Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. – Mark 3:7-12
Jesus is teaching by the lake again and apparently attracting quite a crowd. Clearly what he was saying was something people wanted to hear. Or at least they were impressed by His actions healing people and forgiving their sins. Jesus was aware of the desire of the crowd to be near Him because he called up a boat from which to teach. What is not clear to me is whether they were crowding around Him to learn and grow or if they simply wanted something He could give them. Were they coming for the physical healing or the new life and forgiveness that He offered?
It seems like it is easier to seek healing than redemption. Physical healing is immediate and visible to those around us in a tangible way. Redemption is a “slow burn” transformation that may take our entire lives to fully live out. That is not to say that we must earn our salvation. Redemption is freely given, but the receiving of this redemption is what takes some effort on our part. Why is it hard to accept this free gift offered by God? I think there is a clue in the last part of this passage. There are “impure spirits” ready and willing to convince us that God does not really mean to forgive us – no matter what he says.
C.S. Lewis explored these “impure spirits” in a book called the Screwtape Letters. The book is a dialogue between tempters assigned to lead people away from God and the forgiveness He offers. This is rarely done in an obvious or overt way. The apprentice demons in this fictional account are given advice how to use all of our strengths and weaknesses to lead us away from God. Everything from a person singing out of tune in the next pew at church to tantalizing moral temptations for our souls. It seems there are both angels and demons at work in the spiritual realm in a battle for our souls and the demons know Jesus is their kryptonite. It is not clear why Jesus wants them to be silent about His identity. Perhaps he wants faithful followers rather than scared people seeking refuge rather than redemption.
I do find it interesting that even the “impure spirits” fell down before Him. This is something that many people have difficulty doing, including myself, before I decided to follow the way of Jesus. Why is it that these “impure spirits” are able to see something that it is difficult for us to see? I think it comes down to the fact that they inhabit the same spiritual space and we are separated from this reality by a veil which obscures the spiritual realities that surround us. There was no such veil between Jesus and these impure spirits. They could see Him and He could see them. I do believe that God sees us, but we are often behind a one-way mirror and see only our own reflection when we are trying to see God. The trick to seeing God is breaking the mirror so we see Him rather than just ourselves.
Prayer: God help us to break the mirror of our self-focus so we can see You and accept the grace You freely offer.