The Gospel According to Mark – 2018.01.28
A Man with Authority
The Gospel for today is packed with nuance.
Let us unpack them:
This is the first record of Jesus Teaching in public.
He is still in Palestine, but he has travelled to the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. He is beyond the borders of Judea, half-way between Jerusalem and Damascus.
He gives his teaching in a synagogue, indicating that he must be considered to be a Rabbi.
The synagogues belong to the diaspora, Jewish communities outside of the Holy Land.
Synagogues are the seat of the Pharisaic sect of Judaism, and Rabbis are teachers in that movement.
Pharisees are a distinct group of teachers, who promulgate the law, they are different from the Scribes, and the priest of the temple.
All of these distinctions are communicated in the opening paragraph.
Jesus the Pharisee, Jesus the Rabbi is teaching with authority, unlike the Scribes in Jerusalem.
One man calls him out. Not because he is possessed by demons, but because he afraid of what Jesus’ teaching represents.
He asks a good question, “What do you have to do with us?”
This indicates that Jesus is an outsider.
He asks, “Are you here to destroy us?”
This indicates that he perceives Jesus’ teaching to be a threat to the established order, and quite possibly to his entire community.
He addresses the claim that Jesus’ followers are promoting, that he is the “Holy One of God.” He asserts this in an unfriendly manner, quite possibly as a charge against Jesus. At the very least it is hubris, it is potentially blasphemy.
By raising this charge he intends to undermine Jesus’ authority in the synagogue.
Jesus commands the man to silence, and Jesus prevails. This scene is depicted dramatically in the gospel, as if Jesus were commanding an unclean spirit to come out of the man, a spirit of disobedience and false hood.
This is presented as Jesus, casting out a demon or demons from a man possessed.
Though it should be presented as Jesus, commanding his authority to convert a dissident into a believer. This was not a supernatural challenge to Jesus’ authority, but an ordinary challenge from a member of the community.
It was not easy for Jesus to convince the man, it was a convulsive struggle, but Jesus prevailed.
The community had been ready to receive Jesus’ teaching at the outset, but his victory in the disputation with the man who argued with him bolstered his authority all the more.
A Man Possessed
Jesus and his disciples went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
4th Sunday of Ordinary Time