Summary: We live in a culture where vacuous celebrities are given amazing amount of authority. We need to look to the real authority, Jesus, who will lead us to right decisions.
Who’s the Authority?
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, February 1, 2009
Introduction: Before I read the story, I’d like to explain a few things that will make the passage clearer. We’re still in the first chapter of Mark and we will stay with Mark’s first chapter for another two weeks. (For the parents, this is the same material your children are studying in their classes.)
Jesus is now teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum. As William Barkley explains:
The synagogue was primarily a teaching institution. The synagogue service consisted of only three things—prayer, the reading of God’s word, and the exposition of it. There was no music, no singing, and no sacrifice. It may be said the Temple was the place of worship and sacrifice; the synagogue was the place of teaching and instruction. The synagogue was by far the more influential, for there was only one Temple. But the law laid it down that wherever there were ten Jewish families, there must be a synagogue, and, therefore, wherever there was a colony of Jews, there was a synagogue. If a man had a new message to preach, the synagogue was the obvious place in which to preach it. [William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Mark, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 30]
The thing that makes us uncomfortable in this passage is that it features an exorcism. With our present day knowledge of medicines, most Presbyterians don’t believe in exorcisms. What we need to remember is that at Jesus’ time and place, people believed that illnesses were caused evil spirits and demons. Jesus healed within the framework of the understanding of the time. Today, we recognize that Jesus works through the medicines and surgeries of our times.
They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, He entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” At once His fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Prayer: Powerful God, make us bold to embrace Your wisdom and open to being shaped by it. Speak to us that we might enact Your word and transform our world in amazing ways to conform to Your way of compassion, love, and justice. Amen.
We live in interesting times. Our culture is drenched with vacuous celebrities who are sometimes given an amazing amount of authority. Not long ago there was a commercial about some high tech feature for televisions. A young woman named Jessica Simpson, singing, dancing and talking in short shorts, said the name of the featured item and then said, “I don’t know what that is, but I know that I want it!”
Google has this program called Zeitgeist which means “the spirit of the times.” Google gathers the number of “hits” on different things and then makes a list in order of the most sought after information. In 2006, Paris Hilton topped the list; an actor named Orlando Bloom was second. Third on the list was cancer, then pod casting, Hurricane Katrina, Bankruptcy, Martina Hingis, autism, 2006 NFL draft, and finally, “Celebrity Big Brother 2006”.
For 2008, the list had changed. Last year, Barrack Obama led the list. Facebook, att, iphone, youtub, Fox news, Sarah Palin, Beijing 2008, David Cook, and “surf the channel” made up the list. There is something reassuring about the #1 position moving from Paris Hilton to Barrack Obama.
The question for us is, “Who speaks with authority to us? Who do we recognize as the authority in our lives? Who do we turn to for advice?” Is prayer one the first places we go with our questions? Is the Bible our textbook for life? I know that sounds a little pedantic, but the questions are important to explore.
Take a few minutes to think about who speaks with authority to you. I’ve enclosed a little insert in the bulletin for you to use to remember who speaks with authority to you.
I’ve put room for you to write down who those people are. They could be your spouse, your boss, a news commentator, your parents, your doctor, a special friend. Just list them. Across from the name, write down the gist of the information those people give to you. Do they encourage you to be the best person you can be? Do they give instructions? Do they build you up?