Friday, September 07, 2018

Devotional: Jesus’ Spiritual Authority, Mark 1.21-34

After introducing Jesus to the reader in the introduction with a “big picture” explanation of his identity as the Christ, the Son of God, Mark now gives the reader an introduction to Jesus by the way the disciples experienced it: through his amazing words and actions. Verses 21-34 recount a Sabbath day (probably a typical one) early in the ministry of Jesus, in which Jesus spent the day teaching in the synagogue and ministering healing miracles. There are two accounts of public healing which are focused on the healing and exorcising of demonized people sandwiched around a private miracle of healing Peter’s mother of a fever. All of this explains the people’s observation about Jesus, “he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mk 1:22, ESV).

In verses 21-28, Jesus heals a “man with an unclean spirit” in the synagogue. What is amazing in this sequence is the testimony of the demon that Jesus of Nazareth is the “Holy One of God.” and has the authority to destroy the devastating power the demons had on this man. For thousands of years the nations and their people had been under the oppressive authority of tyrannical human rulers and the “principalities and powers” that stood behind them and empowered them. Human beings were subject to sin, death and destruction, but now One had come who could free them and bring in God’s kingdom; and he could do it in the same way he created everything, with an authoritative word. Jesus’ teaches with authority, divine authority, not just because his word his true and right, but because it accomplishes his plan for all of creation and for each person (and spiritual being, sometimes to their dismay) who hears it. In verses 32-34 he shushes these powerful demons like they were kindergartners, not even allowing them to speak. Jesus is the One whose word will always, “accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).

In between the two descriptions of the public healing and exorcisms, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever. This time he heals her with a touch as he gently takes her hand and lifts her up. She responds by “immediately” serving Jesus and his followers. Service of Jesus and others is the proper response to Jesus’ healing touch.

Mark has now shown who Jesus is as attested by the Father, John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit and, now, with his authoritative words and actions. Jesus calls us, like the disciples, to follow him, be alert to watch him work and take the healing he gives us to serve others.

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