Astounded and Amazed 1-29-2021

Texts for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany
January 31, 2021

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

We are not even out of the first chapter of Mark. It has been jam-packed as Jesus’ ministry begins. Unlike the other gospels, Mark starts with a fully grown Jesus. The very first sentence of this Gospel - The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God – immediately challenges the Roman Empire whose emperor Augustus had been proclaimed the Son of god (Apollos), which was announced as “Good News”. Yes, Augustus was dead, but the Roman Empire had its grip on nations.

Mark keeps things moving. John the Baptizer calls people to turn around, to repent so to receive forgiveness of sin. John recognized that he was making the way for Another to Come. Then Jesus appears at the Jordan; he was baptized and called beloved by God. Immediately Jesus wrestled with Satan in the wilderness (an encounter the lectionary skipped over, waiting for the first Sunday in Lent). In the meantime, “off screen”, John was arrested for his challenge to the current Judean king. We only know that because verse 14 says “after John was arrested”. Like I said, things move quickly.

Jesus strides onto the pages, proclaiming that the good news of God is the presence of the Kingdom of God. The invitation he brings is to turn around (repent) and to believe/welcome that good news. What does that Kingdom of God look like? Well, Jesus. So, keep your eyes on him.

Last week Jesus called some disciples Simon and Andrew, James and John. All had jobs of fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They immediately followed him.

We are not quite through the first half of the first chapter of Mark when we arrive at this Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is still in Capernaum on the Galilee when he goes to the local synagogue to teach. The congregation was “astounded” at his teaching because he taught as someone with authority. That’s an interesting reason. Jesus who was standing before them, had a sense of confidence and certainty that they hadn’t experienced before. Jesus stirred their hearts?

Immediately (“just then”) a man with an unclean spirit also recognized Jesus authority. 

Note that the man was not the unclean spirit, he had an unclean spirit. Let’s recognize the captive and the captor. Today, we still don’t always distinguish between the two. Our “welcome to all” often does not include welcoming the ones with an unclean spirit.

The unclean spirit protested. Was that fear or defiance? The unclean spirit recognized Jesus in a way no human had done. It tried taunting him; Jesus did not take on the power struggle. Instead, he (immediately) dismissed it. It shrieked and left the man. Often at this point in other healing stories, the one who has been freed expresses their gratitude. But in this moment, we immediately move back to the crowd’s reaction. Again, they were amazed at how Jesus had authority as teacher and dispatcher of unclean spirits. Immediately (at once) Jesus’ fame began to spread through the area.

How about you? How about me? Are we astounded or amazed by this story? Does it make you stop and wonder about the Kingdom of God in our world? The congregation in this story came expecting a routine Sabbath. Jesus disrupted them with his teaching. Amazing. Jesus chased out evil. Astounding.

May God open our eyes. 
May we be disrupted by the Kingdom of God.

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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