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.
We live in a media-driven age. We live in an age where ‘fame’ is, so often, valued above all else. From an early age children become indoctrinated with the desire to be like their favourite pop star or sports personality. For the majority this is a passing phase but, for some, it becomes a life-inhibiting disability. How many times have you, like me, heard the ‘star’ of a school play described as being ‘professional’? This is, of course, complete nonsense. Professional actors and musicians undergo years and years of specialist training, they do not rise ready-made from our classrooms. Fortunately, such talk does not affect many, but there are those who believe the hype, and then go on to waste their lives chasing an unrealistic dream!
Today we hear of Jesus’ fame: a great multitude from Galilee followed him. Jesus’ reputation had spread throughout the region. People were clamouring to be near him. Just like those arena-based pop concerts and major sporting fixtures, great crowds gathered around Jesus. In fact, so many people gathered around him that they had to retreat to a boat so that they would not crush him.
We are told that Jesus had cured many. In a time of primitive medical practice such miraculous acts of healing would have been an attraction to everyone who could make the journey into his presence. But, at the end of our reading we hear these words: he sternly ordered them not to make him known. Jesus was not only curing physical illnesses, he was also casting out unclean spirits. Those unclean spirits (or demons) recognized the authority and power of Jesus. They shouted: You are the Son of God. It is these unclean spirits that Jesus orders to be silent.
Jesus was performing great acts in the name of his Heavenly Father. He was restoring health and bringing about the reality of new lives. As people were healed of their physical illnesses others could see and believe. But, the power of the spoken word, just like the power of our modern media, is fickle. That which can appear to be making a positive statement can easily be twisted by accomplished word-smiths into something negative and damaging. Demons could not, and cannot, be trusted!
Every day we encounter news of events that are twisted in this way. Every day we see and hear the work of the devil in the way that which is good is distorted and manipulated into scandalous gossip, or worse. We witness the making-up of back stories to suit particular agenda. Perhaps we join in that cynical twisting of the truth into something unpleasant and damaging?
Let us pray that we might not be distracted from the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we might not get caught up in the ‘fame’ culture of this world but rather remain true to our faith, the faith which is rooted in the word and works of God alone.