As Jesus begins His ministry, He leaves Nazareth and lives in Capernaum in Galilee. I’ve been to the remains of this city in Israel, and it is one of my favorite places. Many of the places of significance in Israel have been overtaken by religious symbolism, with huge churches built on the site, full of incense and candles and orthodox religion. In contrast, entering the little city of Capernaum is like stepping back in time. The remains of a third-century synagogue still stand; it is thought that this synagogue is built upon the foundation of the very synagogue Jesus would have taught in. As you walk around its beautiful white columns, you can easily picture where He might have been. It is a special place.
Jesus did many miracles in Capernaum and the surrounding areas in Galilee. He healed diseases and sicknesses, those in pain, those having seizures, and the paralyzed. It’s also mentioned frequently that he had the power to heal the demon-possessed. Apparently, during Jesus’ time, possession (and oppression) by demons was a common thing, just as common as physical maladies, even among those who spent time in the synagogues learning about the law and discussing it.
In Mark 1:21-28, Jesus is approached by a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit, who cries out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” Jesus silences the unclean spirit and commands him to come out of the man. Isn’t this interesting? The demon readily recognized Jesus. Upon seeing him, he wondered if it was time…time for what? Time for his destruction. He knew that there is a time coming when he and all his “kind” will be destroyed by God. He did not even attempt to resist Jesus; the demons know that they possess no power great enough to overcome the Savior!
We don’t hear a lot about demon possession or oppression today, but we certainly hear a lot about physical, mental and emotional illness. I wonder if we aren’t missing something. When Jesus appeared on the scene, the spiritual warfare between good and evil was heightened. When a man possessed met the Savior, the darkness was overcome by the Light. It was exposed for what it was. I’m certainly not saying that every illness is caused by an unclean spirit, but perhaps we aren’t recognizing the enemy’s work as readily as Jesus did. Perhaps much of the mental and emotional health issues we are seeing are the result of the enemy’s army of unclean spirits that prey on the minds and hearts of men. Maybe we need to be looking to Jesus for our solution instead of addressing the symptoms with mind-altering drugs and human psychotherapy.
According to a global statistics website, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world among ages 15-24. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The suicide rate increased by 30% in the U.S. between 2000 and 2016. Diagnoses of depression have risen 33% since 2013 (47% among 18- to 34-year-olds). I don’t think these statistics are unrelated to the snowballing moral decline of our society, the loss of interest in church, the rise of social media and the corresponding lack of real relationships, and the impact of social media. We know our enemy has one desire: to steal, kill and destroy, and he’s doing a great job of it.
Jesus possesses the same ability, compassion, and desire today to rid our lives of the unclean spirits and spiritual attacks of the enemy. Are you depressed? Have you ever thought the world would be better off without you? The spiritual battle for your mind and heart is real, and those thoughts come from the enemy. In contrast, Jesus came to give abundant life (John 10:10). Like the crowds in Capernaum, we ought to be asking, “Where is this Jesus? I need to see Him.”