Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried 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 1:23-24)
A study of Christians in mainline churches in the US recently showed that almost half of the people in our pews believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that God has done something to bring life and salvation to them in him. Yet they also say they have no real idea of how to honor that fact in the way they live their lives and make decisions. In other words, they know who Jesus is but can’t quite figure out how to live differently as a result of that fact.
The demons in the verse above fit that profile. In fact, in Mark’s gospel, the demons are the first ones to declare that Jesus is the “Holy One of God.” Just one problem: they don’t want to obey him and be impacted by him. In fact, they would rather he just went somewhere else and left them alone.
This raises an issue for all of us. It is one thing to know who Jesus is. It is quite another thing to follow him and live as a disciple. One is a matter of information. The other is a matter of commitment. While most of us are not as intentionally opposed to honoring Jesus as Lord as these demons in Marks’ gospel are, most of us find that from time to time we have no idea how to live that out with any meaning and sense of purpose. We may not be malicious like the demons, but we are often equally unlikely to actually be obedient to Christ’s guidance, direction and calling.
This week is a chance to reflect on the difference between merely knowing who Jesus is and the calling to be his follower. As the old adage goes, “If someone charged you with being a follower of Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” It is a question we all need to wrestle with from time to time. The answer may keep us a bit more focused on more than merely identifying with the church but also actually continuing the work of Jesus.