“When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. And he cried out with a loud voice, ‘What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!’ For he had told him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Everybody has somebody they respect. We all have heroes. We all have people to whom we look up with admiration and imitation. We all have people whose authority we acknowledge. Now, some folks are genuine egoists who truly don’t do any of that, but those are the exceptions to the rule. For most of us, though, we have people under whose authority we are comfortable sitting. The thing is, though, that’s a personal designation. My recognized authorities aren’t the same as yours. But there are some people in positions whose authority is pretty much universally acknowledged; people who command respect from everybody. Jesus is one of those people. And His authority isn’t simply recognized by every person, but by all of creation. That’s a very good thing and Mark gives us a reason why here.
Take a minute to go back and read this whole passage again. When you do, put yourself in the sandals of the disciples for a minute. Better yet, put yourself in the sandals of one of the other followers of Jesus in the group who weren’t a part of the Twelve and didn’t have quite the same access to Jesus they did. You climb out of your boat as you reach the shores of this part of the Sea known to be more hostile to Jews and all of a sudden this wild-looking man comes running at your group from the rocks a little ways off the beach.
Now, one guy rushing a small crowd of maybe 30-40 (I’m just guessing here, but there were at least more than 13) doesn’t seem like he should be so intimidating, but this guy was. Maybe they could all overpower him together, but he looked like he might be able to take at least a few of them down in the attempt and nobody wanted to be one of those collateral casualties.
The demoniac rushes the beach yelling and screaming curses that would make even a sailor blush and then Jesus stepped to the front of the group. The change was instant. He stopped ranting and raving and rushed straight for Jesus. Just as Peter and John were preparing to throw themselves in his way, he comes up short and falls on the ground in a position of servility. Everybody there could only stare and marvel at what was happening.
It could be that reports of this demon-possessed man had circulated around the Sea–word of things like this had a way of traveling fast on the lips of easily gossiping fishermen on the Sea–so they knew this was the man they’d heard stories about. They knew about the broken chains and smashed shackles and were already on edge. They had Jesus with them, and they had all just been treated to a lesson in just how powerful Jesus was they were never going to forget, but still, the sight of this unfolding before them in real time was unnerving.
Yet here was this demoniac falling in a kind of terrified reverence at Jesus’ feet. Then, when Jesus had commanded the demon to leave the man, he started talking in a voice that surely wasn’t his own, making reference to Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, and begging not to be tormented. What was going on?
What was going on was that Jesus’ followers were being treated to a display of just how great His authority really was. They had just seen that He had authority over the natural world. Here they discovered that Jesus had authority over the supernatural world as well. This demon–or perhaps even these demons since it seems there were many dwelling together in this man’s body–may have been wreaking havoc in this man’s life and in the community around this part of the Sea, but they knew they were facing someone whose authority went far beyond what their immediate masters possessed. If He spoke, they had to listen. He had a power over them they hated, but couldn’t resist. I wonder what their supernatural eyes perceived when they looked at Jesus. Perhaps their vision was entirely more glorious and terrifying–like on the mount of transfiguration–than His followers gathered around marveling at this scene unfold could see.
This is all well and good, but what does it mean for us? It means that Jesus’ authority is a whole lot greater than perhaps you’ve ever really considered. We’ve seen this in two elements recently and will see it in a third in coming days. Jesus has complete and total authority over both the natural world and the supernatural world. That pretty much covers the whole scope of existence. And if He has that much authority, the real question is not what it means for you, but what are you going to do about it? When someone commands the storms to stop and terrifies a creature that usually terrifies us, refusing to give Him the time of day doesn’t really seem like a wise option. Our best bet is to submit our lives to Him in humble service. Anything else is walking out on what is likely pretty dangerous ground. So then, is your life submitted to Him today?