Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV) 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.
Jesus’ way of teaching was with a noticeable authority. His listeners could distinguish between how the scribes or teachers of the law talked about the scriptures versus the way Jesus did.
It could be that for the teachers of the law, compliance with the rules was paramount. However, for Jesus, who John had proclaimed as the verb and the word of the beginning, the law was summarized in showing love to one another. This could have been the reason why the scribes were alarmed when Jesus was healing on the Sabbath. For the scribes, the Sabbath was untouchable. For Jesus, what was inconceivable was not to heal those who were coming to him in the midst of pain and suffering.
For teachers of the law, cleansing and washing their hands was more precious than feeding the hungry as Jesus did. Jesus’ authority may have been founded on the fact that his words were accompanied by deeds. His words were not empty phrases repeated by mere tradition.
Nowadays, there are devout Christians who are living the biblical text with rigidity, so far so, that they don’t contextualize the Bible to current times. For instance, there are Christians who believe women cannot be at the pulpit as leaders because Jesus only had male disciples. They don’t dig any deeper into the Biblical text to find that Jesus had a central role in his ministry for women, a role that was revolutionary even in his time. Women in Jesus’ times were marginalized and almost invisible, but Jesus lifted them up as protagonists of his message of love.
We also find the pious Christians in the United States who are against abortion basing their beliefs on the commandment of “Though shalt not kill.” However, they do not hesitate to support unjust immigration laws deporting hundreds of youth to places where they could be killed, places where they cannot live in safety and peace.
When Jesus, in this passage, carries out the miracle of liberating the man of an unclean spirit, he does it with his divine authority. He uses the authority that comes with living a ministry of compassion. Everybody was saying, “Even the spirits obey him.” Jesus exists to set us free.
Prayer: Dear Lord, We ask for your help to walk with the authority that comes with living your message of love. May our talk and our hands work together to build a world of peace and justice. Amen.