Jan28SunMark 1:21-28 January 28, 2024 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
This morning we hear the church year’s first miracle story,
which emphasizes the authority of Jesus as the Son of God.
In this passage,
Jesus shows his authority over teaching
by speaking with a confidence and clarity that differs from the scribes.
He also demonstrates his power over demons and sickness
by casting out a spirit with one command.
In Jesus’ Epiphany here, he is revealed (made manifest) through a demon!The crowd recognizes his authority and identity as the Holy One of God, leading to his fame spreading throughout the region.
Jesus encounters his first major challenge,
a “skirmish with the demonic opposition” in a holy place
(the Capernaum synagogue which was like a community centre
at the time.) (Jacobsen)
He was there in the synagogue to teach, and the bystanders were amazed because he spoke with authority, unlike the scribes.
Now the scribes weren’t just copyists or people who knew how to write, they were professional bible scholars,
whose job it was to read and interpret Scripture,
you could think of them as like pastors.
They were well-trained, but perhaps they lacked in passion,
maybe their sermons were proper, but slightly boring or academic
(I can kind of identify with that).
But what Jesus was talking about was new stuff,
inspiring and challenging ideas,
not just plain old regurgitation of received wisdom,
Jesus’ message was prophetic, it was cutting-edge,
and it made listeners sit up and take notice.
And this was because Jesus’s teaching authority came from his divine nature as the Son of God.
He wasn’t just a professional theologian,
he was directly inspired through God.
Jesus’ message and the way he delivered it was especially astonishing because he was the son of a carpenter,
not something you’d expect without the required formal training.
On that day in the synagogue not only did Jesus astonish the crowd with his words, but he also amazed them by what he did.
For in the midst of the assembly there was a man with an unclean spirit,
A man possessed by a demon.
Now the synagogue was a holy place,
a place where only spiritually and ritually clean persons and things
should be, so this man was definitely out of place.
(When we talk about an Unclean spirit,
we’re not talking about something that is physically dirty,
but about “an invisible, spiritual being, hostile and alienated from God.”)
The man cried out: “What business do you have here with us, Jesus?
I know what you’re up to!
You’re the Holy One of God, and you’ve come to destroy us!” (MSG)
The demon knows Jesus’ identity,
he senses the threat that Jesus poses,
he knows Jesus’ power but also mounts a counterattack
“I know who you are! I won’t be defeated unawares!”
But Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!”
The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly
—and got out. (MSG)
Just words are enough (for Jesus) because
Jesus has complete power and authority over all spiritual forces,
and this demon is no match for him.
As Modern hearers of this story we can easily get bogged down in details:
Do demons exist?
Did this Healing really happen?
Where did the spirit go? (Lamar Williamson)
Doubt is a healthy and important part of the Christian faith life,
and it’s important to use our brain when processing these stories.
But it’s also important to remember that these modern questions were not the questions that would have been asked by the original hearers—
supernatural occurrences like healings were common in literature of the time.
Whether for ancient hearers or modern hearers,
the most important question isn’t what really happened,
but what does this happening mean?
Ultimately, what matters more than the literal details,
is how the truths of this story make meaning for us.
For one, we need to recognize that Jesus’ healing was one way that he proclaimed the Kingdom of God.
Jesus explained what the KinReigngdom of God was not only through his teaching, but also through healing and exorcism.
This “World-altering reality that Jesus represents” (Jacobsen)
Is one where we show compassion, expect the unexpected,
and take care of those at the margins of society,
those who aren’t clean enough spiritually, psychologically
or socially to fit in.
What’s also important to remember is that “following Jesus even in Galilee was by no means all sweetness and light.”
Even Jesus encountered resistance, he struggled,
and never had a 100% approval rating!
It’s not all sugar and honey and easygoing pleasure to follow Jesus’ path.
Because when the Gospel of God’s reign is proclaimed,
demonic opposition surfaces. (Jacobsen)
Intense struggle or even spiritual warfare is part of the Gospel life:
when God’s reign meets the world, battles can happen.
Even we must occasionally set up boundaries to evil within our community, (and cast it out).
We are called to stand up against racism, bigotry, injustice, and tyranny, whether in our churches or in society at large.
The other important point to remember with this story is The transformative power of Jesus’ authority over our lives.
Jesus didn’t only cast out an unclean spirit in the synagogue
back on that day,
But he can also cast out our unclean spirits today!
We don’t have to be demon-possessed or foaming at the mouth;
Our unclean spirits can be things like what our Hymn of the Day mentions:
the haunting dreads that choke our soil,
that hate that stifles joy,
tthe aging griefs and jealous fears.
Jesus can cast out the demons in our lives that threaten to destroy us.
He can transform our lives and spread his joy to us and all.
All evil must bow to Jesus’ authority, even the deadly sins
of arrogance, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth.
Even one of today’s most evil spirits: the spirit of addiction is no match for addiction.
How, you may ask?
I think Jesus can of course work through traditional means,
such as counselling, medical interventions, and education,
Jesus can work through the church:
Our Rite of Healing and laying on of hands we’re doing today is one example,
Or Prayer, Holy Communion,
Or Education programmes like confirmation Alpha or Revive,
And even astonishingly, Jesus can work through committee structures!
Is Jesus the Holy One of God?
Not only was the man with the unclean spirit confronted with this question as well as the bystanders,
but we as well need to wrestle with this and ponder
how it should impact our lives.
May we all worship and praise Jesus for his authority and power,
and invite Jesus to drive out our unclean spirits as well.
Sources: Mark: Lamar Williamson Jr.
Mark: David Schnasa Jacobsen