I always wondered what that cry sounded like? How amazing and how frightening it must have been for those around the man to witness. The scream of the demon always had an actual physical presence for me as well. I could see the scream.
And it was horrifying.
The Bible is amazing in the details it gives and in the details it omits. In this passage, as in many others, we see Jesus commanding an unclean spirit to leave, but we don’t know details about the man or about what made the spirit unclean. Volumes could probably have been written about this man and his life, his trials and the trials he put others through, but we are just not privy to that information.
When I was younger, I always assumed the man was your typical “crazy” man. I pictured him calling out to Jesus that day, but also talking to himself, dancing foolishly, acting strangely. I pictured him unable to hold down a job or keep a girlfriend or support a family. He was the man you’d steer your children away from on the street, the man you would not make eye contact with, the man you feared while pretending he did not exist.
I pictured him as a lonely man, but one others had to stay away from for their own safety and sanity.
The unclean spirit, I just pictured as evil, and I tried not to dwell on it.
But as I grew and faced my own sets of hardship and as I allowed Jesus more fully into my life, I realized that I knew very little about anything about the healing Jesus brings or about unclean spirits or how those spirits manifest themselves in each of us.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried 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!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
How many times have we let out cries of pure human agony? How many times have we just held that base cry inside, thinking we needed to protect ourselves so others would not see our pain? How many times did we hold back that cry in order to remain strong for someone else?
Each of us is the man with the unclean spirit. Each of us is fighting his own demons. No one is immune. Each of us has a cry deep inside waiting to get out. Some laugh off our filth knowing it is acceptable and even encouraged by society today. We purposely plan weekends at casinos and strip clubs for the soon-to-be-married as one last hurrah and later accept their adultery and divorce because they were “unhappy.” We too often point fingers to cast blame on another rather than ask them to take difficult steps to save their marriages, their families, themselves. As a society, we embrace gambling, porn, big houses, fancy cars, and lazy behavior failing to recognize these as today’s version of the antiquated seven deadly sins. We think it is just the way things are today and it’s no big deal.
And then we let out a cry of an escaping demon when life falls apart, when things get rough, when we are faced with challenges we didn’t see coming because it is a big deal.
But, while we cry the cry, sometimes for the world to see, sometimes in the invisibility of our own homes, we often fail to release the demon. Instead we choose to hold onto the familiar, repeating the same moves over and over that got us here in the first place. We too blame another or circumstances or dumb luck, but we fail to call out to Jesus and make fundamental, freeing changes. We, like the man so long ago, fail to recognize that Jesus did not come to destroy us but to set us free. We fail to recognize that we need Him continually in our lives.
In this Bible passage, Jesus instantly cures the man and the unclean spirit leaves him with that great cry, but we do not know what happens next. Many may assume the man was cured, never to be bothered again by an unclean spirit and so he didn’t need Jesus anymore, but Jesus did not come to free us and leave us. He came to free us and stay within us, protecting us, guiding us, loving us for eternity.
The Bible doesn’t give details about the man’s life. We do not know if the spirit returned, attempting again to enter into the man’s thoughts, his heart, his words. We do not know, but can always Hope, the man continued to cry out to Jesus and the spirit stayed away for an eternity because that is what we want to believe, because that gives us our happy ending, because that is the way life should be!
But perhaps that man continued to struggle. Perhaps that man continued to be haunted by unclean spirits or even by the very same unclean spirit. Would it not still be wonderful if the man rejected those spirits day in and day out? Would it not still be wonderful if the man continued to cry out to Jesus day in and day out for His Blessing? Would that man not continue to grow ever closer to the Lord if this were so? Why do we assume Jesus gave one sentence and the person was cured forever? Why do we assume the man would never needed Jesus’ help again?
Why do we assume Jesus should heal us instantly and for eternity? We are we disappointed when we struggle with our same demons day in and day out?
If today you are struggling with hopelessness, despair, worthlessness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, any number of agonies, be the man at the synagogue. Cry out to Jesus and then release your demons. Free them so you may be free! And later, whether your unclean spirit raises its ugly cry again a year, a month, a week, a day, or only seconds later, call out to Jesus again. We are not immune even from the unclean spirits Jesus has already expelled from us. We are all under constant spiritual attack and, when all seems good and your unclean spirits seem to have departed, be sure to praise the Lord and keep Him with you, by your side, inside of you, align yourself with Him so you are one and you are ready, for Satan never tires – but neither does your Lord.
What does the cry of the unclean spirit sound like? What is the physical appearance of the unclean spirit? Perhaps it is different for each of us and only a look in the mirror will show our individual unclean spirits. Perhaps the cries you emit in your pain, in your most agonizing moments are not your cries at all, but the cries of the unclean spirit as the Lord works to draw you closer to Him.
I Hope and Pray that you let Him do so – again!