Epiphany 4B What Evil Lurks
February 1, 2015
The unclean spirit says to Jesus ,
“What have you to do with us..?
Have you come to destroy us?”
The verse is difficult to translate
because of the idioms in the original Greek.
Luther seminary professor Matt Skinner suggests a better translation might be something like this:
“Why are you picking this fight?” or
“Couldn’t you have just left things as they were between us?”
Jesus’ answer is ‘no.’
The good news about Jesus in today’s reading
is that he refuses to leave things the way they are.
He confronts, challenges, opposes, and defies evil.
In the gospel of Mark Jesus goes after all kinds of demons:
Public demons as well as private ones.
The first act of ministry Jesus does in the gospel of Mark
(we’re still in the first chapter!)
is to challenge evil – to confront demons.
My father grew up listening to some of the old time radio shows.
Every once in awhile he’d quote one of his favorites
(and I apologize in advance for not doing justice to the voice!):
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
The Shadow knows….bwahahahahaha!
Jesus enters the synagogue on the Sabbath,
and as he teaches, he knows that evil is lurking there.
An unclean spirit
has been masquerading as the holy spirit.
Forces which are actually opposed to God
have been living right there in the midst of God’s people.
And they’ve been quite comfortable, thank you very much!
No one’s bothered them.
Evil has been left alone.
This week as we marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation
of the concentration camp at Auschwitz,
we remember the tragedy that for far too long,
evil was left alone.
Jewish Philosopher Hannah Arendt,
wrote of the ‘banality of evil’ in relation to Nazi Germany.
Her premise is that those who went along with the Nazi regime (many Lutherans of course)
were not monsters, they weren’t psychopathic;
they were really quite normal in fact.
They were extremely average – banal.
They were motivated by “success.”
They were trying to get ahead by following orders, doing their jobs.
What Arendt says is important for us to remember, however,
is that not everyone made that choice.
And she adds that what countries need to remember
is that the “Final Solution” the Nazis proposed?
It could happen in most places but it did not happen everywhere.
She suggests that all students studying political science
be required to study Denmark
and its example of the power of nonviolent resistance to evil.
“It was not just that the people of Denmark refused to assist in implementing the Final Solution, as the peoples of so many other conquered nations had been persuaded to do (or had been eager to do) — but also, that when the Reich cracked down and decided to do the job itself it found that its own personnel in Denmark … were unable to overcome their human aversion with the appropriate ruthlessness, as their peers in more cooperative areas had.”
The unclean spirit asks Jesus,
“Couldn’t you just leave things the way they are?”
And Jesus says, ‘no.’
Probably many of us are familiar with Maurice Sendak’s book,
Where the Wild Things Are.
The books tells of a little boy who is misbehaving,
and is sent to his room.
His imagination brings him to the land of the Wild Things,
who make him their king.
It is fun to be around these monsters and demons for a while,
but then he decides to go home where he is known and loved.
The Wild Things try to persuade him to stay,
but the boy returns to his room
where he finds his supper laid out for him
and Sendak says, “and it is still warm.”
As adults we know all too well that we struggle with our own demons.
We have addictions of various kinds;
we have a need to appear successful;
we choose to keep the status quo rather than confront
the injustices around us.
For awhile we mingle where the wild things are,
and for awhile it seems good and fun.
But at some point –
it might be a midlife crisis;
it might be a divorce;
it might be the loss of a job or a DUI or an eviction notice
it might be a rape on campus or a video of a shooting of an unarmed black man
and we realize we can no longer keep up appearances;
we can no longer allow things to remain the way they are;
we can no longer ignore these demons, the evil we know is lurking about.
It doesn’t seem like it at the time,
but it is the grace of God when this happens,
and we look for home.
Home of course where we have supper – bread and wine – laid out for us.
“Have you come to destroy us?” the unclean spirit asks.
“Couldn’t you just leave things as they are?”
And Jesus says, ‘No, I have not come to leave things as they are!”
Thanks be to God.