13th October 2023

Mark 1: 39 – And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

“Demon possession” is not the model we usually use to think about mental disorder these days. But I have spent just a few hours in an elderly care ward this week and I can see how the idea of some kind of possession is an attractive explanation for the torment of people in advanced dementia. What strikes me afresh about this passage from Mark is that Jesus was able to cast out the demons or, as we would probably now put it, calm the tormented and bring relief. Without the aid of modern tranquilisers he was able to cut through the fog of hallucination and meet the real human being.

I saw something similar happen the other day when a daughter was able to hold the hand of her elderly mother and make that important connection. The lady started to come back into focus as she recognised her daughter, who was someone she obviously loved and trusted. The daughter was able, for a while, to reassure her mother and calm her fears.

What a wonderful character Jesus must have been to inspire such trust and confidence in people he had only just met. What courage and calm he must have had to get so “up close and personal” with people that others must have found frightening.

I pray for a little of that for myself, through his grace.

Nick Parsons