Friday of Epiphany IV – Mark 1:21-28

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “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 out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

I have written and spoken of this event before in a different context, but it applies here too. One morning I found myself outside an urgent care clinic with a massive patch over one eye. I had badly scratched it the day before and the doctor who treated me said I needed come back to be examined by the doctor the next day when I took the patch off. It was Sunday morning and I really wanted this patch off my face before church started. As a result, I was second in line at the door of the urgent care at opening time. The man in front of me turned around and said, “What are you here for?”

“I need to see the doctor when I take this patch off,” I replied.

“Take it off,” he said.

“No,” I objected. “I need to see the doctor so he can look at it.”

“I am the doctor!” he asserted. “I forgot my key and am waiting the nurse to get here with it.”

I peeled off the patch and on the sidewalk in front of the urgent care he looked at my eye. He grumpily said, “You’re fine, go home.”

That conversation really revolved around authority and my recognition of it or failure to recognize it. I needed someone with medical authority to tell me that my eye had healed properly and was not going to get worse. But I was not expecting that authority to show up in front of the door. I thought it would come into an examination room inside the building. As I read this passage, I find it interesting that people are more surprised by Jesus’ authority than they are by a demoniac in the congregation. Was that normal? Is there one in your church? Would you be surprised to discover that? Should you be? The demon acknowledged the authority of Jesus, both in word and by his obedience. That surprised them.

Every Sunday your pastor speaks words of authoritative forgiveness to you. You may have heard them more than a thousand times. “As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I forgive your sins…” The people of Jesus day were astounded by his authority. Should we be any less astounded today? Is our blasé response to that authority a consequence of our dismissal of sin and its devastating effect upon us?

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