“They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.” Mark 1:21-28
This past weekend here at church we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our Faith House ministry. Faith House provides an affordable home away from home for people seeking long term treatment at the Texas Medical Center, just down the road a bit from the church. Church volunteers both staff and manage the facility.
It stays full because many people come to Houston for medical treatment. The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is world renowned as a research and treatment facility. People come here because it is known as the place to go. It has authority based on both its track record and its reputation.
Jesus had neither when he entered the synagogue in Capernaum. Although Nazareth wasn’t terribly far from Capernaum, it was far enough and the population immobile enough, that Jesus wasn’t a known quality. Yet, when given the opportunity to speak in the synagogue (picture a small group of people gathered for prayer and Bible study instead of a big official congregational gathering on Sunday morning), those gathered immediately sensed something different about Jesus.
He didn’t just quote what other smart and insightful scholars had said through the years, which would have been the way a scribe would teach. He spoke directly about his understanding and personal experience of the faith. He spoke with authority.
Suddenly their conversation is disrupted by a man with an unclean spirit. My first call was an urban church just off the main bus line. It wasn’t terrible unusual for some rather unbalanced characters to make their presence known in church. While we always practiced good hospitality, welcoming them and doing our best to see that they had a good experience at church, I’ve never seen what Jesus did that day. He commanded the unclean spirit to go…and it went.
Authority is one thing. What one does with the authority is another. Jesus used his authority to do good in people’s lives.
The unclean spirits, very aware of their goal of bringing pain into people’s lives, immediately sense how dangerous Jesus is. For the religious leaders, still quite blind to the potential pain they are causing in people’s lives, it will take a little longer to realize the same thing.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, there is a lot of pain in our world, even in our lives. You are the Author of life and have authority over all that troubles us. May we recognize that authority. May we bring our hurts and cares to you. May you use us to bring respite and hope to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.