- Deuteronomy 18:15-20
- Psalm 111
- 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
- Mark 1:21-28
Jesus had the power to drive out evil from the lives of people. It today’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, with Jesus teaching on the Sabbath in the synagogue. A man was suffering from an unclean spirit that recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God. The spirit obeyed Jesus’ command to leave the man. “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
In Jesus’ day people quickly recognized the reality and power of evil spirits and demons. Strange and aberrant behavior, pathological and some physical illnesses were considered a result of evil spiritual powers. The earth was a frightening place, a hell, where every life situation was ruled by these demonic spirits. Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of skulls with holes drilled in them that show growth after such drilling. Such drilling was thought to release evil spirits from the head. Jesus’ authority over this demon amazes the people, for only God has control in this dark arena.
The image of Jesus as exorcist is someone who has experienced his own demons (Mark 1:12-13). The temptation stories (of which we will hear in a few weeks as we enter Lent) point to the image of a wounded healer, to an image of one who by his own experience understands vulnerability and internalized oppression. In having recovered their own hearts, healers have some understanding of the suffering of others.
Naming the demons means knowing the demons . . . The Gospels imply that anyone who exorcises cannot be a stranger to demons . . . To have faced our demons is never to forget their power to hurt and never to forget the power to heal that lies in touching broken-heartedness . . . Jesus hears, below the demon noises, an anguished cry for deliverance. Through . . . mutual touching, . . . community is co-created as a continuing, liberating, redemptive reality. – Rita Nakashima Brock, Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power (Crossroad Publishing, 1988).
Jesus had the power to drive out evil from the lives of people. In our worship, we constantly ask to be delivered from evil when we recite the Lord’s Prayer. This is also stated in Eucharistic Prayer B: “In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you.” – a vivid reminder that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist stands between evil and us today.
As part of our Baptismal Covenant, we are called to confront personal and societal evil: “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” (BCP 304)
- For what reasons might the first event of Jesus’ public ministry (in Mark) and the first display of resistance have happened in a synagogue? What might this say about Jesus’ work today?
- What is the significance of a demon’s recognition of Jesus? Of Jesus’ response to the demon?
- What words today are sometimes used to refer to demon possession?
- What demons did Jesus face?
- What demons do we face today?
- What does Mark imply about the scribes’ teaching? How does Jesus’ teaching differ from contemporary preaching and teaching?