I attended a youth conference years ago where I was introduced to the demonic for the first time. A young adult came screaming from the side of the auditorium during a prayer time. His curdled voice disrupted the gathering and raised my eyebrows before a few large men dragged him away. I had never witnessed something like that before.
Recently a ministry colleague saw two people bow their heads in a restaurant before eating. Assuming them to be fellow believers he introduced himself. To his shock, they were Satanists! When he asked what they were praying, they said it was for the destruction of churches and ministry leaders in the area.
Do you believe in the spiritual realm?
How you answer that may depend on the culture that formed you. I was raised in a rural, Protestant Christian culture. That could explain why that youth conference was so paradigm-shaking for me.
What it revealed was what we see isn’t the whole story; what happens in the spiritual realm impacts what we see in the natural realm.
And the Gospel of Mark reveals that the spiritual realm knows Jesus! In Mark 1 Jesus steps into view with authoritative teaching in Capernaum. People are amazed, but they don’t yet grasp his full glory. The demons, however, are very aware. A man with an unclean spirit cries 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” (Mark 1:24). Jesus quickly quiets the demons and frees the man they have imprisoned.
A few chapters later Jesus and his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee. This is the first adventure of Jesus and his disciples into Gentile territory. And, just as when Jesus was revealed to his native Jewish culture — the first to recognize him is the demons.
The spiritual realm knows exactly who he is; it’s humans that are only now coming to know him.
A crazy, troubled man — so out of control that his own people can’t handle him— lived among the tombs. He was brash and a self-harmer. He sees Jesus and runs, not to attack, but to fall on his knees. He rages, “What do you want with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me” (Mark 5:6-7). The demons invoke God’s name to avoid God’s judgement! They realize — just as the demons did in Mark 1:24 — that a cosmic shaking was taking place.
Jesus is on a mission of liberty and deliverance. Everyone else saw this bloke as a problem, but Jesus saw one bearing the image of God. Jesus is for the man and he confronts the hellish horde that is not for him. The man had become evil’s tool for their own fear-inducing, identity-twisting, creation-despising, God-defying purposes.
The demons are many, a Legion, and they have contextualized themselves into a geography for they speak what is understood — not fantastical language — and reveal they are working a place where people live, work, play and call home. The demons, however, cower before the One! The confluence of evil is reduced to begging and the battle isn’t even fair. Jesus is the power! They may be named Legion, but there is no other name under heaven by which people can be set free and made whole. This is precisely what the demons know.
The Gospels reveal a profound thought: when Jesus enters a location to redeem people and set up His Kingdom, it’s the demons who know it’s coming first. What might the spiritual realm know about where you call home that you are not paying attention to? If Jesus is on the move, the spiritual realm is shaking. This is mysterious, it may mess with your paradigms, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as true now as it was then.