At first glance, one word from verse 23 jumps off the page. The man with an evil spirit “screams” at Jesus. I’ve had many things happen to me while preaching and in the context of a worship service. To date, I’ve never had anyone scream at me. Given what we read here, maybe I’ve been doing it all wrong. Perhaps people should be screaming at me if I’m disturbing and disrupting the world in the manner of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus provokes strong reactions in people; especially those who are heavily invested in maintaining the spiritual status quo.
We, knee deep in the pig-slop of Western Christendom, are hell bent on being loved, adored, and respected. People who provoke the back pew sitters to anger and confront society’s worst evils are relegated to the fringes of their denominations, live in poverty, and rarely find a spiritual home. Despite our innate desire to please others, we can’t ignore the reality that our Messiah was poor fringe dweller who alienated more people than he attracted to his cause. This is Jesus we see preaching in Capernaum.
Screaming seems to be the order of the day. When Jesus exorcises the demon, the man screams for a second time. The evil inside this man lacks the appropriate words to confront Jesus or explain its presence. We are reminded that evil is often inexplicable. Other than identify Jesus by name and role, evil has no response to Jesus or his message. There is no real battle or conflict. The possessed man is merely part of a much larger narrative. He will be made free. However, he is there to help tell the story.
What story? Jesus’ message will be heard; no matter how loud people scream. Demonic temper tantrums will not interrupt the coming Kingdom of God. We also learn that in order be heard, we don’t need to scream. Evil screams and shakes its fist in anger. Yes, the evil spirit calls Jesus out by name. What does Jesus say to man? Does he identify the demon by name (if you watch movies and television shows we’re led to believe this is crucial in exorcisms)? Jesus simply says, “Silence”. In a head to head confrontation with evil, Jesus doesn’t resort to name calling or screaming. That’s the other team’s modus operandi.
Jesus’ message is that he comes to build something new. He is destroying the cycle of fear, hatred, and anger undergirding a life which says, “I hate my neighbor as much as I hate myself”. This message is conveyed by one word, “Silence”. I can’t emphasize this enough; Jesus doesn’t argue, insult, or scream. Loving our neighbors begins when we say, “silence” to the arguments and anger within ourselves. It is in the spaces between the silences that the kingdom of God can begin to be built.