Mark 1:1-28 – Hear the gospel of Jesus’ baptism and beginning ministry.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Holy Human One of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make the Lord’s paths straight”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to John,
and were baptized by John in the river Jordan, confessing their sin.Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
‘After me comes one who is more powerful than I;
the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
I have baptized you with water;
but this one will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness.
He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan;
and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
Now after John was arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,
‘The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God has come near;
repent, and believe in the good news.
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen.
And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’
And immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus.
As Jesus went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
Immediately Jesus called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed Jesus.
The Man with an Unclean Spirit
They went to Capernaum;
and when the Sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
They were astounded at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, who cried out,
‘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.’
But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’
And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another,
‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority!
He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’
At once Jesus’ fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
The gospel of the beginning of Jesus ministry according to Mark.
What have you to do with us, Jesus?
What have you to do with us, Jesus? That was the question. That is the question. Let’s step back a bit from our question to see what leads up to the question.
It is a trademark of Mark to tell Jesus’ story with graphic words and rapid action. I told the gospel from the beginning so we hear how much happens and how quickly to launch Jesus’ ministry.
There is John the Baptist’s story – brief, bold, baptizing.
Jesus comes on the scene, is baptized by John, named beloved, and tempted. Jesus wastes no time beginning ministry and being controversial.
Then in one phrase both the context and the conflict of Jesus’ ministry is identified.
“Now after John was arrested…”
John is arrested by Herod — seen as a threat and beheaded, as told a little later in the gospel.
People in authority do not tolerate people they perceive as threats to their authority.
As the gospel begins authorities begin to turn against John and Jesus.
Jesus went to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God’s reign beginning here and now.
Jesus begins ministry with his vision and purpose: inaugurating God’s reign.
This is good news!
But good news of God’s reign is not good news for many with authority.
Already we see a contrast and conflict emerging between other authorities and Jesus’ authority.
It isn’t that Jesus approaches the authorities first.
Jesus begins with the simple folk and the synagogue.
Jesus calls simple folk – fisherfolk – to be his first disciples.
And Jesus goes to the Capernaum Synagogue by the Sea of Galilee.
Here in this synagogue encounter Jesus truly begins ministry.
Beginning ministry in the synagogue is revealing.
The synagogue is the place of teaching and scribes are the teachers.
Why wouldn’t Jesus begin teaching on the synagogue?
It is revealing that Jesus’ authority is immediately contrasted with the authorities.
Later we find out how disturbing that is to them.
But here in Jesus’ act of ministry in the synagogue is another beginning revelation.
Here and consistently in the gospel, Jesus does not experience God in the synagogue.
Jesus encounters “unclean spirits” synagogue. (Wes Howard-Brook, Come Out, My People, 401).
In our day that’s like acknowledging that Jesus does not experience God in the church.
Jesus experiences misguided teaching and false authority in the church.
It is the false authority of collaboration with empire and keeping rules that Jesus silences.
It is this authentic authority from God Jesus that embodies and begins ministry.
The rest of Jesus’ ministry lives out this authentic authority in contrast with other authorities.
Let’s take a further look at this significant synagogue scene that begins Jesus’ ministry.
In the synagogue there are two actions, two reactions, and two questions related to two words.
The two words are authority and unclean spirit.
Ok, we’re counting unclean spirit as one word.
In other places in the gospel the unclean spirit are identified as a demon.
The two actions are by Jesus.
Jesus taught the people and commanded the unclean spirit to leave.
Jesus’ teaching and commanding are far more than just nice words.
They are words that call for response which we accept or reject.
The two reactions are from the people and the unclean spirit.
The first reaction comes from those who hear Jesus’ teaching and are astounded.
Clearly this is not the teaching they are used to hearing in the synagogue.
Clearly this is not the teaching by the scribes who are their synagogue teachers.
The second reaction is from the unclean spirit who sees and challenges Jesus.
In the gospel it is often the outsider who sees Jesus and the insider who is blind.
Here it is the unclean spirit who asks our key question of Jesus.
‘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.’
The answers are: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes, Jesus has everything to do with us.
Yes, Jesus has come to show us The Way, which reveals and destroys false ways of authority.
Yes, Jesus is the Holy Human One of God who makes it possible to see false and true authority.
These are questions of authority at the heart of this synagogue encounter
The question of authority is at the heart of Mark’s gospel.
What is Authority and why does it matter?
Authority has many and varied meanings and exercises.
Authority is closely associated with power although they are not exactly the same.
Jesus Christ is God’s new disclosure of divine authority.
Jesus’ authority turns usual means of authority as exercise of power over upside down.
It is part of the upside down reign of God that Jesus inaugurates.
Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus says, “It has been said…” and adds, “But I say…”
Jesus authority extends the great commandment of loving God, self and neighbor to the enemy.
One of the great discerning tasks of the church is discerning authority.
Remember to discern is distinguish God’s voice from all the other voices clamoring to be heard.
Mennonites have not always grappled well with authority.
In recent years new efforts have been made by Mennonites to grapple with authority.
Marlin Miller wrote, “The recasting of authority, from the right to rule to the freedom to serve in a community of mutual subordination, is a biblical model which goes beyond both the restoration of hierarchical structures, on the one hand, and egalitarian individualism on the other.”*
The question of authority underlies who we are as a church and our restructuring process.
Authority has been raised frequently in the past year in navigating our restructuring effort.
We have responsibilities in the church yet are not sure we have authority to fulfill them.
We may not be sure who has authority to carry out a given ministry or decision of the church.
We may distrust authority or those with authority.
We may not exercise authority well.
We may not want authority.
We may not recognize authority, our own or others.
We may not acknowledge Jesus’ authority as the source of our authority.
Authentic authority may be marked by three e’s – earned, entrusted, energized:
Authority is earned by fulfilling responsibilities with faithfulness, integrity, and humility.
Authority is entrusted by those being served toward those serving.
Authority is energized by Jesus and empowered by the Spirit.
What have you to do with us, Jesus? Everything!
Our authority and identity is in you Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!
——————- Recent Mennonite Resources on “Authority” ——————
*Marlin E. Miller, “The Recasting of Authority,” in Theology for the Church – Writings by Marline E. Miller, edited by Richard A. Kauffman and Gayle Gerber Koontz, Institute of Mennonite Studies 1997 (109-116)
J. Nelson Kraybill, “Power and Authority,” in The Heart of the Matter: Pastoral Ministry in Anabaptist Perspective, edited by Erick Sawatzky, Cascadia Publishing House, 2004 (213-227)
Benjamin W. Redekop and Calvin W. Redekop, editors, Power, Authority, and the Anabaptist Tradition. Johns Hopkins University Press 2001 (reviewed by Keith Harder, Vision, Fall 2004, Vol. 5, No. 2. 88-91)
Rebecca Slough, “Power, Authority, and Worship Leadership,” Vision issue on “Power and Leadership,” Fall 2004, Vol. 5, No. 2 (49-54)