Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:23-24)
The demon possessing the man in the above Gospel lesson can only imagine one outcome of coming into contact with God: that God will destroy him. It is perhaps the case that the demon is so involved in destroying others that he assumes all others are equally devoted to destroying things. [It is like politicians who are always accusing others of fraud, or lying, or cheating. Sometimes they think that of others because that is how they run their own lives and campaigns and so assume others do as well.] What the demon can’t imagine is that Christ is there to love him, save him, change him. So he cries out in terror assuming Christ is there to destroy him. But Christ doesn’t destroy him, He only orders the demon to depart. The New Testament gives us plenty of ideas of why Christ our God in on earth and none of it has to do with destroying anything.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:47)
For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)
The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners… (1 Timothy 1:15)
The demon in the above Gospel lesson does call Christ “the Holy One of God.” Here is an unusual case of a demon speaking the truth. Orthodox theologian Peter Bouteneff offers further explication of Jesus as God’s Holy One:
Rather than seeing Jesus Christ as a trinitarian person who irrupted into linear history 2,000 years ago, the patristic and apostolic perspective is that of Jesus Christ as the foundation of all history (‘by whom all things were made’ – Nicene Creed),
the center of creation, and the image of God (Hebrews 1: 3; Colossians 1: 15), according to whose image we are made – and not just as a ‘preexistent Logos’, but eternally as the crucified one, the ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world‘ (cf. Revelation 13:8), ‘destined before the foundation of the world but made manifest at the end of times for your sake‘ (1 Peter 18: 20): ‘For in [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first born from the dead‘ (Colossians 1:16-18). Jesus saves, indeed, in and through his life-giving Passion, as the foundation of creation, as the one in whose image humanity is made. He saves both in history – ‘crucified under Pontius Pilate’ – and also as the foundation of history. . . .
An ancient and enduring codification of the dimensions of salvation – dating back to at least the early fourth-century Eusebius of Caesarea and drawing on earlier Jewish sources – describes Christ as fulfilling the three vocations at which human beings failed: prophecy (the understanding and proclamation of truth), priesthood (the offering of the world to God) and kingship (stewardship and humble dominion over the world). (THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, p 96)
Christ came into the world to save, not destroy. Some do preach a God who only wants to destroy. Our God is also Savior – coming to redeem, restore, resurrect, transfigure, transform, save. God comes to love us, something some, like demons, don’t seem willing or able to believe.