[Continuing the year-long series Journeying in the Gospel of Mark]
Mark 1:16-31 is how Mark begins to tell us how Jesus became so popular so quickly.
While Jesus was teaching a man with an unclean spirit walked into the synagogue. We are not told what symptoms accompany this man’s diagnosis, psychosis, or spiritual possession. Indeed, attempting to explain away Jesus’ exorcisms or interpreting this story as a biblical affirmation of literal demon possession are generally unhelpful. What we know is a ritually unclean man is where he is not to be, and his presence is interrupting an astonishing scene – Jesus is teaching with more authority than the scribes; he is teaching like the prophets.
In Mark’s Gospel, healings are presented as a response to a pressing need, not as part of a program Jesus set out to follow. I suppose the author wishes his audience to see Jesus not merely as a miracle worker who happens to teach, but as the preeminent teacher whose powerful message is punctuated by mighty acts. With no petition, incantation, physical manipulation, or appeal to a deity, and ignoring any prejudicial custom toward the unclean, Jesus frees this man from that which is oppressing him.
Those attending synagogue went from astonishment to amazement. Jesus’ fame spread throughout Galilee. Whispers and rumors and eyewitness testimonies told of a certain one who has come to stop the nightmare, to heal the sick, free the oppressed, and to rescue people from the destructive forces enslaving them.
Might it be that this story, and all of Mark’s Gospel, does not seek to impart special knowledge meant to satisfy our pious curiosity about good and evil in the world; rather, might it be that what is presented is a way of faith and life that offers help and healing to those in need, myself included.
Therefore, with this week’s Journey with Mark I am left pondering two questions of equal value:
- Where in my life do I know oppressing spirits (for example: resentment, malice, envy, or greed)?
- How might I be participating with the oppressing spirits haunting others?