Sunday 28 January 2018

Bible Book:

“They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching – with authority!’” (v. 27)

Mark 1:21-28 Sunday 28 January 2018

Psalm: Psalm 111


Heading for the local synagogue seemed to be a sensible plan for Jesus. For one thing, it would signify that he was a faithful Jew. In addition, in synagogues, anyone can be given the opportunity to speak by the leader. Jesus had just called the first disciples so, arriving with a following may have set Jesus out as someone with something to say. He certainly didn’t waste his opportunity.

We don’t know what Jesus said, but it seemed to be the style as well as the content that impressed. His message was delivered with an authority that was lacking in many other leaders. The people were not just fairly impressed, but astounded (verse 22). No doubt there were others wondering whether he had any action to back up the style.

Right on cue, in walked a man described as having “an unclean spirit” (v. 23). It is hard to know exactly what was meant – was the spirit unclean in itself (ie a demon); did the spirit cause the man to fall into some breach of the purity laws and therefore be unclean; would it be classed today as a mental illness? Clearly, it was something beyond their comprehension, and probably the man was judged ill-fit to worship God.

In similar miracle stories later in Mark’s Gospel, the person affected by the spirit explicitly acclaims Jesus as “the Son of God” (Mark 3:11; 5:7), rather than a holy one (verse 24), which may just mean a holy person. This instance could be building towards that fuller understanding.

There is an interesting ploy used by Mark’s Gospel in that Jesus is written as continually seeking to silence those who wish to declare him the Messiah. Yet whilst the characters in the narrative often seem unaware as to quite who he is, the readers know all along. It is as though we are being let into a secret.

With a word, Jesus commands the spirit to be quiet (literally ‘be muzzled’) (verse 25). After throwing the man around somewhat, it is gone. The scene ends where it began with the people in amazement. Now, not only does he teach with authority, but he can even control the spirits.

To Ponder

  • How do you understand ‘unclean spirits’ and how should the Church respond to people they regard as possessing them?
  • What experience have you had of someone teaching with authority, and how were they different to anyone else?
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