Know Your Enemy
21 Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22 The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23 Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”
25 “Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!”26 The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out.
27 Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.
-Mark 1:21-28 CEB
Imagine with me. Imagine Jesus is a magnet. If you know anything about magnets you know they have two poles. Opposite poles attract. Let’s say ‘good’ is one pole and ‘bad’ is the opposite pole. Jesus would constantly be one pole, the good pole. Therefore, it would make sense the opposite pole would be drawn to him.
Enter the person with an unclean spirit. There are many a voice that would consider him the polar opposite of Jesus. After all, he was possessed with a demon. In the world of demons and angels, our focus can seem to be pointedly on the spiritual side of good versus evil. I think we could set ourselves up for something very dangerous if we were to put this man opposite Jesus.
For Jesus, the man with the unclean spirit was the need, not the villain. The man needed help. There are faith traditions who have a nasty habit of taking those who need us, and turning them into the bad guy/gal. We create safe zones around our congregations, and somehow we don’t realize it cuts out the least of these.
We can figure out who the villain was, by looking at the need. If Jesus fixed this man in need, the person or group who didn’t (at least according to Mark) would be the polar opposite.
Have you figured it out yet? The polar opposite of Jesus were the Chief Priests. They did not or could not help the man. Jesus could. Jesus was able to teach in a way the people understood, while perhaps the Chief Priests missed the mark. Jesus helping the man brought the polar opposites just a little closer together. For those of us who understand the story of Jesus, crucifixion happens when the poles connect.
So what is the point? We need to be careful who we are making the enemy, because we could be pushing away the need instead of dealing with the problem. We could be making enemies of those who should be our allies. Know your enemy, but also know the need.