4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)
January 22, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: Last week we heard Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God and also the call of the first disciples. Over the next three weeks, we will hear about Jesus’ authority over demons and illnesses; then we will hear a couple of weeks on his authority over sin and the law. This passage takes the shape of a sandwich, a familiar pattern in Mark. It begins and ends with comments about Jesus’ authority as a teacher. In between is an exorcism. We are meant to find a connection between Jesus, the teacher and Jesus, the exorcist.
vs 27,28 alert us to an important aspect of Mark’s Gospel.The response of the crowd..All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee. This same word “amazed” appears two more times in Mark’s Gospel, the crowd after Jesus’ transfiguration (9:15) and Jesus disturbed emotions in Gethsemane (14:33) One commentator says the response might best be translated:”..as a state of shock or enhanced consciousness.”
1) This passage begins and ends with comments about Jesus’ authority as a teacher. What does it mean that Jesus taught with authority and not like the scribes?
a) Scribal authority was based on their ability to recite the opinion of many Rabbis on a given topic.
b) From Mark’s gospel we would have to conclude that much of their teaching was concerned with fine points of interpretation of the Law. From the rest of the gospel we would have to conclude that Jesus’ teaching must have focused on central themes like God’s compassion.
c) The scribes were preoccupied for the details (letter) of the law and would lose the spirit.
d) The scribes had a sense of their own self-importance and would seek the first places.
e) At times the scribes were arrogant; their deeds would contradict their words.
f) Jesus in contrast taught with a directness which drew on common life.
“What happens when you put a seed in the ground?” “What do you do when you lose a sheep?” “A man had two sons.” “Look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.” “I am the vine and you are the branches.” He was aware and alive to life around him. He could say, see how it is in creation, in your friends, in yourself. Learn and grow. He taught as one whose message was part of himself. This gave an originality and conviction to his teaching. Jesus’ words and deeds said the same thing.
g) From Jesus’ encounter with people in the Gospel we must conclude that Jesus had a special quality of presence. He was attractive, affirming and challenging.
h) In terms of the substance of Jesus teaching, Mark tells us little. There is much more teaching material in Matthew and Luke. But the special quality of Jesus’ presence comes through all the Gospels.
2) Mark’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the Stronger One (as John the Baptist proclaimed him), the one struggling against Evil.
a) In this first miracle the unclean spirit that possessed the man is desperately confrontative. This spirit calls Jesus “the Holy One of God.” Mark has the “Holy One of God” on the holy day (Sabbath) in the holy place (synagogue) meeting an “unclean spirit.” The Jews referred to people like this possessed man as having unclean spirits. The Greeks spoke of such people as having a demon.
b) Mark’s Gospel mentions devils being cast out 10 times.
c) Evil is seen in nature (storms), the unfruitful fig tree.
d) Evil is seen in sickness of various kinds.
e) Evil is seen in death.
f) Evil is seen in sin.
g) Jesus says yes to life and its mysteries and no to death and its allies.
h) We can contrast how the demons treat people and how Jesus treats people.
3) We are called to create the space, the synagogue, where our madness can come face to face with the holiness of Jesus. This story in the Gospel calls us to name our own demons, to look for what it is that is holding us in bondage.
a) Is there someone I can’t forgive?
b) Have I been afraid to commit myself because I am afraid of failure?
c) Is some ambition of mine clouding my vision of the truth?
d) Has there been someone in my life who has been challenging me to face some truth?
e) Have I been able to recognize the demon for what it is and thus have it go out of me?
Jesus wishes us to know his victory over evil. But Jesus not only can overcome evil but can take it and draw something good out of it. Jesus can take our greatest hurt and heal it. Hurts can be curses that cripple. But Jesus in his healing power can take our hurts and have them become gifts of growth. “Wounded healers”
This Gospel passage challenges us to discern: where do I see evil, in myself but on the broader scale, where do I see evil at work in the world? What am I being called to do about evil?