The Greek word for “spirit” that this man used in connection with his son (back there in AD 30 in present day Galilee, Israel) is pneuma. From this we have several English words like ‘pneumatic’ (meaning of or concerned with air, gases or wind) and ‘pneumatometer’ (an instrument for measuring the pressure exerted by air being inhaled or exhaled by a single breath).
When writing his biography of Jesus Christ (AD 0-33), Mark uses pneuma many times to mean the intangible part of a person, the part that cannot be seen or touched. Without pneuma the person is dead, with pneuma the person is alive – the person has life.
So…in Jersey it could be said that, at a recent count, we have 90,000+ pneumas…the “life” in 90,000 people…..
Do we have any men, women or children in Jersey with a pneuma like the boy in the AD 30 incident above? – a pneuma that was seeking to destroy the life (itself) in the boy himself? A death wish; a suicide obsession?
Mark records an earlier incident where a man had a pneuma that was “unclean” (Greek = akathartos – ‘a’ = no, not; ‘kathairo’ = to clean). This particular man immediately knew who Jesus was – and named him as “the Holy One of God”. And Jesus stopped him speaking, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” The akathartos pneuma came out of him but the man’s own pneuma did not leave him – he was still alive.
So it seems that a person can have, as it were, two pneumas …..
Do we have that doubling-up in Jersey today amongst our 90,000+ living people?
Well, we don’t know. We don’t know because, throughout Mark’s biography, whenever an unclean pneuma came into contact with Jesus, that pneuma loudly identified Jesus – but Jesus Christ the man is not a man now living in Jersey…..so we don’t know.
What we do know is that these dear folk with two pneumas (or more) were unusual. By no means did this situation apply to everybody at that time.
Another thing is very clear – of the 90,000+ people living in Jersey none are without pneumas – without spirit, breath, life. All of us are not merely physical; we are also alive.
Would you say, as you read the Jersey Evening Post and watch Channel Report, that none of us 90,000+ folk have any “uncleanness” in our pneumas, in our spirits?
Perhaps the most obviously pervasive “uncleanness” (akathartos) comes in the form of deceit – dishonesty, cover-ups, being economical with the truth. That form of akathartos seems to arise because my pneuma wants: (1) my own way; (2) to cover up my wrong doing; (3) to achieve for myself what could not otherwise be achieved; (4) and so on. As Frank Sinatra so perceptively sang, “I did it my way”.
Come back to the “help me please”. The distraught man with the boy said to Jesus, “If you [Jesus] can do anything......help us” – help us with this spirit, with this intangible part of my boy that is trying to harm him, even to destroy him. I want him to live (to continue to have pneuma) but not with this pneuma. (That sounds impossible...........)
Jesus replied, “All things are possible for one who believes.”
Another “help me please” kicked in straight away from the heart and lips.
And the plea was granted – in full.