After Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees and Herodians held an official meeting to decide how best to destroy Jesus. Jesus caught wind of their plot, so he and his disciples withdrew to the sea for protection. But the crowds knew how to find Jesus. It’s amazing to see how fast and far Jesus’s influence had spread. By this time, people were coming from all over to see him: Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, Tyre, and Sidon (Mark 3:7-8). “When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him” (Mark 3:8).
In a crowd that large, it’s inevitable there will be those with unclean, demonic spirits. In fact, in any crowd, including today, there are those with unclean spirits. How do they react to Jesus? “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” (Mark 3:11). In order to maintain as low a profile as possible, so he could minister as long as possible before the authorities caught up to him, Jesus strictly ordered the unclean spirits not to make him known (Mark 3:12).
So What’s up with Demonic Confessions?
Have you noticed that so far in Mark’s gospel, the boldest and most accurate confessions of who Jesus is have come from demons? Let’s recap. In Mark 1:24, a demon said to Jesus, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Then in Mark 1:34, Jesus forbade some other demons from speaking about his true identity as the Son of God, “because they knew him.” And now, here in chapter three, many more demons are crying out loudly, “You are the Son of God” (Mark 3:11). In fact, no humans in the story have yet to give such clear and consistent testimony to the identity of Jesus.
Darkness knows who Jesus is. Think about that for a moment.
Ranking the Key Characters
If we were to rate all characters so far in the story, concerning their knowledge and witness of Jesus, the ranking might surprise you. Using a scale of 1-10, let’s make one the lowest, those who don’t recognize Jesus’s true identity at all; and, let’s make ten the highest, those who know for certain that Jesus is the Son of God. (I’ll be honest, I’m just making a judgment call on these numbers, based on the evidence so far in Mark’s gospel; nonetheless, I think these are good, educated guesses.)
- The Pharisees, scribes, Herodians, and other religious leaders—1
- The disciples—4
- The crowds (and all those who wildly flocked to Jesus)—5
- Tax collectors and sinners—7
- John the Baptist—8
- Those Jesus healed from disease—9
- Those Jesus healed from demons and unclean spirits—10
Let’s summarize. The Pharisees and religious leaders were completely out of touch with reality. The disciples were slowly beginning to pick up on the truth. The crowds were quicker to realize who Jesus was, as evidenced by how they were pursuing him. The tax collectors and sinners, no doubt because of their great need, knew Jesus was a great Physician. John the Baptist knew who Jesus was, though he had his struggles, asking Jesus at one point, “Are you the one to come or shall we expect another?” (Matthew 11:3). Those who had already been healed of disease, the paralytic, man with the withered hand, and Simon’s mother-in-law, were convinced of Jesus’s true identity. Finally, the demons themselves had no doubt about Jesus’s identity and couldn’t refrain from confessing his divinity; in fact, Jesus had to order them to put their constant testifying chatter on pause.
Drawing a Few Conclusions
Here are a few observations from this ranking. First, the more “religious” you looked on the outside, the less you knew who Jesus actually was. Second, the harder and darker your life got, the greater your knowledge of Jesus. Third, the darkness and all therein knew exactly who Jesus was. Fourth, it took the actual disciples longer to understand who Jesus was, compared to those with darker, harder lives.
Go into Your Darkness
So how can knowing these things help you? The principle is this: the deeper into your own darkness you go, the more you will learn of Jesus Christ. Does this surprise you? The more you learn and understand your own evil, your personal, unclean spirits, the more you will come to know Jesus Christ in all his majesty and love, if you only look for him.
For in the darkness, there is constant chatter about Jesus Christ.
We know this experientially, too. Think about your worst moments, when evil and darkness overwhelmed you. As you think about those moments, think about Jesus, too. The closer to evil we get, the greater our sense of the divinity of Jesus Christ. When things are really bad, we know that Jesus is really good. We will confess Jesus the Christ more easily in our worst moments than in our best.
Don’t disdain your darkness, for it holds a precious testimony of Jesus.
In contrast, the more out of touch with your darkness you are, the less you will be able to see and identify Jesus in your life. You’ll be like the Pharisees, who believed they had no sickness, so they could not see the identity of the Great Physician at all. Another way of setting up our ranking is with the terms “truth” and “deception.” On one end of the scale, the demons could clearly see the truth; on the other end, the Pharisees were blinded by deception.
When you enter your darkness honestly, humbly, and openly, you’ll begin to see Jesus Christ clearer and clearer. If you avoid your darkness, cover-up your darkness, deny your darkness, or project your darkness onto something/one else, then you won’t be able to see who Jesus is at all. You’ll think he’s just another Pharisee, with little to offer you.
The Church and the Demonic State
The church today needs more people who are willing to look at, acknowledge, and embrace the evil within themselves, and less who walk in superficial religion, pretending they’ve found the answers, have it all together, and claim not to struggle with personal, persistent demons. The true enemy of the church is not darkness or evil, but hypocrisy. It always has been. We can see Jesus in the darkness, but he will remain unseen in the artificial glow of our jerry-rigged, pasty self-righteousness. Demons make Jesus known, but Pharisees won’t. Surely Mark wishes us to see this ironic truth and apply it to the church today.
If your church isn’t experiencing Jesus as much as you’d like, then maybe it needs more demons—or, at least, recognize the ones that are already there.
- What are your darkest struggles? Can you name them? Be thorough and honest.
- Where would you place yourself on the scale? Why?
- What are you afraid to talk about with others? Here’s a principle to learn: whatever you can’t talk about, has power over you. Remember, Jesus loves honest sinners, but he has less patience for hypocrites. Remember, exposing your darkness to trusted leaders is a gift to the church.