Jesus and his disciples 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. Mark 1:21-28.
In today’s Gospel reading, Mark reports that Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. Somehow, Jesus’ teaching wasn’t like the normal commentary to which the people had become accustomed. His words carried a power which they have not heard before, and they would soon discover the breadth of his authority. Jesus had a command of scripture which the people had not encountered before, but we also get the sense that it’s more than that. We have the impression that they encountered something in Jesus himself they hadn’t previously seen: a certain gravitas, a new mastery and might.
Suddenly, a man “with an unclean spirit” accosted Jesus. Interestingly, this unholy spirit spoke to Jesus in the plural. (The spirit asked “What have you to do with us?” and “Have you come to destroy us?”) Perhaps this daemon refered to both itself and the possessed man. Or perhaps evil is always multifaceted, or duplicitous by its very nature. The spirit then announced, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
Further evidencing his authority, Jesus expels the spirit from the man, freeing him from a terrible torment and bondage. I suspect most of us have known someone in the grip of such an evil spirit, one which confines their souls and robs them of joy. We may have concluded, as Einstein famously remarked, “It’s easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.” Those in the grip of such an evil spirit have no power within themselves to help themselves.
In a few short sentences, Mark has revealed several facets of Jesus: teacher; healer; liberator; and compassionate pastor. This revelation fits perfectly within our Epiphany theme. Through the act of freeing this man from the shackles of sin, Jesus restores God’s creation.
I don’t think Mark tells this story so much to describe an exorcism as to reveal the reach of Jesus’ authority, which includes the scriptures, the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit. In this passage, Mark thus reveals Jesus as Lord of all created things.
Ironically, Mark places some of the most important questions about and observations of Jesus within the mouth of this evil spirit. The unclean spirit asks, “What have you to do with us?” I am certain that I do not ask myself that question often enough. What does Jesus have to do with me, with this day, with this place and with this hour? In what way is Jesus relevant to this very moment of my life, and what am I going to do about that?
The unholy spirit also announces, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” I’m wondering how well we know who Jesus is, and do we recognize his authority? Do we recognize Jesus when we encounter him, and do we know his power? Are we willing to let him rid us of those spirits that would destroy us? Will we listen when he tells our demons to be silent and to depart? I pray we will.
© 2012 James R. Dennis
“What have you to do with us?” You’re right, Brother James: we don’t ask that nearly enough in the course of each day. Thanks for that reminder.
I’m reminded of it myself. I appreciate the encouragement, and hope you’re well.
Thank you Brother James. I am reminded.
You are always welcome, Linda.
God’s great peace,
Lord of all, indeed, restoring creation, restoring His creatures. I’m heartened. Thank you.
I am, too, Jodi….and somedays I could use a LOT of restoration.
God watch over thee and me,
I pray that He will continually open my eyes to see and recognize Him and always open my heart to follow His will. In a recent sermon, the Rt. Rev. James Cowan of the Anglican Church of Canada said, “[The] Good News’ is not fair, it is about Grace and Mercy; receiving what we do not deserve, and not receiving what we do deserve.” If I can keep that thought square in my mind and heart, it will make it easier to follow Him I believe.
We keep asking for “fair” but what He offers is grace, and healing. Most of us have a tendency to underestimate the Living God. I’ll join in your prayer.
Pax et bonum,
I wonder often how many times I have missed Him in my encounters with others. But then He is always present and perhaps we just have to be more aware and mindful of Him in our daily lives, little by little.
I am certain I spend far longer gazing at the wonderful art you select than reading your word, apologies Br!
I think that’s precisely it, the practice of mindfulness (or as Brother Lawrence called it, the Practice of the Presence of God).
No apologies necessary regarding the artwork. I think I can understand your attraction to it. This last piece of from a 15th century French Book of Hours. I’m glad you liked it.
God watch over thee and me,
Just thought I would take the time to say how much I appreciate this blog. Every entry gives me something to ponder that has never occurred to me. I know it must be time-consuming and difficult at times. Please accept a bit of affimration and some heart-felt thanks.
I’m so glad you did. You are very kind to tell me these things. Yes, it can be a bit challenging at times, although I’m very thankful for your gracious support.