In the Gospel today (from Mk 1: 18-25) we read that Jesus spoke with authority (v. 22, 27). What that sentence may mean is as follows: Other preachers quoted authorities like the renowned teaching rabbis of the day. Other preachers quote or quoted scriptures. Jesus, however, spoke without quotation, that he spoke — convincingly — as if he was and as if he had divine authority all by himself. It was a reminder of the kind of authority that there was in Moses. Of Moses we read that he promised that God was going to send “a prophet like me” (Deut 18:15-20). That promised great prophet is whom we recognize in Jesus Christ.
During this year our main Sunday gospel reading series will be through the Gospel of Mark. One way of understanding the picture that Mark presents of Jesus is to compare Mark’s picture of Jesus to one or more of the other Gospels.
Take the Gospel of Luke. Luke says that Jesus grew up in the favor of God and the community (Lk 2:52). Then again, Luke (alone, in the book of Acts) describes Jesus as our “leader”. No other writer in the New Testament uses that word “leader” for Jesus. The whole book of Acts is a kind of replication of the time of Jesus on earth. For Luke, then, Jesus is more along the lines of a person who is an example. As Luke sees it, we are meant to replicate and to pattern our lives on the life of Jesus, and Luke thinks it is possible for us to do so.
The Gospel of Mark is different from that of Luke. For Mark, as we can see in our gospel reading today, Jesus is the power of God or the finger of God. Jesus is called “the Holy one of God” — by the demons, who listen to him, as he drives them out (Mk 1:24). So clearly Jesus is quite different from any other person. We cannot hope to replicate or emulate Jesus. We can only hope to follow him. When we do follow him, Jesus said that (of his divine power) he will transform us and make something out of us (Mk 1:17).
Think of Jesus as the living presence of the power of God. That power of God is a wonderful, overwhelming and mysterious power. This week I have been reading Richard Panek’s book, The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality (Mariner Books 2011). According to Nobel prize winning physicists and astronomers, everything we can see in the visible universe, the billions of stars, galaxies and everything else, is only 4% of the total matter and energy in the universe. There is 96% of the energy and matter in the universe that we cannot see at all. Read that again, and absorb it — 96% is invisible! That vast body of invisible matter and energy is the reason why the universe is not only expanding, but accelerating in its rate of expansion. Now that idea of immense power and material that we cannot see or understand — isn’t that just the way that we speak or think about God?
We understand all the power of God that there is as being present in the person of Jesus Christ. In the Epistle to the Colossians we read that Christ is the very image and physical expression of the fullness of God (Col 1:15-20). No wonder then that Mark describes in his gospel Jesus Christ as driving out evil (or demons), as healing people, and as announcing the presence of God’s reign (Mk 1:15).
At a more personal level, we have Joyce Meyer and her book Secrets to Exceptional Living: Transforming Your Life Through the Fruit of the Spirit (Harrison House 2002). This book describes how the power of God the Holy Spirit can transform particular situations as nearby as our relationships in the supermarket (p. 15), leaving or continuing in a job (p. 83), waiting for the doctor (p. 118), at work, or at home.
So in Jesus there is that immense authority and power of God. The real question for you and for me is this: We so often deal with our lives as if we are alone. Will we open our hearts today and tomorrow and each day to the power of God? Open our hearts to receive God’s power to release us from evil, to forgive us and our enemy; to forgive all of us — children, women and men — for what we have done wrong to each other and God. To drive out our demons and to receive the power of the healing of God through Jesus Christ. To receive his power to transform us and make something of us — that something for which God created us.