In this passage we are introduced to Mark’s take on the questions all four of the gospels ask us to consider: who is Jesus?, what does knowing who this Jesus is mean for us?, and how are we going to live in light of this knowledge?
In the beginning of Mark’s gospel, Mark clearly tells us, the readers, that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is also the Christ, the Messiah (Mark 1:1), the one foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) and echoed through all the other prophets. The people of Jesus’ day were watching for this Prophet like Moses. Throughout this gospel we are invited to not only journey along with Jesus, but to examine who knows what about Jesus, from what sources do they find out about Jesus, and how do they respond. This careful writing on Mark’s part invites us to ask ourselves these same questions.
The Jewish people who were in the Capernaum synagogue on that Sabbath had a pretty exciting day. Moses had told them that God would raise up a prophet like himself to lead the people. How one responds to this prophet, “the Prophet,” would determine one’s ongoing relationship with God and the people of God. Moses had given the law. All prophets since Moses had explained what Moses had taught. Matthew’s gospel gives us examples of how Jesus taught – and he taught as one who knew God’s mind personally (Matthew 5-7). By being with Jesus and especially by hearing Jesus teach, the people were amazed. This Jesus is very different from any of their teachers before. What do we, as church, know about Jesus from our experiences of being in his presence?
In the Bible, what is referred to as “demons” or “unclean spirits” might be confusing to us in the modern world. In this passage, the “unclean spirit” is a spiritual being that attached itself to this man and either influenced or controlled him. In Mark’s gospel, the unclean spirits know who Jesus is in a way that the people don’t. They have insider information. When they reveal who Jesus is, Jesus first silences them and then he frees the person from their influence. The source of information is important. Unclean spirits are not reliable sources, so even when they speak the truth, unclean spirits are not to be trusted. What sources do we, as church, use to find out about Jesus and how should we prioritize these sources?
In this reading, everyone responded to Jesus. The unclean spirit shuddered and obeyed Jesus. The people were all amazed. They talked about what happened as they sought to understand. They also started talking to people who hadn’t been at that synagogue so that information about Jesus spread throughout the region. Based upon our experience with Jesus and what we have gleaned from other sources, what are we, as church, called to do with the information we have about Jesus?