Among the myriad of Jesus’s miracle stories that fill the weekend lectionary stories during each Epiphany season, the ones that have to with the exorcism of demons have to be among the most difficult to make sense of. For one reason or another, appearances, healings and the multiplications of various food stuffs are way more believable than the casting-out of spiritual beings.
Why is this? Probably because we have been conditioned, in our enlightened age, to think of these demons more as metaphors for various mental and psychological ailments of which our ailments had no ken. Is it really possible that Jesus simply caused folks in the Gospel to be free of their depression, their anxiety, their alcoholism? Perhaps. But what I really want to know is whether it was possible or not for Jesus to free people from their actual demons.
I don’t know what I really feel about demons. I know that I believe in God’s creation of “all things seen and unseen,” as it says in the Nicene Creed. And I k ow that I have seen some things in my years of church work that I can’t explain away as a metaphor for mental illness. I’ve seen that, too.
I guess in the end, though it really doesn’t matter. What we learn from today’s Gospel lesson is that Jesus exercises “authority” over even those things that we can’t explain. How much less, therefore, does he have authority over the things that we know about?
Whatever bugs us, in the end. Jesus can handle it.