We’re going to do some Bible study around our text for this morning, and before I read it - I have a question. What does it mean when someone speaks with authority on a topic? What about exercising authority toward others?
The passage that we’re going to read today gets at the heart of Jesus’s authority and how others reacted to his presence - and what that authority means for us as disciples of Jesus.
Scripture - Mark 1:21-28
Mark 1:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version)
21They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and 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.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They 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.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
A bit of background on this text before we move into some discussion- and much credit to the work of Faith Element for the background on this text.
We see Jesus teaching in Capernaum at the synagogue on the sabbath. We don’t know what he’s talking about or anything about the content of his teaching except that the people who were there were astounded. This is another area where the translation from Greek to English misses a lot of the nuance. The word exesplanto - which gets translated as astounded - doesn’t mean they were impressed with what Jesus had to say. It means astounded to the point of being overwhelmed, shocked, or panicked. Probably Jesus’s words were so moving that they struck people at the heart and perhaps made some of them uncomfortable. Jesus was not like any other teacher they had ever heard before.
Now the man with an unclean spirit comes on the scene - and cries out to Jesus, “What have you to do with us?” The spirit recognizes Jesus as the Holy One of God and realizes that he could destroy them. And he does - he silences the spirit and banishes it - and the people were amazed - again we lose something in translation - the Greek word means amazed or terrified.
But what’s important here as well is that the people saw this act of healing as a new teaching with authority. Jesus’s teaching made the man whole. According to Nikki Hardiman at Faith Element, “Jesus did not teach like the other teachers. Jesus’s teachings were liberating and they brought wholeness.”
At the end of the passage, we read that Jesus' fame spread - his fame spread because of this new way of teaching with authority - his words and his actions bringing liberation and wholeness to the people. This is the important part of the story - that the authority of Jesus as the Holy One of God is bound up in the very nature of Jesus himself - that Jesus is the new teaching that liberates us and brings us to wholeness.
So let’s talk a little bit more about this passage together.
Do you think that Jesus’ authority came from the manner in which he spoke, or his content… or both?
Why might Jesus’ impressive teaching have triggered the episode with the unclean spirit?
Does our place as followers of Jesus give us the right to speak as people of authority too? Explain. If not, how should we speak?
When we speak and act on Jesus’ behalf today, will others automatically be drawn? What about our words and actions can point others to Jesus? (Work with video, if time or conversation leads in that direction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YztvjePz0uk&feature=youtu.be)
Jesus’ teachings are ones that liberate and bring wholeness. Where does Jesus need to work more fully in your life to lead you closer to wholeness?
I want that last question to lead us into our time of sharing joys and concerns - because those are the places we can be in prayer for each other for. We’re not on this journey alone - being a church means that we trust God to be present among us and that we can share our vulnerabilities with one another because we’re all on the journey together. Jesus continues to heal us through his word and his actions to restore us to greater wholeness and love. We can pray for and with one another in these moments.
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Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.