The Power of Love
Updated: Feb 2
It’s the Sabbath. It’s the synagogue. It’s the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Astounded. Amazed. Jesus teaches as one who has authority. Mark 1:21-28 shares Jesus teaching with authority and calling out the unclean spirit. And that unclean spirit obeys. Inside the synagogue the unclean spirit speaks out loud what the voice from the heavens affirmed at Jesus’ baptism- this is the Son of God, the Holy One of God. Jesus commands the unclean spirit to be silent and come out of the man. And it does.
Had this man with the unclean spirit been present previously in the community, in the synagogue? Were those around this man in the synagogue unaware that he was possessed by an unclean spirit? What are unclean spirits?
When I think of unclean spirits or demons I think of “the devil and all his empty promises”. Yet if evil, that which is unclean and moves us away from God looked scary- with horns and a pitchfork we might have an instinctual aversion. But the subtle and seductive nature of deceit, "white lies", micro-aggressions, rationalization, justifying... these are big temptations even as they appear so small. They often appear as subtle, insignificant, acceptable, and inconspicuous.
Fortune and fame can become idols that consume a person. Power and prestige can lead down a path where slowly by little, drip by drip, the end starts to justify the means. Disregard for the good of one’s neighbor isn’t an intentional plan but becomes a by-product of focusing only on me and mine.
As I hear of unclean spirits and Jesus removing them from this man, I think of this as a healing- this man is freed from the power that consumes him. Part of my reflection has been considering the subtle and seductive nature of that which is separate from the holy- gossip, criticism, disdain, indifference.
In the music video above it tells a story of sorts- that the places where demon dwells are not external but internal. In Matthew 15 we hear Jesus speak about it being what comes out of person’s mouth that defiles them not what they put into it. The unclean spirit might not have been visible to those around this man. Years ago when I was first taught the Enneagram one of my teachers said something that has stuck with me for the past twenty years, “the truth spoken without love is demonic”.
Jesus came into the world as God in the flesh- God with us Emmanuel. This is love. Jesus is the love of God born in our human form. Love has the power to vanquish the unclean spirit. Was the amazement of Jesus’ teaching that he taught with love? Over the past several years I have reflected upon the quote attributed to Jimi Hendrix, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”.
To speak truth to power is a holy calling. Jesus did this. And he loved. He spoke the truth in love- not to highlight his power but so that power of his love would be experienced. What story did that man later tell of his experience with Jesus that day in the synagogue? Did he join those who were already following Jesus? He is unnamed in this story. His story isn’t told any further. And when I think of him it brings to mind Psalm 51 .
As that man left the synagogue that day was he restored to the joy of salvation? Did the Lord open his lips so that his mouth could declare God’s praise? Maybe it was this man who was restored who went on to share far and wide throughout Galilee what he experienced. I imagine when you have an experience like that- there is no shutting you up about it. That’s the power of love- we want to shout it from the mountain top and proclaim it far and wide.