January 31, 2021
Today’s Gospel passage (Mark 1:21-28) outlines in Mark’s characteristic short and concise style the first steps of Jesus’ ministry with his first disciples.
The first element to note is that, from the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus does not move alone. He is always accompanied by the disciples (they came to Capharnaum), who in this case are four disciples, whose call we heard last Sunday, who are the first witnesses.
Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee, in the different synagogues (today in the one of Capharnaum), centers where the people gathered, places where the people came together to pray, to proclaim the Word of God, but also to meet. Jesus presents himself where the population lives, in the ordinary contexts of life, contrary to the Scribes and Pharisees that circulate in their elite circles and did not mix, usually with the simple population.
Jesus begins to teach (22,27), and he does it with an authority that generates amazement (22) mixed with fear (27), unlike the Scribes. Those present perceive in him authority different from that of the Scribes and new teaching: “What is this? A new teaching, given with authority” (Mk 1:27). The bystanders are therefore astonished by the authority of Jesus.
What is the meaning of this authority, from where does it come? When is a person’s teaching authoritative?
When it does not limit itself to teaching the law or interpreting it, Jesus does not speak of something other than himself but speaks of what belongs to him because it is in Jesus that the Kingdom is fulfilled.
There is a difference when you talk about what you have heard spoken, what you have learned, or when you talk about yourself, what you care about, what is part of your life.
The very inhabitants of Capharnaum report the other reason for this authority: “He commands even the impure spirits and they obey him?” (Mk 1:27).
The teaching of Jesus is authoritative because it is liberating teaching. Often, in the Gospel, Jesus will accuse the Scribes and Pharisees because their teachings are oppressive and place heavy burdens on the people’s shoulders. Not so his, which rather liberates, promotes, restores dignity, brings back to the origin.
His teaching is new. Not only because he says new things, but because he transforms life, he makes it new.
He does not increase the knowledge of his listeners with other knowledge, but he brings about conversion.
This teaching, however, is ruinous for someone (Mk 1:24). It is disastrous for those who oppress persons, degrade him, like the impure spirit that took possession of the man in the synagogue. It is also a disaster for those who refuse to enter the dynamic of change, a transformation that Jesus promotes. It is a disaster for those who see their authority, their power threatened.
The impure spirit that cries against Jesus does not say anything wrong, unorthodox, but rather correctly proclaims Jesus’ identity, that He is truly the “holy one of God” (1:24).
In the impure spirit’s profession of faith, there is missing the precise faith, the humility to welcome Him as the holy one of God. He has felt Jesus as an obstacle, a stumbling block to his power over man, and he does not want to have anything to do with Him (Mk 1:24). But above all, the cross is missing. That profession of faith will be “true” only when his truth will be worshiped under the cross, as the centurion will do on seeing Jesus die like this: “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mk 15:39).
In this short Gospel passage, we already find all the themes that will return in different ways throughout the Gospel and constitute the nucleus of the Church’s mission. Jesus, together with his disciples, meets people where he finds them, He goes to them. He teaches with the authority of one who knows he is the consecrated one of God and whose teaching changes the life of those who welcome it because it is a teaching that heals and liberates. His teachings and gestures generate amazement and fear but also rejection and opposition. The Demon will try to hinder the coming of the Kingdom until the time when Jesus will be hanged on the cross, challenging and mocking for the last time the validity of His authority. Be we know that Jesus, on the cross, completed the work of healing that began that day in the synagogue.