A few years ago, Alise and I got hooked on a Spanish TV series. Called ‘I know who you are’, it tells the story of a lawyer who suffers a car crash and wakes up by the roadside having suffered total memory loss – he has no idea who he is or why he is there. As the plot unfolds, the amnesiac appears to be a thoroughly decent chap, unluckily surrounded by a dysfunctional family; but the drama of the series is that as he regains his memory we learn that all is not what it seems. In fact, he is not what he seems: he is, in fact, a cad, and those who know who he is also know the bad things he’s done.
‘I know who you are’ is an unsettling drama – but it’s also an unsettling thing to say to most human beings. The phrase is rarely a compliment, used rather to indicate awareness of things we’d prefer people didn’t know. Many of us carry that sense that, if people only knew who we were, what lies behind the respectable mask…
Jesus, of course, carries none of this baggage. When the unclean spirit in today’s passage says, ‘I know who you are,’ this spirit is not referring to anything dark or deceitful. Quite the reverse: this spiritual being knows that Jesus is the Lord, the chosen one promised for centuries – or, as the spirit puts it: ‘the Holy One of God.’
It is fascinating that the second being to recognise Jesus’ identity – after John the Baptist – is a demonic spirit. And Jesus’ stern response should not be seen as either insecurity or cover-up; he has nothing to hide! But he is very early in his ministry; if the rumour mill starts too early, Jesus will end up with a target on his back. John’s gospel tells us that straight after he fed the 5,000 ‘they wanted to make him king by force,’ and the same could happen here. We know that Jesus quickly becomes a threat to power – but his ministry needs time to grow. And so, he delivers the man of the spirit, and leaves people to wonder.
What we do see clearly in this story is that Jesus is qualitatively different to all other leaders of his time. What he possesses is innate authority – and it’s worth noticing that real spiritual authority does not come from a title or a uniform or a reputation, but is something much deeper. Jesus has none of the outward trappings, but his words and actions immediately convey it. And the result is amazement (v22, repeated v27): just who is this man??
We know who he is – and our Lord has all authority in heaven and earth, exercising it now for the sake of his people, including us. We may feel weak or inadequate, but in Jesus’ name we carry his authority with us. Now there’s a thought to lift our hearts at the start of this week. May God grant us grace to believe it, and to live as those in whom the Holy One of God abides, by his Spirit. Amen!