Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you arethe Holy One of God!
Every church has some people that, if you take the time to get to know them, you’ll think are some of the most marvelous folks on this earth. At the same time, every church seems to have somebody who will just drive you crazy. If you haven’t found those people in your church, then you’re probably not sufficiently plugged in.
The extremes are not what Mark’s dealing with in today’s verses. In many churches, you’ll find someone who isn’t just annoying but who is downright evil, people who, if we had a Geiger counter to detect who is saved and who isn’t, would probably be kicked onto the street in a heartbeat. We shouldn’t feel superior to the Jews of Jesus’ day when we read that they had a man with an evil spirit in their synagogue. You might not want to know who all is sitting in the pews of your church.
The NIV, quoted above, says that this man was “possessed by” the unclean spirit. The Greek text doesn’t actually have a word for “possessed” here. Literally, the sentence would call him a “man with an unclean spirit.” I’m not sure if there’s a difference between those, but the literal rendering sure sounds less horrible to me.
How ironic it is that the unclean spirit would challenge Jesus by revealing him as “the Holy One of God.” How sad that the people apparently didn’t find that statement terribly impressive. Some of them, undoubtedly, heard this man and said, “Yeah, who does this Jesus think he is?” Maybe they agreed that Jesus’ course would destroy them, or at least their self-satisfied way of life. Perhaps they simply dismissed this guy’s words. After all, I doubt this was the first time he’d blurted something.
On this side of heaven, we have to inhabit churches that will be filled with all sorts of voices, including voices that would work against the Gospel. Our call is not to separate ourselves so that we cannot hear those impure voices. Instead, we have to tune ourselves to the Spirit within so that we can understand those voices for just what they are.