Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted: ‘You are the Son of God!’
Today’s reading opens with Jesus needing space, physical space. He has been bringing healing into the lives of many; his fame has spread far and wide. Wherever he goes he is confronted with crowds of people jostling for their moment of healing and renewal. The crowds had become so big that Jesus had to plan for his own space and for the safety of those who accompanied him.
It must have been so exciting to have the opportunity of coming into Jesus’ physical presence, of feeling his healing touch, of knowing the profound joy of being ‘renewed’. But, as we seek to place ourselves in the midst of those crowds we have to be careful. Jesus’ healing touch was not about ‘ahead of its time’ medical practice. Jesus’ healing touch was about the miraculous removal of physical ailment and disability, and it was also about an engagement with spiritual healing, and that can be a very dangerous engagement indeed.
It is not uncommon to hear people cry out to God when they are in great need. However, when God answers their prayers they quickly return to the secular. Rather than seeing their desperate prayers as having been answered, they talk of good luck and other non-divine and superstitious interventions. With the completeness of God’s healing touch comes the opening of those dangerous paths which can be so easily exploited by unclean spirits.
Human beings constantly find themselves being faced with temptations which, if followed, will distance them from God. This confrontation with temptation, this encounter with unclean spirits, becomes all the more real when we have experienced the true presence of Christ in our lives. Those unclean spirits will do all they can to cause us to behave in a way that is untrue to both our divine and our human calling.
Having recognized the danger we all face in the form of unclean spirits we also need to observe that they are the ones that see Jesus for who he really is: the Son of God. The challenge for us today comes in different stages: we need to invite God into our lives in order that he might heal us; we need to rejoice in that divine healing; we need to be aware of the unclean spirits who know Jesus for who he really is and that are gathering to tempt us away from him; we need to close the circle by remaining steadfast in our faith. Not an easy circle to close, but one that will bring us the true joy of knowing the completeness of Jesus’ healing touch in our lives.