Monday, January 23, 2012

Authority : Destruction : Disturbance

Some further reflections on Mark 1:21-28

[1] Jesus teaches with the authority that comes from sharing experienced- and lived-out wisdom; from revealing something of yourself (being vulnerable), as opposed to showing how much knowledge you have acquired (being invulnerable).  This is the authority of a woman whose husband has been killed by terrorists, or a father whose schoolboy son has been stabbed to death by teenagers, speaking about forgiveness.  What they say does not come cheap, but, through costly trial and testing, has been proven: and just as they want to pass on what they have learnt, so others want to hear.

[UPDATE: If we compare Mark's account with that of Luke - Luke 4:31-37, in the context of Luke 4:14-30 - we see that when the demon addresses him as Jesus of Nazareth - from where he has come from a recent rejection by the synagogue congregation - it is a taunt, challenging the validity of his authority.  Jesus does not back down from the challenge.  We, too, will face mocking whispers seeking to undermine, hoping to cause us to retreat. Like Jesus, we will need to stand our ground.]

[2] Jesus exercises his freedom to bring freedom to others, through the destruction of that which holds them captive (whether the demonic, as in this passage, or whatever form the manifestation of captivity takes; see 1 John 3:8b “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”).  Again, this is an example of exercising authority, and of the passing-on of authority: for Jesus drives out demons, and then sends out his disciples with authority to do likewise, on the grounds that they have seen and been involved in Jesus doing this very thing.  Jesus’ mission – taken from Isaiah 61:1-3 – is to set people free.

[3] Jesus’ activity of setting people free creates a degree of inevitable disturbance.  The order of the synagogue is disrupted by this encounter.  When we gather together, appropriate order is important; but the need for order does not override Jesus’ agenda to set people free.  When Jesus binds up the broken hearted, or proclaims freedom for people held captive, or releases prisoners from darkness; when he declares and carries out God’s vengeance against the spiritual enemies of his people; when he exchanges beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, and praise for despair; it can be a messy affair!  Does that offend us?  Do we demand order over setting people free?

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