to the Lord and entrust your struggle to him. When you are struggling with shame and guilt, you need to hear Christ’s voice reminding you that you are loved, chosen, forgiven, justified.
Back to the passage and get this. The demons recognised Jesus, the knew who he was, his identity, his status and his power. As James 2:19 points out, it isn’t enough for us to simply give intellectual assent to the existence and identity of Jesus: “even the demons fear and tremble.” This intellectual belief is not the same as a heart response leading to saving faith in Jesus and a changed life.
That the demons recognise Jesus for who he is and that their response is not as to an ally or friend but as defeated foe will become important a little later in the passage when Jesus’ accusers claim that he uses demonic power to cast out demons.
Jesus forbids the demons from speaking about him. Jesus does not accept the philosophy which says that “any publicity is good publicity.” He will not accept their praise and commendation. This should warn us against the temptation to pragmatism in our outreach.
Here are a few things to reflect on.
- It is not enough for us to give intellectual assent to who Jesus is, we must trust him with our hearts.
- If Jesus will not accept the praise of demons then this warns us against being pragmatic and just using any methods that appear to work in evangelism. We want our outreach to be commendable to and by God.
- Every knee must bow at the name of Jesus -even demons. This is a reminder that he calls us to faithful obedience and worship. It should also encourage us that we do not need to fear because Christ is with us.