In our suspicious world, we often have to prove who we are. There are many instances of needing your passport, and often proof of address too – I even had to do so when paying money to the solicitor. You have to state your business – and prove it, to show that you are not carrying out anything illegal or underhand.
Jesus encountered a similar challenge, in Tom Wright’s translation:
What business have you got with us?
21 Jesus and his disciples came to the town of Capernaum, and on the next Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach.22The people who heard him were amazed at the way he taught, for he wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority.
23 Just then a man with an evil spirit came into the synagogue and screamed,24
What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know who you are—you are God’s holy messenger!
25 Jesus ordered the spirit,
Be quiet, and come out of the man!
26 The evil spirit shook the man hard, gave a loud scream, and came out of him.27 The people were all so amazed that they started saying to one another,
What is this? Is it some kind of new teaching? This man has authority to give orders to the evil spirits, and they obey him!
28 And so the news about Jesus spread quickly everywhere in the province of Galilee.
Jesus is here. “At once”, immediately, he gets stuck in to what he has come to do. He starts to teach – and in a way that people can grasp. He has come, not to bring more rules and regulations, but to free. But still the question:
What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
What are you doing here? What do you want of me?
Perhaps those are your questions today – what do you want with me Jesus? If you are taking time out this Lent to be with God, to reflect on his place in your life, are you worried that as God comes into your life, he might want to take over, to destroy us?
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that as a teenager, I had no problem believing in God, but I didn’t want to become a Christian, because I believed it would cramp my style. Now was the time for fun, plenty of time for that Christianity stuff later…
The man with the unclean spirit asks the question – and Jesus answers it. God comes, not to destroy, but to free; not to cramp our style, but to release us from the things that hold us down; not to tie us up in rules and regulations, but to show us what God really wants of us. He might be in charge (p5), but that’s a good thing – he’s bringing real meaning.
So, as we reflect during Lent, let’s not be afraid of what God wants to do, but welcome him. Let’s not cling on to things that feel safe and what we know, but let Jesus do his work in us.
I echo the prayer of Tom Wright (p7):
help us to trust you
when things seem out of control