imagine going to mass one Sunday morning, and the priest invites a visitor to the parish to speak to the congregation after communion. His voice is calm, measured and warm, but there is something else. His voice has a power to it. His words are not just enjoyable to listen to; they hit you with deep conviction. All of a sudden, one of your fellow parishioners, a gentleman you see at mass every Sunday, jumps out of his seat, and to your amazement starts growling. Then out of his mouth comes an icy, snarling voice apparently directed at the visiting speaker. You’ve never seen or heard the like of it. He is making quite a scene. You look at the parish priest to see what he makes of it and he, like the rest of the congregation, is staring, open-mouthed, at the parishioner. Then the visitor walks towards the guy and speaks directly to him. It gets weirder. The parishioner falls to the ground and looks like he is having a fit. He’s flailing about yelling and then goes limp. The visitor takes the man by his hand, helps him to his feet and leads him back to his seat. He appears fine.
Your reaction is about the same as everyone else in the church: “Woah.”
Not your typical Sunday mass? Well, the synagogue service in Capernaum the day Jesus came to visit wasn’t exactly normal either. Sure enough, in first century Galilee there was a greater acceptance of the presence and activity of demons than is typical in Western society today. Still, what happened in Capernaum that day made a real impact on the synagogue congregation. It wasn’t the demonic manifestation that made the most definite impression. However, it was the authority of Jesus.
The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits, and they obey him.’
And that, of course, is the real point of the story: Jesus is here now, the holy one of God, and times have changed. The reign of darkness is ending, the reign of God is breaking into the world. ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’ Great news for humans, bad news for demons.
Take some time to welcome the reign of God into your world today.