So the stage is set and he’s teaching in this space and some guy blows up at him. Now Mark doesn’t tell us anything, but I’m always curious as to what Jesus might have said that pressed this guy’s buttons. The phrase he utters is actually kind of hard to translate from Greek. Our rendering this morning is, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” but the question in Greek, literally translated, is, “Who to you and to us, Jesus of Nazareth?” This can also be rendered, “Who are you to us, Jesus of Nazareth?” … or “Who do you think you are, Jesus?”
This demon possessed man goes on to ask if Jesus is out to destroy them and then, rightly, identifies Jesus as the “holy one of God.” Notice how the demon speaks the truth: Jesus is the Holy One of God. Demons know exactly who he is. Their job isn’t to deny the identity of Jesus at all. Their job is to get Jesus to question his own identity. You know, it can be done with a tone of voice – imagine the demon saying “you are the Holy One of God” in a mocking, sarcastic tone in front of all of these people. Who do you think you are? Indeed! The demon is attacking Jesus’ very sense of identity as God’s son.
We speak of Jesus as one who was tempted in every way as we are and, if you think about it, you have been assailed in the same way, haven’t you? It begins as far back as elementary school, right? You know, the time when you had the answer to the teacher’s question when nobody else did? What was the reaction of the others students? “You think you are so smart!” “Teacher’s pet!” Right? You likely were thrown nasty little barbs from others born out of petty jealousy and insecurity to knock you off your game. It’s an attack on your identity – meant to sow seeds of self-doubt and even loathing. Adults do it too and for the same reasons. They backstab you in the workplace, triangulate and spread malicious rumors or knock you down personally and professionally. All of this is demonic in nature – it is not of God and intended to make you doubt who you are and, more importantly, whose you are.
Jesus doesn’t take this guy’s bait. He doesn’t let this attack on his identity and mission knock him off his message. Instead, he rebukes the unclean spirit – he calls it out for what it is. We don’t hear his words exactly, but he commands it to be silent and come out. Now, for us in our modern scientific world, this sounds a little “woo woo.” But naming demons is still important. Calling out aberrant behavior, naming the dysfunction, and telling the truth takes the power away from demons. Oh sure, they don’t go down without a fight (even the story tells us they convulsed the man before leaving), but naming those behaviors in others which attack your identity and are not of God takes their power to hurt you away.
There are all kinds of people who will do their best to try and attack your identity, your gifts and your graces. In every case, their attacks speak volumes about their brokenness and often little to nothing about you. When the attacks come, especially when they are sneaky, backstabbing, and malicious, think back to this story and how Jesus responded. He claimed God’s power over his life and rebuked the demon who tried to make him doubt who he was and whose he is. When you are attacked, remind yourself that no person on earth can steal your rightful place as a child of God in Christ. No matter who you are or what you have done … nothing can ever destroy your identity as beloved in Christ. Thanks be to God.