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A Demon's Voiceover

January 28, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Mark records, the interaction between Jesus and the demon-possessed man, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

If you’re familiar with the works of C. S. Lewis, you’ve probably heard of The Screwtape Letters. It is a collection of letters which Lewis declares, in his fiction-written-as-fact sort of way, to have come into his possession in a mysterious, unknown way. He says this for, you see, the letters are between an older, semi-retired and apparently successful … demon, named Screwtape, and he is writing to his young nephew Wormwood who is just beginning his career as a tempter, trying to lure away the souls of men to their “Father Below.” It's a fascinating read written in quite the unique format, and as a theoretical window into the operations of demons, it also says something significant about human nature, and how easily we are duped into temptation and sin. It says something about who, from humanity’s perspective, seems to be pulling the strings in our world. It says something about all fallen creatures, and who they think is really in control.

In a similar way to how Lewis acquired these letters, I seem to have come across a diary or journal entry from the very demon we heard about in our Gospel lesson today. It’s uncanny how similar the two writings are, and it certainly makes you think! Now, he doesn’t mention his own name, but suffice it to say, after what happened with Jesus in the synagogue, he was less than pleased…

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How dare He! How DARE He do this before the appointed time! I know Who He is, but who does He think He is!? To break protocol! It is insufferable! Intolerable! How DARE He!

It wasn’t always like this. Why, I remember when it all started, when our father below got the ball rolling with that STUPID man and woman! How easily he beguiled them, with promises of becoming like the enemy, knowing both good and evil – all they needed to do was transgress the singular law the enemy had established! The cacophony and cataclysm that followed when they assented can only be described as glorious! Those “pinnacles of creation,” those made in the enemy’s image and likeness, His pets, were now fallen, and oh, how far they had fallen! How He could claim to … ahem, “love” them, even after they broke His precious creation is nothing short of fantastical and folly.

The years and centuries after that marvelous fall of man from perfection was marked with highs and lows – I particularly enjoyed my time amongst the human vermin before the enemy seemingly gave up on His pets and drowned them all – well, except for eight of them. No matter; the influx of misery and pain from those damned souls who perished in the deluge was as a finely aged wine. Oh my, yes, those were the days … Even though the enemy’s pets still lived and were, on the whole, faithful to His whims, we were still sustained through that time of drought because, after all, sin is something that the fallen human vermin crave, and we only too eagerly would indulge them.

Even when the enemy chose His supposed elect people, it didn’t take much prompting to get those … Israelites, I think they called themselves – to forget the ridiculous promises the enemy had given them. I don’t quite recall what they all were – had something to do with “having offspring as numerous as the stars” and “being a blessing to all nations” (the very thought is nauseating and repugnant!) – but I do recall one particular promise given over the centuries which always sent a shiver of horror and revulsion through my essence: the promise of one the enemy called the “Messiah.” Be that as it may, we tempters still plugged away at our trade, drawing Men away from the supposed hope that could be had in the enemy’s employ. For a select few of us, we were given the task of drawing those “Israelites” to worship in the way we established, diving headlong into their decadence, forsaking a covenant made with the enemy for the beautiful death found in our camp! Their misery was certainly of a special vintage – to pry away so many of the enemy’s little pets made for an especially delectable and palatable sustenance!

After the enemy sent them to their punishment in Babylon, however, we had to change tactics. We had to maintain our control and authority, and their newfound piety and blatant refusal to follow our kind was an absolute affront! To say the least, I was incensed for so long before we realized we could actually use their piety against them. They would become so wrapped up in their little rules, trying to protect themselves from breaking the enemy’s laws that they would completely forgo the very thing that their God demanded: fidelity … trust … love…. The irony of it all was so delicious as to make even the most cynical of tempters regale in their foolishness, arrogance, and pride. They thought they had it all figured out. They thought they were in complete control. Oh, the delightful conceit, especially when we tempters know who’s REALLY in control: us!

But that MAN…. Oh, the RAGE!  We had heard reports that He had manifested here in Judea some time ago – that scrumptious fool Herod first caught wind of it through those “wise” vermin from the east, but I had not known that He would have grown up so … strongly, so wisely. I knew our banquet could not last forever, but I did not expect to see that “Messiah” in my career as a tempter, and yet here He was, in Capernaum! I had been inhabiting this scrumptiously miserable man when I saw from afar, that “Jesus” go into the synagogue. Putting aside my indignation at His invasion of my stomping grounds, I knew instantly something wasn’t right. My suspicious were confirmed as I drew near the gathering place and heard Him speaking – only, He wasn’t talking like one of the fools who thought they had it all figured out, those who would trust in their works to “save” them. No, no, no – this Man … was teaching with AUTHORITY! The sheer absurdity! The incredulous nonsense of it all! Didn’t He know that we are the ones with authority here!? Again, how DARE He!

I could only put up with this Usurper’s vile truth for so long before I had to say something! I burst into their synagogue and called Him out! “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” If He was going to try and exhibit His authority here, then all those in earshot should hear exactly who He is, and Who He is is only too clear: the … ugh, Holy One of God! Perhaps if they knew this, then they would not kill Him in the end and the enemy’s plan would all be brought to naught! Nevetheless, this young upstart, holy or no, was not supposed to be here yet! The world had not yet ended; our time on the chopping block had not yet arrived! He had NO RIGHT to be here, teaching as if He had authority! The impertinence, the audacity!

I wish I could say that He shut right up, then and there, but alas, I was … erm, “evicted.” Much to my horror and chagrin, try as I might, I could not resist His command, “Be silent and come out of him!” I fought, to be sure, sending that tantalizing Capernaumite into convulstions, but in the end, to my shame, I could not resist. I had heard of other accounts such as this, where my brethren of our father below were sent screaming into the void at this Jesus’ command, but that knowledge did little to console me as I was ripped from my host and sent back here, to report my grievous news and failure. This is, surely, the beginning of the end. I shudder to think of what awaits us. We will fight, but in my despair, I fear that all is lost…

NO! We mustn’t give in! Our reality is real! There are still men to be coerced, to be drawn away and tempted! I hear of fabulous new technologies which will make our job infinitely easier in the future! The authority is ours … OURS!! No matter what the enemy may say or do, if we lose our residence in one, we will move to another! We are in control, and no commands of the enemy will dislodge us!

Long live the underlord!

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What this demon fails to realize is that the authority, the control was never theirs in the first place. What they don’t know or understand is that Jesus is there to take back His own people, and nothing is going to stop Him. He is there to bind the strong man and plunder his house, stealing away the souls the tempters undoubtedly thought were secure in their grasp. Jesus muzzling of this rancorous unclean spirit brandishes His absolute control and authority. That is why the demon leaves the man from Capernaum, and that’s why all those present in that synagogue looked on in amazement and perturbation.  They say, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Why? Because in a rare word of truth from the demoniac, Jesus is the “Holy One of God.” Jesus Himself declares at the end of Matthew’s Gospel account, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. We needn’t fear the plots and schemes of the actual enemy, Satan, because our God has declared us to be His children. He says it, and because the authority is His, because it does not lie with us or anything else in all creation, it is true, and we can rest in that revelation.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Mark 1:21-28