Gospel writer Mark begins Jesus’ public ministry on the Sabbath in the synagogue in Capernaum. We learn that those who had gathered that day found his teaching astounding, for they recognized that he had authority. A man said to have an unclean spirit entered the synagogue. He called out, asking Jesus what’s going on between them. Are you going to destroy me? Most tellingly, he also recognized Jesus’ authority, shouting, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (verse 24)
Jesus rebukes the unclean spirits, and they come out of the man, throwing him into convulsions as they leave. This passage challenges our 21st Century understanding of mental health, seizure disorder and medical care. On the other hand, our thinking is not advanced at all, for we still speak casually of someone acting strangely as being possessed.
Our modern questions did not occur to those in the synagogue that day. They saw Jesus’ authority as extending even over unclean spirits. This is a story of liberation, a man set free from a horrid life. And so Jesus’ fame spread throughout Galilee.
Dear Jesus, set me free from that which oppresses me from within. Amen. — JRG