In today’s Gospel text, a demon shouts out to Jesus, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God." Jesus responds rather tersely, rebuking and silencing the demon, and casting him out. The demon tries to out Jesus, to tell the world who he is, and Jesus would have none of it. Jesus wants to remain somewhat of an unknown quantity – for now, anyway.
My wife helped me prepare for today’s sermon, and she reminded me that in the Gospel of Mark Jesus doesn’t openly profess to being the Messiah until he is arrested and standing before the Council of high priests, elders and scribes – that is, until he is on the fast-track to crucifixion. Only in the shadow of the cross does Jesus publicly admit to who he is and what he is about. Jesus’ identity and ministry is wrapped up in the cross. Apart from the cross, we can’t know Jesus.
That’s why he silences demons who proclaim his divinity, for the demons proclaim Jesus as Messiah before Jesus does his ultimate Messiah-thing on the cross. That’s why Jesus rebukes Peter, who wants him to flee from the cross. What kind of God would he be without the cross?
The cross is central to who Jesus is. For many years I under-emphasized the cross and highly-emphasized the Kingdom of God, miracle-worker, social justice, wandering preacher Jesus. But how do we really know God? By looking at the cross and seeing God in the least expected of places – in suffering, pain, death, lonliness, exile.
Powerful teaching and mighty miracles might impress a demon, but suffering, death and new life is the stuff of God.