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Tony's Reflection 30
Members of the Royal family having their reputations trashed by popular media is no new thing.
Take King Canute for example. He was King of England way back in 1016. Popular media shows him as the nutcase who thought he could tell the tide what to do.
The story goes that he was so pushed out of shape by the flattery of his courtiers, that he thought his own royal power and authority had no end. He set up his throne, at the edge of the sea, while the tide was coming in. He then commanded the water to go into retreat, fully convinced that it would obey him.
The original version of the story is very different. The king was so distraught at the flattery of his courtiers, he took them to the seaside, to teach them a lesson. He did indeed set up his throne by the edge of the water and commanded the time to go into retreat. When it didn’t, that was the very point Canute wanted to make. He turned to his courtiers and told them only the true King of Heaven could turn back the tide. The power of all human kings is as nothing beside Him. Canute then hung his golden crown upon a cross and never wore it again, saying that only Jesus was worthy to receive a crown of gold. A lesson those courtiers would never forget…
Wherever the truth lies, the turning back of the tide was going to be a spectacular proof of the authority of the king – or not, as the case may be.
Last week, we saw Mark introducing Jesus as a “teacher with authority”. He was not the kind of teacher who relied on experts. He simply brought God’s truth to us, direct from God. When he spoke, God was speaking.
There was something utterly awesome about Jesus as a teacher. The crowds were utterly amazed by him, because of the way he taught. Just hearing him speak they recognised that he had an authority like no one else they had seen or heard before.
All this came before Jesus had done any miracles at all.
While Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, though, something happened. It would turn Jesus into a celebrity overnight. It was a far more spectacular proof of authority than Canute turning back the tide.
Imagine the scene… a quiet morning on the sabbath (Saturday, back then). The faithful are reverently gathered in the synagogue, listening in awed hush to the new teacher. They hang on every word he says. The truth of God goes straight from his lips into the very depths of their hearts. You could hear a pin drop…
Suddenly, one of the congregation stands up. He starts to scream and yell at Jesus at the top of his voice.
Mark tells us exactly what he said. Mark wrote his biography by interviewing Peter the apostle, who was there at the time. This incident clearly made a big impression on Peter, who remembered the precise words the man shouted:
“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”
A strange voice shouting out. That was disturbing enough. But look at what this voice said. The rest of the congregation were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. But could he really be the one and only “Holy One of God”?
What’s more, this wasn’t any human voice. It was the voice of a demon.
This is the stuff of horror films. Where a demon is living inside someone’s personality and speaks through them in a voice that is chillingly unearthly. I have seen this happen myself, but thankfully only once! We see it over and over around Jesus, though.
Jesus’ very presence here on earth, as God’s unique representative, was a total affront to all the powers of darkness. So they rose up together, to fight back against him. And here, we see the first public skirmish…
Those people in the synagogue knew what demons were. They had exorcists, too. Their exorcists struggled with magic and elaborate ceremonies to cast out demons.
Jesus, though, was different. He simply tells the demon to “come out” and it does. The man convulses and shrieks. Then there is total silence. The demon has gone.
An eerie calm falls upon the congregation. The crowd are panicked and awed, both at the same time. They don’t know whether to run away screaming, or bow at his feet in worship.
This was the second fight in a long battle. Jesus had already confronted Satan, the chief demon, in the wilderness. That was in private. Just between the two of them. Satan had tried weaselly temptation, but come off worse. Now, for the first time, it was open, public, direct confrontation. Power against power.
Jesus has been sent to take on all the forces of evil on this planet. The demon can’t believe that this puny little human being, Jesus of Nazareth, could destroy their work. Yet demons know who he is. Even if he is the “Holy One of God”, did he really have the power and authority to blow all of the demonic forces on this planet out of the water?
This battle would rage on throughout Jesus’ time here on earth. The first public and open fight, though, was a total non-contest…
It would seem the answer to the demons’ question was going to be “yes”.