Deuteronomy 18.15-20 The Lord your God will raise up a new prophet like Moses
Revelation 12.1-5a A great
portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun
Mark 1.21-28 Unlike the scribes, he
taught them with authority
‘I know who
you are [Jesus of Nazareth] – the Holy One of God’ (Mark 1.24)
morning’s gospel passage we learn something of who Jesus Christ is and we are
challenged to consider how we respond to him and to what he can do in our
a gospel is there to do: present us with who Jesus Christ is and was and ever
shall be, and to invite our response.
gospel is doing just that as we hear of Jesus entering the synagogue in
synagogue on that day are plenty of good respectable people who have gathered
to read the scriptures and reflect on them, much as we do now.
normal for attendees who studied the scriptures to offer interpretations to
those gathered, which is precisely what Jesus does.
teaches – and we have no idea what he actually taught and said that day
–something made them prick up their ears.
‘astonished’ as our translation puts it.
Greek is more emphatic conveying the sense that the people ‘are astonished to
the point of being completely overwhelmed’.
translate the Greek term ekplesso as
‘they were completely blown away’. (Ian Paul).
something remarkable, astonishing, overwhelming, mind-blowing is here in our
them away was that Jesus spoke in a way that the supposed authorities never
authority relates to the word ‘author’: you could say ‘author-ority’.
is the originator or source of what is being spoken.
comes to the scriptures Jesus is the Word made Flesh, only he is the one who
can interpret the scriptures with authority because he is the author; he is the
only one who can interpret God’s purposes in creation because, in the beginning
was the Word: he is the author, the originator, the Word.
So he speaks
with authority because what he says is entirely consistent with who he is: the
author speaks with author-ority.
more happened that day you can imagine the chat at the end of the synagogue
gathering: ‘Gosh, that bloke from Nazareth was really impressive and
authoritative’. ‘Oh yes, I’ve heard about him before, he’s been calling
fishermen to join him: lot of talk about the kingdom of God’. ‘Tell you what,
he’s better than our scribes, they just miss the mark all the time’.
would go away and feel different with their hearts warmed; perhaps others
forgot all about him.
us pause for thought. Do you leave church with a deeper appetite for Jesus
Christ, to go away and chew over more deeply what you have encountered with
your life changed, deepened, transformed? Do you leave church and really not
give it all much thought, and the cares of life and the world distract you?
So Jesus speaks
with authority, inviting us to recognise it.
mood changes in the narrative.
next in that synagogue is one of those moments that, if it happened here in the
Minster, might cause us to feel uncomfortable, disrupted, even unsafe.
A man in the
synagogue has clearly heard the teaching and reacts, in a raw visceral way.
you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who
you are, the Holy One of God.’ (Mark 1.24)
outburst will have ripped through the gathered assembly, as it would for us
This man is
not in his right mind; indeed the text makes clear it is not even him speaking,
it is an unclean spirit.
is thought that the language of unclean spirit is a first century way of
talking about someone who is ill, and that our insights into modern medicine
and psychology explain what’s going on: he’s clearly mentally ill we might say.
And yet in
our society today there are very blurred lines between what we consider wicked
and wrong and the actions of someone who is sick.
is spared a murder conviction on the grounds of diminished responsibility, some
think that’s a good understanding thing, others find it a bad thing: does that
person need punishment or help?
carefully differentiates between people who are unwell and those who are
possessed, and we would need a lot more time to go into that.
So what we
have here is evil being exposed: it’s not the man it’s what is in him: he is
being possessed by something outside himself and it is cast out of him:
something Jesus, with authority, can do.
more readily recognise today what’s going on through the language of addiction
drugs, pornography, gambling are all things that can take possession of a
person and become an obsession to the point of destruction.
and dependency, the authority in a person’s life has passed to that which
corrodes the soul and destroys them: so the unclean spirit asks, ‘have you come
to destroy me?’
Jesus comes to destroy evil to give life to the children of God.
revealed as the one who comes to bring salvation: salvation a word that, at its
root, is about healing and saving.
We see, on
countless occasions in St Mark’s Gospel, the healing salve of Jesus’ touch that
brings salvation to individual lives: an invitation, make no mistake, that is
on offer today.
people who can give testimony to how they have rejected the power of alcohol,
for example, through the sense of the higher power, the authority in life
experienced in Christ.
of ourselves will reveal what we are in thrall to, what possesses us, what
corrodes our souls: and we should present that before Christ, the true
authority of human experience.
the people in that synagogue say, ‘what is this?’
full of wonder, to the point of being overwhelmed.
his fame spread everywhere first in Galilee and then to the ends of the earth.
Can you now
say, ‘I know who you are, Jesus Christ – the Holy One of God’?