Monday 5 February 2024

Jesus, I know who you are!

 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)




In this 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 lives.


That’s what a gospel is there to do: present us with who Jesus Christ is and was and ever shall be, and to invite our response.


Today’s gospel is doing just that as we hear of Jesus entering the synagogue in Capernaum.


In the 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.


It was normal for attendees who studied the scriptures to offer interpretations to those gathered, which is precisely what Jesus does.


As Jesus teaches – and we have no idea what he actually taught and said that day –something made them prick up their ears.


They were ‘astonished’ as our translation puts it.


The original Greek is more emphatic conveying the sense that the people ‘are astonished to the point of being completely overwhelmed’.


We might translate the Greek term ekplesso as ‘they were completely blown away’. (Ian Paul).


Someone, something remarkable, astonishing, overwhelming, mind-blowing is here in our midst.


What blew them away was that Jesus spoke in a way that the supposed authorities never spoke.


Jesus speaks with authority.


The word authority relates to the word ‘author’: you could say ‘author-ority’.


The author is the originator or source of what is being spoken.


When it 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.


Had nothing 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’.


Perhaps some would go away and feel different with their hearts warmed; perhaps others forgot all about him.


That gives 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.


Then the mood changes in the narrative.


What happens 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.


‘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.’ (Mark 1.24)


That outburst will have ripped through the gathered assembly, as it would for us today.


This man is not in his right mind; indeed the text makes clear it is not even him speaking, it is an unclean spirit.


Sometimes it 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.


If someone 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?


The gospel 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.


We might more readily recognise today what’s going on through the language of addiction and dependency.


Alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling are all things that can take possession of a person and become an obsession to the point of destruction.


In addiction 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?’


Oh yes! Jesus comes to destroy evil to give life to the children of God.


Jesus is 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.


I know 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.


Examination 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.


No wonder the people in that synagogue say, ‘what is this?’


They are full of wonder, to the point of being overwhelmed.


No wonder 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’?

No comments:

Post a Comment