What Have You To Do With Us?
Mark 1:21-28 1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 1:22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 1:23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 1:24 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.” 1:25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 1:26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 1:27 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.” 1:28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
- A Word from the Lord as we continue in the season of Epiphany looking for revelation of God’s character and message for all people…. Background for today’s text: The event happens following Jesus’ baptism, his 40 days in the wilderness, his announcement that the kingdom of God is at hand and calling of the first disciples. This is the very beginning of his public ministry. Jesus meets with God’s people in synagogue was place of teaching and instruction; Temple was place of worship and sacrifice. There were many synagogues but only one Temple. Scribes were the teachers of the law—scholars who had studied and whose role was to offer application to life. Jesus could find an audience wherever he went because teaching was typically offered by itinerant teachers upon the invitation of the synagogue leader.
- The Jewish scribe or rabbi never gave a decision on his own. It was always prefaced by “there is a teaching that…” and would proceed to quote other authorities and cite other references.
- Jesus shows up and spoke with complete independence, quoting or citing no one. Jesus comes to the synagogue not to be instructed but to instruct. And he did so with obvious power. And that instruction came as much by what he did as what he said.
- His teaching was that the reign of all things demonic was coming to an end. But the demons are not the primary issue here—but rather that Jesus WORDS have power and his presence has the capacity to redeem the unclean.
- Mark, more than any other Gospel writer, emphasizes Jesus’ power to heal and to claim dominion over evil spirits. Of the 18 miracles recorded in Mark, 13 have something to do with healing and 4 of the 13 are exorcisms.1
- In today’s passage, Jesus, who is full of God’s Spirit is confronted by a man full of demonic spirits and the question is asked, “What have you to do with us Jesus, have you come to destroy us?” Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly, but silences the one speaking and demands that the man be released from his oppression.
- Jesus’ word stimulates vitality—people heard the scriptures in a new and powerful way. His word disrupts the previously undisturbed forces of evil.
1 Enniss, P.C., “Mark 1: 21-28/ Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vl. 1, p. 310.
- This exorcism demonstrates what it means for the Kingdom of God to have drawn near. The demons provide insight for us, but not for the other characters in the story. Rather than respond with worship and a change of attitude and embracing of the gospel, they are merely amazed.
- Impure in this context means contrary to the sacred, contrary to the life-giving power of God. Demonic could be interpreted as incomprehensible evil originating from the power and principalities associated with satanic forces of this world (Ephesians 6:12). The things that prompt people to lie and believe lies; the things that inspire people to hate, hurt and even kill others because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, the people they love, or their political affiliations.
- This man was in the synagogue. What was he doing there? Did he come searching for healing and hope but found none among the anemic efforts of the scribes? What about the others who were looking on? Did they not see him, not notice his bondage to the unclean spirit? Did they just not know what to do?
- Jesus exorcised the demon, but where did it go?
- “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and clean. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there.” Matthew 12: 43-45
- It can go back where it came from or to a new host. Therefore, we should remain vigilant and connected to Jesus, who has power even over such opposing forces.
- Giving in to evil, makes all kinds of choices seem more reasonable. That’s when what’s wrong can begin to seem right and even reasonable.
- What have you to do with us Jesus? This question may be our own. A countering question would be, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” May your answer be yes, Lord. Amen.