What I love about Mark’s gospel is the immediacy of it. Right up front at the beginning, in today’s gospel reading Jesus steps onto the stage and Mark makes is abundantly clear exactly who Jesus is and what he is about.
And what he is about, is almost completely cut off from the popular imagination and image of Jesus. The popular Jesus is a mish mash of sentimental and wrong headed notions about him. He is the gentle Jesus meek and mild who goes out into the wilderness to find the poor little lambkin and bring him home with a warm cuddle and a cup of cocoa. He is the smiling uncle who gathers the children on to his lap for a blessing. He is the kindly person who never judges anyone, but pats them on the head and says they are forgiven. He is the compassionate healer, the wise teacher, the spiritual master and the person who embraces all and points them to their own self fulfillment.
But Mark doesn’t say that at all. Instead Jesus steps on to the stage in the synagogue and one mountainous fact about him comes thundering through. He is the one who has authority. If you do a New Testament word search on “authority” you’ll soon see what it means when Mark says, “They were astounded because he taught them as one who had authority.”
Matthew 9:6 – “The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins”
Matthew 28:18 – Jesus says, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.”
John 7:28 – Jesus says, “I am not here on my own authority, but the One he sent me is true.”
John 14:10- “The words I am are not of my own authority, rather it is the Father living in me.”
Eph. 1:21 – Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked,”
Col. 2:10 – and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority
Phil. 1:10 – hat at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
So Jesus has been granted this universal authority by the Father, and Mark establishes therefore, from the beginning of the Lord’s ministry that he has this authority, and the gospel and the rest of the apostolic preaching reveals that this is a cosmic authority.
Therefore, Jesus, from the beginning is not just another religious teacher.
The significance of the exorcism, therefore, is not simply to heal an afflicted man, but to show that Jesus Christ has come to do business with the devil. He has come to claim the authority that is his and taking back this kingdom from Satan and souls from Satan is what he is about.
St John says this clearly in I John 3:8 – “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
This message is vital in our church and world today because one of the greatest kinds of false teacher are the ones who make Jesus Christ out to be anything BUT this cosmic master–the Son of God who came expressly to defeat the devil, take back the world in a great cosmic battle and to do this by atoning for sin.
The greatest problem in the church today is that Jesus is looked to only as an example and not as a savior. He is looked to as a role model and mentor, but not a redeemer. He is looked to as a very good man but not as the Son of Man.
One of the main reasons for reverent and traditional worship is that in the splendor and reverence of traditional worship we are reminded that we have come into the presence of the risen Lord, the King of the Universe, the Savior of the World, the one who has authority over all things in heaven and earth–not simply a first century social worker.