Here we are again, continuing our reading of the Gospel of Mark. Shall we continue?
In verse 21, it talks about how Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. Interesting note, while most of you probably know that synagogues were kind of like Jewish churches, the truth is it was more like a men’s bible study. A town could only establish a synagogue if it had at least ten men, and only men could attend.
It was the established pattern to read a scripture from the Law, then a scripture from the prophets, and then one of the men would be asked to speak on the texts. It is most likely that Jesus volunteered for this last part. Where he talked about his interpretation of the scriptures given. It doesn’t seem likely that he discussed who he was, or what he was there for, because the reactions weren’t “kill him!” but rather, “wow, he’s talking with real authority!”
Now, speaking of authority, this probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. So, most often the man asked to speak on a given passage would do so after citing a list of authorities, rabbis specifically, from which they were getting their opinion. Academia still follows this tradition very closely. I can’t write a single sentence in my dissertation that states anything without a reference to the authority from which I am drawing. So, when the people in the synagogue say he is speaking like one who has authority, this means that he is teaching them but not citing any references, simply speaking as if what he has to say is original from his own mind. The idea of doing that was unheard of! Who does this guy think he is!?
Now, for the awkward transition. I feel it seems pretty obvious that Mark is piecing together different events to make his point about Jesus’ authority because it’s like this demon possessed guy just popped into existence because I can tell you that there is NO WAY that the synagogue would have allowed a demon possessed man into their worship space, assuming they had known.
Another very interesting note here is what the demon cries out. “Leave us alone!” Literally, “What to us and to you?” This idiom is Semitic in origin, although the greeks did adopt it as one of their own expressions. It was typically used in two situations when one person was being bothered unjustly by another. Or, if someone was sticking their nose in someone else’s business that they had no right to. There will be other times where this phrase is used, given with more explanation as to why it fits, but I suppose I will dive deeper into why the demon might feel justified in feeling this way when we get there.
The Holy One of God here does not seem to indicate that Jesus is the same as God, but rather the chosen one, messiah, bearer of God’s Spirit. Note this is the first instance we have come across to suggest this separation because it is by far not the last. As we get deeper into the gospels, I will keep tabs on evidence once way or the other, and when it seems appropriate we can see what the gospels say about Jesus’ divinity.
The only other thing I want to mention about this series of stories is that either the demon doesn’t listen very well, or Jesus’ command wasn’t quite as literal as we thought because despite the first command being “silence!” the demon cried out with a loud voice. For Mark, this commandment of an unclean spirit/demon is further proof that Jesus wields a unique level of authority over spiritual matters.
Let’s recap. Jesus doesn’t reference traditional authorities when interpreting scripture. Jesus can command unclean spirits and heal people without the standard exorcist’s magical incantations or the invoking of anyone’s name. Yes, you heard me right, the banishment of evil spirits from people was not unique to Jesus, the ancient Hebrews had people who performed this action, but they did so through ritual and the authority of others. I assume the Lord’s authority, but my research doesn’t say what name they used, only that they used specific naming of authorities.
What does this story tell us? Jesus is unique in the authority that he wields, but not necessarily the power that he wields. Thus far, he hasn’t performed any action that the Hebrew culture of that time didn’t also perform via other means.
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts, and choose to tune in for next time when we go to Simon’s house!
Grace and Peace to you all.