Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, as we saw in yesterday’s reading, and that did not end so well, with his fellow Nazoreans running him out of town (Lk 4:29). In today’s reading, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. The initial reaction to Jesus’ teaching was similar in both accounts; the people were “amazed” and “astonished” with his teaching. But no one in either group makes the bold statement that arises today: “I know who you are – the Holy One of God” (Lk 4:34)! This phrase was professed by a demon. He who taunted Jesus.
From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry opposition was present. In Nazareth, the fallen nature of our humanity reared its head. The people he grew up with were unwilling to see beyond the ordinary Jesus they always knew. Wasn’t he just the son of Joseph, just the carpenter? Jesus was safe when he merely worked a quiet life, participated in the life of the synagogue, even when he returned from surrounding territories amidst words of praise, and even stepping up to read in the synagogue from the words of Elijah: he was the hometown boy making good. But once Jesus began to equate himself in the line of the prophets and share how God was working beyond the people of Israel, with his accounts of Elijah going to the Gentile widow, and Naaman, another Gentile, going to Elisha, highlighting that God worked beyond the people of Israel, even his own had enough. Jesus had to go (Lk 4:29).
In today’s account, another source of opposition is the taunting demon. Jesus rebuked the demon immediately and called him out of the man. Jesus faced time and again the fallen nature of humanity, disbelief, lack of faith, as well as the opposition of demons, and soon the failure of religious and civic leadership. Sound familiar?
Where do we find our self in the scenes of Jesus’ ministry and teaching, in our own time today? Following Jesus is a day to day commitment and we must be willing to face the same challenges that his disciples did. We need to be willing to face our weaknesses, our woundedness, and our own shortcomings and conform our lives to the will of Jesus. By doing so we will be confronted with the darkness and sin within ourselves. With true humility, we will be better able to resist defending and rationalizing where we fall short of the glory of God and instead be willing to repent, to turn away from our sin, to turn back to God, and be willing to be healed.
We also need to resist dismissing Jesus’ encounter with the demon in today’s Gospel too quickly. Demons do exist and play a role in the principalities and powers that influence us and our world. We ignore this reality to our own peril, for they will tempt and subtly attack us at our weakest and most vulnerable points. This is not a cause for anxiety and fear. The weakest Christian is stronger than the devil himself but we must be aware and vigilant. When faced with temptation by Satan or his demons, we just call on the name of Jesus and those of the dark will flee from the radiant light of Christ. This is why it is so important to regularly examine our conscience, to be aware of, and to confess our sin. In doing so, we will be free, otherwise, they can and will be used against us.
The closer we draw to Jesus, the more we experience his light, the more of our own sin we will see. This is not a cause to run and hide but to humbly embrace the truth so that healing will be possible. This also means that we will see more clearly the dark influences that plague us and our world which we are blinded to when we turn in upon ourselves and our feed our own selfishness, embrace our own pride, and turn away from God.
May we instead place our trust and belief in Jesus today and each day, spend time in prayer, in his word, examine our conscience, and be willing to be led by him to serve one another, speak up for one another, and stand strong against the temptations and darkness of this world. When we fall short, fail, as we will, as did the apostles, we need to follow, not Judas, but Peter: repent, confess our love for Jesus, and begin again. Together, with our Loving God and Father, may we hold one another accountable, support, and lift one another up in love, for Jesus is at our right hand, and, even in the darkest moments, with Jesus, we will stand firm!