Mark 1:21-26 (NRSV)
The Man with an Unclean Spirit
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
Devotion by Ugena Whitlock
This episode is early in Jesus’s ministry. He had been baptized and tempted. John the Baptizer had been arrested, and Jesus had begun proclaiming the Good News: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:15). As he bopped around Galilee, he called a couple of pairs of fishermen brothers, Simon and Andrew, and James and John. “Come with me and I will make you fish for people!” he had said. I’m thinking they followed him out of curiosity about what this meant. Who is this guy? is also the theme of our scripture for today. Most lessons focus on Jesus performing an exorcism. An exorcism! What was the crowd reaction to this wondrous engagement of Jesus, the man, and the Holy Spirit? They were “astounded” at his teaching; they asked, “Who is this? He teaches with authority to the point the unclean spirits obey him!” Then, Mark notes, Jesus’s fame spread. It makes me wonder what my response would have been to Jesus, with his cryptic call (fishers of people) and his dominance of spirits? I guess I would have been wowed, just like the people. Throughout Mark, Jesus is frustrated at people missing, misunderstanding, his message: The Kin-dom of God is here and open to you! Come! His signs and wonders were always meant to accentuate his message—not be their own astonishing message. The same is true today.
Holy Creator God of all~ Let us not be distracted by shiny things. Let us strive to listen to the speaking and working of God’s Holy Spirit at work at our lives in the world today. And then let us follow where it leads. In Jesus’s name, Amen.