We spent the first week of our Advent reflection this year looking at the physical ailments that made persons cry out to Jesus, the one thing that the physically afflicted needed Him to be for them. And we saw that our own needs are still very much the same.
This week, we'll turn our attention to some of the spiritual needs that persons brought to Jesus, starting with the most obvious:
There are a fairly good number of demons in the Gospels - demons in children, demons in women, demons in men, demons in a graveyard (and then, demons in pigs). A father comes to Jesus and says that his son is possessed by a demon that throws him down into convulsions, and then the demon throws the boy down into convulsions right there in front of Jesus. Jesus crosses the sea and comes face-to-face with demons in a man in a cemetery, demons so powerful that even the strongest chains cannot hold the man. We are told that He cast many demons out of one of the women who came to follow Him and be one of His disciples.
When someone is possessed by a demon, they only want one thing: to not be possessed by a demon any more. That's it. That's all it takes. That's the most-pressing need that the demon-possessed have for Jesus.
Most of us aren't really sure what we think about demons these days. They aren't part of our cultural experience in the same way that they were in Jesus's time, and spiritual warfare is not something most of us are comfortable talking about. We're stuck in the Pharisees' dilemma - if we say that demons are real, then we have to acknowledge the power of Jesus; if we say that they are not real, then we have to account for evil somehow. And either way, if we talk about demons at all, the world is going to think we're weird. Or worse.
But we can certainly relate to that feeling of being held captive by something we don't want to control us. We can relate to feeling like we don't have control of ourselves because something more powerful than us keeps drawing us to do what we don't want to do. Paul even acknowledges this for us later in the New Testament - for what I want to do, I don't do, but the things I don't want to do, these I do.
And I think we all have that one thing that if we could just stop doing that, we'd feel a tremendous sense of freedom. We'd feel a tremendous sense of redemption and restoration. We all have that one thing that we just keep falling for, that we will always fall for every time, but that we don't want to. It's just that...it feels like something gets inside of us and we can't stop ourselves.
It is our demon.
So we cry out to Jesus to set us free, and...He will. He does. He speaks to the demon in the voice of God Himself, our Lord, and commands the demon to flee. And it has to.
Because it has heard that voice, that embodied voice.