You may or may not agree with me, but I have to say that I think the Gospel of Mark is perhaps the most disturbing of the Gospel accounts.
I don’t know if it’s the shortness of the book, or the starkness of the narrative. It seems to move so quickly that it makes a restaurant menu look like War and Peace in comparison. It just somehow feels sparse and fearful to me. After all Mark’s version of Jesus is far more enigmatic than in the other Gospels. He’s so much so that even his disciples are continually confused and made afraid by his actions. It’s altogether an almost desolate portrait for something called the “Good News.”
But what I will say for the account is that it doesn’t waste time getting to the essentials of the message of good news—namely the sacrifice of Jesus, and the salvation of the world.
Now, I’m sure that as all of you were sitting down last night studying the Gospel of Mark in preparation for today; you had the same response as I did to our reading. Is this a story about exorcism, or is it really about the authority of Jesus?
Well if you were reading the same commentary I was, you would know that the answer is the authority of Jesus.
Once again we find Jesus
Once again we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue. We don’t know what he was teaching, but it says that the people were amazed because he taught them as one having authority. Whatever it was, it apparently got a possessed guy bent out of shape, and Jesus casts the spirit out. I suppose at that point if there was any question about authority, it got settled then…
I also imagine that the scribes were surprised. After all, these guys were the ones who were supposed to have the authority to teach and interpret the Hebrew Scriptures. They were the ones who had spent all of that money going to seminary—and then Jesus showed up and out-classed them with an exorcism. But the truth is, the people recognized Jesus’ authority before that—even the possessed guy attests to it.
However in defense of the scribes, he is technically the Son of God. So, they shouldn’t feel too bad about getting shown up. However, a question for us might be how we would recognize this authority that Jesus has, and what it means for us.
One of the interesting things about the Gospel of Mark is that the people who are supposed to know Jesus seem to just not get him. Like I said before, his disciples seem to never understand what he’s doing or what his teachings mean. Instead, throughout the narrative, Jesus and his disciples come across very different people who do get it. Whether it’s blind Bartimaeus, or the Syrophenician woman, the people who seem to recognize Jesus and his true authority are those without any power of their own.
However, when they met
However, when they met Jesus, it wasn’t as if their lack of power was the issue—instead it was the promise of renewed strength, and reconciliation that made all the difference. And it was because of Jesus’ openness that they were able to realize and accept his authority. What’s more, it was when their story intersected with the story of God in Jesus that their lives were changed forever.
The thing about God’s story/God’s Word, is that it transforms our own lives and stories. This is especially true in the person of Jesus, because by his very incarnation—his being with people and sharing in their lives, he made God real to them. And by their meeting God in Jesus, these people were able to connect their own stories with God’s story, and thereby make God real to others.
There is something to be said for our lives and our stories as interpretation of God’s Word. We may even say our story as interpreting God’s Story. Because what we sometimes forget is that who we are and what we do is always wrapped up in who God is to us—and how God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ, and through Scripture and tradition, and more importantly through people we know and trust.
This is because the way that the Gospel of Jesus is designed, is that by its nature it is something to be shared and integrated into our lives.
In this context
In this context, our stories begin to have even more power and authority. Because they’re no longer stories about ourselves alone—but become part of the greater story of God.
In this way, God’s Spirit gives us new meaning, and calls us, in turn, to incarnate the love of God. And by sharing our own renewed story, we become part of the transformative work of Christ in the world.
That is when our stories have the power to change lives and reveal the true Christ—the one from whom all authority comes to us. No matter how beaten-up or broken down we may feel. No matter how insignificant or commonplace we think our lives—if we’re willing to give our selves and our stories to God, they have power.
The point is, when the people heard Jesus teaching, I don’t think that it was just the fact that he is the Incarnation of God that made them recognize his authority. What I do think is that what Jesus taught—the revelation of God to God’s people in Scripture, and God’s longing to be close to us and in love with us, and the promise of God’s Kingdom—all of it was the good news that they needed to hear. So when Jesus made the connection—both in word and presence, it was an invitation to know God’s love and share in the story of God.
After that…I suppose the exorcism seemed like a cheap magic trick in comparison. Because the true power and authority of Jesus was revealed in his ability speak of God’s love.
I wonder what would happen if we shared our stories with others? How could our lives reflect this authority that the people recognized in Jesus? What difference would it make in the world? Would our stories be the invitation that others needed to meet Jesus Christ? Who knows? But, I hope we’re willing to leave here and find out.