12 October 2021Mark 1:21-28
'I know who you are, the Holy One of God.' (v. 24)
Jesus and his followers move on to Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shore of Lake Galilee, and possibly the home of some of his disciples. We don’t learn anything about what he may have done between his arrival in the village and attending the synagogue on the next sabbath, but it’s clear that Jesus teaches in such a way as to leave those present “astounded at his teaching” (v. 22). Frustratingly we are not told anything about the content of his teaching, just that he taught with "authority". We can only imagine how those local scribes and religious teachers who would normally share their learning with the people in the synagogue might feel, being compared so unfavourably with this new man.
Whatever Jesus said was enough to enable one person at least to see he was more than clever or well-read, he was “the Holy One of God” (v. 24). As will be seen repeatedly in the coming chapters, it’s the spirits and demons thought to be distressing people or causing their illness who can see Jesus for who he is, whereas those watching and following him have much more difficulty putting the full picture together. In addition, it’s the spirits that Jesus will so often address, telling them to “be silent” (v. 25) rather than explaining to the others what the demons and spirits seem to know about him. The kingdom of God may be coming but it’s not clearly visible yet to all in equal measure.
Descriptions of people with unclean spirits or who were demon-possessed don’t sit comfortably with modern thinking and understanding, and can be offensive, and yet these beliefs were commonplace when Jesus walked the Galilean pathways. Believing someone to be demon-possessed and 'unclean' was a way to stop them from contaminating those thought to be religiously clean. It’s surprising therefore that this man was even allowed in to the synagogue at all, although the suddenness of his appearance suggests he might have entered without warning, perhaps hearing what was taking place inside. This was something that would happen more and more, as after this incident Jesus’ fame spread far and wide (v. 28). There was no going back now.
- While our understanding of mental and physical illness is by no means perfect, we can all too often see the impact that prejudice and discrimination have on people. What can you do to help challenge this?
- Are there times when you have been "astounded" by the teaching of others? What was so special about it and is this something that can be shared with others?