Summary: Jesus begins his ministry and immediately clashes with the understanding of the people and the forces of evil. Jesus confronts the status quo of our live seeking to free us from the chains that bind us and to enable us to experience true freedom.
Mark 1:21-28 “Skirmish with the Status Quo”
The beginning of Mark’s gospel is in stark contrast to those of the other gospel writers. You do not find a boring list of Jesus’ ancestors, as you do in Matthew, nor the heartwarming story of Jesus’ birth of Luke. The theological musings of John’s first chapter seem oddly out of place when compared to Mark.
Something BIG has happened in Mark’s gospel. Jesus proclaimed, in verse fifteen, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Our text today contains a demonstration of what happens when the kingdom of God breaks into our world in the person of Jesus Christ.
A DEMONSTRATION OF AUTHORITY
Today’s lesson is set on Friday night or Saturday—the Jewish Sabbath—in a synagogue. This is the perfect place to shake things up and demonstrate that the kingdom of God has invaded our world, and Jesus takes full advantage of it.
First he begins to teach the people, and he teaches in a different manner from other teachers. Jesus teaches with authority. He doesn’t quote others—he quotes himself. He doesn’t teach from second had experience—Jesus, as we say, “Has been there, done that, and got the T-shirt.” Jesus’ teaching has power—not just the power to inform, but also the power to transform.
A little later a man possessed by a demon screams out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” Unshaken, Jesus, with authority, commands the evil spirit to be silent and to come out of the man. The spirit can do nothing but obey. Jesus’ words are backed up with actions.
As I ponder the scene of this text, I wonder how Jesus’ authority in received and demonstrated in my life, and in your lives. Do Jesus’ words and actions change us? Do they motivate us to action, deepen our love, embolden our spirit, open our hearts, and increase our generosity? Or, are they powerless, dead words and actions, which are merely printed on a piece of paper.
AUTHORITY OVER EVIL
Before the end of the first chapter in Mark we have a clash between good and evil. This war continues to break out throughout Mark’s gospel. In every circumstance, Jesus is victorious—even in his death.
We are a little uncomfortable when we start to talk about evil in the form of demons and demon possession. Hollywood has shaped our imaginations so that possession is vomiting, head twisting gore and zombie like mayhem. Reality is a little different. Demon possession may be an evil spiritual experience, but it is also:
• Being bound by our wants and desires, our habits, and our addictions—anything that draws us away from God and harms our relationship with him. Examples of this could be our love of money, our fascination with technology, our craving for comfort and security, our addictions to drugs, alcohol, porn, anger or violence.
• Being trapped in hopelessness and despair, or listening to the voices that tell us that we are failures, worthless and unloved are other activities of evil.
Our gospel lesson today proclaims good news to us. Jesus has authority and power over the evil forces—the demons—in our lives. By his cross, he has set us free and invites us to shed our shackles—everything that keeps us from following him as his disciples--and experience the new, free life that is ours.
AUTHORITY OVER TRADITION
The exorcism takes place on the Sabbath, when no work is to be done. From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus breaks the traditions that limit the expression of love and service to others. His words and actions are not popular with the religious authorities. Eventually, his words and actions cause his death, but his authority will never be negated.
Jesus commands us to love one another. We discover so many things that keep us from obey his command, though. We are bound by our upbringing and our experiences. Our prejudices, bigotry, anger and fear keep us from loving others.
Jesus has the authority—the power—to transform our lives, break our fetters and free us to love and to experience the abundant life that love empowers.
The kingdom of God has broken into our world. Though, we await its fullness, that doesn’t prevent us from living in its reality—now—and experiencing its power and authority in our lives.