The Gospel text for this coming Sunday (Mark 1:21-28) has Jesus coming IMMEDIATELY into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and there IMMEDIATELY was a man with an unclean spirit. There is even the same word (although it is translated ‘at once’), after the miracle, that Jesus’ fame spreads EVERYWHERE THROUGHOUT ALL the surrounding region—and here we have another literary exaggeration. But there is no ‘immediately’ mentioned when Jesus heals. That is an extremely painful omission.
That reminds me of the first miracle after Jesus’ transfiguration; this is another delayed healing. This healing in chapter one is the first miracle recorded after Jesus’ baptism—unless if you consider his ability to get four fishermen to follow him to be a miracle! (This was an important aspect to be included so that at least two or three witnesses could attest to these events.)
The following are two painful realities regarding the exorcisms in the Gospel according to Mark: The man with the unclean spirit does not get healed right away, and the boy with the unclean spirit is rolling around on the ground (it happened IMMEDIATELY after the spirit saw Jesus), in desperate need of help, and Jesus asks the father, ‘How long has this been happening?’ The father ends up getting a bit impatient, and so do we. (He even IMMEDIATELY cried out, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’, and, sometimes, so do we.)
At the baptism of Jesus, the way the text came across, Jesus was the only one who saw heaven opened and who heard the words, ‘You are my beloved Son….’ Now comes the good Lutheran question, ‘What does this mean?’ Some people would probably like an IMMEDIATE answer to that question. The demons and the devils certainly did.
It is a fascinating statement of the unclean spirit in chapter one. Literally, he asks, ‘what is it between us and you?’ (Jesus asked the same question of Mary right before he turned water into wine in John 2—his first miracle according to that account.). In other words, what is our relationship? How are we related? Then he says, ‘I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ Jesus is holy; the demon is not.
Jesus is holy; the synagogue was not. Jesus is holy, and, when we consider our sin, we are not.
It is interesting that Jesus tells him to be quiet. Later Mark says that Jesus would not let the unclean spirits talk when he cast them out. If Jesus would have let them talk, they could have added to his numbers IMMEDIATELY.
I am sure that the early Christians who were getting killed because they were followers of Jesus wanted something good to happen IMMEDIATELY. We are sometimes no different.
The demons were speaking the truth. They knew who he was. They knew he was holy. But that is not good news. Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God and the gospel of God. Those things belong to God, and through that gospel, God tells us that we IMMEDIATELY belong to him. Now THAT is good news.