The Anxiety Master
"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." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" Mark 1:24-25
Here's a simple question. Does a gospel story about Jesus healing a man with an unclean spirit have anything to say to us who are living through a global economic crisis? I 'm asking this question because of the anxiety—I could be the next to be downsized—that swirls around us in our places of work. Anxiety that is full of pain, fear, apprehension, and self-doubt that comes from sudden loss that leaves us knowing it will never be the same again.
Jesus identifies with the very nature of this kind of loss based on how he treats those who are full of pain. He steps into a sanctuary and begins to teach. Immediately those listening are astonished. He is not like anything they are used to. Although we don't know specifically what Jesus said here, we know he taught with authority. The love and care of God is present to those gathered in the room. Then, just as suddenly, there is chaos. A man with an unclean spirit says, "Jesus, I know who you are, the Holy One of God. Have you come to destroy us?"
Imagine if that were to happen to you this week. Imagine if a person started shouting out those words at your workplace or at a community gathering. Notice what Jesus does in the story. A man gives voice to conflicting emotions that are within him. Jesus doesn't speak to him per se, but to something that is within the man.
This is what I want to get at. At first glance, the story of Jesus confronting this unclean spirit within a man doesn't seem relevant to our daily experiences. After all, what do we know about talking to and then casting out unclean spirits? Yet if one looks closely at the Greek word for unclean, ak-ath'-ar-tos, it is conveying a sense of being unclean in a couple of ways; ceremonially, one could be clean by abstaining from certain things according to religious law; and morally, one could be unclean in both thought and life. Something inside this man expects God to destroy him, an indication that he is unclean in his thoughts and life; certainly they are not integrated in the idea of a loving, caring God.
Jesus simply says to this voice of destruction, "Be still. Come out." Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if it were that simple for us? Sure, Jesus could address all that is swirling in us and around us. He could say, "Be still. Come out. Be gone." We just might not hear it initially for our inner voices clamor the loudest when we are the most anxious about rejection and loss, with voices telling us we won't make it—listening to them can make us angry or sad. These are crazy thoughts that come to us—or at least to me—at 4:00 a.m.
Whatever Jesus decides to do in our lives, he has authority over us. We may feel unclean. We may feel on the edge of destruction, but we are in the love and care of God connected through Jesus Christ. We are called again to listen to this authority and to live fully in relationship with the One who loves us, to discover strength that is always present to us in our inner lives. This calling is not only for our sake but for the sake of the world and for the sake of those around us in the places of our daily lives where God is calling us.