Jesus And Spiritual Forces
Have you ever noticed that Jesus is much more comfortable talking about demons than you are? (Or at least, I know that’s the case for me.) The worldview that was handed down to me leaves very little room for demons, spirits, or even angels. But that’s not Jesus’ world. And that’s not the world of the Bible.
There are so many examples in Scripture where demonic forces or forces for good show up, and they can’t always be seen in flesh and blood. They are in spirit, and they have real power in the world. During Jesus’ ministry, he encounters demons and heals those who are demon-possessed. And while it is apparently something that Jesus considers normal (you know, like a day of the week that ends in ‘Y’), there is still much to learn and to discuss when it comes to these moments.
For example, in the Gospel of Mark, in just the first three chapters, Jesus has already begun throwing out demons. And as is usual in the Gospels, people begin talking. And the rumors begin to spread. The questions start being asked–“How can Jesus do this?” In Mark 3:20 and following, the answer that is given is that Jesus must be possessed himself by a powerful demon. Maybe Jesus is being controlled by the ruler of demons!
Which, of course, is not at all the case. And, in fact, this entire idea is going to turn into a teaching opportunity for Jesus. Because Jesus is not possessed by a demon, nor is Jesus controlled by demonic forces. Instead, Jesus is dedicated and his life is dictated by the Holy Spirit. It is not the spirits of darkness that lead Jesus, but the Spirit of God!
And this is where things get interesting, at least for those who choose to follow Jesus. Because when we are led by God’s Spirit, the kinds of things that we used to think are important, remain important, but they are given new meaning. Here’s what I mean, at the end of this encounter in Mark 3, the crowd tells Jesus that his family has arrived. But Jesus is led by God’s Spirit which means that family means something different now. To be a part of God’s family, you don’t need to have a certain lineage or to have the blood of your ancestors running through your veins. Instead, to be a part of God’s family means that you do the will of the Father.
So, what was already significant (family), gains new meaning. To be a member of God’s family, all of us must be led by God’s Spirit.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says it differently. He tells Nicodemus that someone must be born of water and the Spirit to enter God’s kingdom. Those who live according to the flesh are bound by the flesh. (And for our purposes, those who live according to the spirits of darkness are bound by the spirits of darkness). But those who are born of the Spirit join God’s Spirit–join God’s family. And as a result, we are able to go wherever God leads us, doing God’s will.
Jesus lives in a world that is much more comfortable talking about the spiritual realm than we are. And maybe today what we need to commit ourselves to is being open to the spiritual realm as well. Maybe, just maybe, today is a great opportunity to devote ourselves to God’s Spirit. After all, we are not a kingdom divided. We are a kingdom united by God and led by God’s Holy Spirit.