Jesus went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Let us alone! 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!’ When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’ And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
We live in an age in which technological advances have made the sharing of news almost instantaneous. Something can happen almost anywhere in the world and, often within seconds, we can read about it on our computers and mobile phones. The online versions of our daily newspapers are being constantly updated with the latest information. Rolling television news channels ensure that we never fall behind in relation to world events. However, this is not always a good thing.
The way in which we are saturated with non-stop news stories does not necessarily make us better informed. The emphasis that is given to a news story as it begins to unfold can lead us down the path of drawing ill-informed and erroneous conclusions. It is easy for us to develop an ‘understanding’ that very quickly proves to be incorrect. Of course, if we do not stay glued to our televisions, computers or telephones we may not be aware of our mistaken certainty, we may find ourselves spreading a story that is not true. Or, we may find ourselves trivialising an issue that becomes very serious indeed. And, we may also find ourselves becoming immune to the horrific ways in which human beings can behave towards each other.
Today’s reading ends with these words: … a report about him began to reach every place in the region. People were talking about Jesus. People who had witnessed miraculous events that were beyond their comprehension, and people who had heard a new and challenging teaching were talking about Jesus. But, what were they saying?
Today we are told that Jesus had been teaching with authority, and that he had cast out a demon which identified him as the Holy One of God. These events made an impact on those who witnessed them, but what did they actually say to others? What was the gossip that spread like a wild fire throughout the region?
Two thousand years on, we struggle with our understanding of Jesus as both a man and as the Son of God. We struggle with telling the most amazing story ever, the story of a loving God who came to earth, experienced the totality of human life and death, and sacrificed himself for the good of humanity, for ever. We struggle with telling the story of the only man who ever conquered death, that ultimate destination that is common to us all. So, without being aware of the full story, what did those witnesses to the living, breathing and walking Jesus say about him?
When we pass on a story we are often guilty of elaborating the truth. Whether we exaggerate or play down a situation, or some person’s role in that situation, is common. It seems to be something that most people do. That certainly happens in the context of those amazingly up-to-the-minute news reports. When facts run out reporters, like us, indulge in ‘best guesses’. True stories become subtly changed, more ‘complete’, more ‘compelling’. Is that what happened in the Holy Land two thousand years ago? Did the stories grow to be larger than life in the sense that they were distorted and failed to celebrate what was actually happening?
Let us pray that we might trust God to lead us into telling the truth of our risen Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we might use scripture as our guide. Let us pray that we might only use our imaginations to bring the truth to life, and not to distort it.