Rev. Petie McLean
February 1, 2015
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he 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.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! Hea]">[a] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
I remember Sister Erma very well;
she was one of the first people who taught me something about authority. It was grade school, I was small and easily
intimidated. She was tall, thin ,
covered in long black robes, and she was powerful. She had the Authority of the school, the authority of the church,and a personal authority that
She commanded a room, her word was the last word, and quite frankly I was afraid of
Her authority was perceived,
personal, given by others, and taken seriously by herself. I believed what she said when she said
it. I knew she believed what she said
and that she had the power to put into action any of her words. She was, if nothing else, a consistent woman.
It was interesting when this woman
of authority met my mother, who had equal authority—perhaps coming from a
different source and used in a very different manner.
I was the one in trouble, Sister
had authority in my school life and mother had authority over my life. My
mother perceived Sister Erma’s authority to be less than appropriate and Momma
took on one of the most powerful women I had known to that point in my
life. My mother's authority came from a
total trust of her daughter and a belief that regardless of what that daughter
was accused, she would champion her. In
retrospect, I learned a great deal about authority the day those two
Authority can be a funny
thing. Sometimes a job implies a kind
of authority, the office holds power.
Sometimes a particular person seems
to be an authority, they know a great deal.
The most powerful kind of authority
comes from someone whose message, job and knowledge are strong , powerful ,
positive, and lead to healing. This kind
of authority matches words with action.
And brings about change.
I hope you
all know people who emit the kind
of authority that is powerful and real and not just the result of a title given
because of a job. When we see it we know it, it is real,
and it can help us to learn a new thing and think a new way, change who
we are, even heal us. Most of us are searching for that kind of authority for
Perhaps that is exactly the way the
people who came to synagogue on the day
that Jesus came to town felt. He did not
teach the way they were used to being taught.
They were used to the scribes whose whole job it was to read the Law, the Torah, and interpret
it. They gave the rules for every part
of life for every detail, for all the minutia.
Folks who came to synagogue that day didn't expect anymore then one more
teaching about the rules.
Then, then on this day there appears
this man whose teaching is shown by his actions. What he says, is what he does.
He has authority, not
imposed, not assumed, but a complete
depth of the soul, consistant kind of authority.
His authority came from God who
said this is my Son.
His authority came from a Struggle
in the wilderness - he chose what he would do and how he would
do it…..and he committed himself to that.
His authority came from the people
he was beginning to gather around him.
His authority came because he was
what he said - his actions were the same as his words...
His authority was so real and so
believable; that even those who came filled with all that was evil knew him and
knew that this teacher could make a difference.
Did you notice in the scripture
read this morning that Mark tells us that Jesus taught but, he never tells us
what he taught. He did not recount the
sermon or the teaching. He does not give
us a list of things we are to do or not do.
Mark does, however, recount for us the action
based upon the sermon - Mark tells us that when Jesus was finished a man with
an unclean spirit speaks -
I know who you are. You are the Son
of God. What do you want with us?
Whatever Jesus taught, his
authority was so evident, it caused evil to stand up and take notice. While the people around him were not sure who
he was, all that was evil knew exactly who he was, he was the one who would and could
drive out that which made life broken.
Jesus had the authority and the willingness
and ability to use it;
he had the authority and the right
to use it.
He had the authority and he would
That fact was so clear that even
evil knew it.
What we learn about Jesus today is
that he had come to do battle with whatever seeks to do evil to humankind. He calls for that evil to leave.
We may however, discount this story
because it involves demon possession , and truthfully seemed a bit far fetched. We know the ancient world put everything they
did not understand into the realm of demon possession ---- illness, both
mental and physical, unusual behavior, anything that was not understood was
labeled demon possession.
We live in a different time – we understand mental illness, physical
illness, and plain old strange behaviors as having a source , a source that can
often be treated. We give the authority
for that treatment to doctors, professionals, sometimes even ministers.
The truth of the matter is we all
search at one time or another for one who will have the authority to heal
us….to drive out our personal demons and the demons which haunt our world.
Fear, doubt, resentment, anger,
greed, hatred, food, alcohol, drugs, over crowded schedules, confusion, prejudice,
sadness, poverty, hunger, indecision,
blindness, conceit, intolerance, terrorism, unkindness, and impatience --- have
I meddled enough?
There is not one of us if we are
honest, that can say we are not without
an evil of some kind. We know who that
man in the synagogue was that day - it is ourselves, it is our world.
Does this authority still hold
power, can this authority of Jesus , this good news heal us?
The scripture says that as the evil left the man, there was great
convulsing and falling to the ground.
Naming and claiming an evil in our
lives or in the world has a cost, it is not easy, and even when handled by one
who is holy, it can still hurt. Most of
the time, we are just not willing to go through the hurt and the pain of
letting go of our evil. It may be easier
to ignore the authority of one who calls us into a new life.
There is a cartoon of a lady
sitting on a table in the doctor's office.
She is tired, pale, drawn, and obviously sick. She is talking to the doctor.
"What can I do to feel better
without giving up the things that are making me feel bad?"
We want our demons to be gone, we
want the demons and evil of the world to be gone, but most of the time we are
not willing to go through the pain of letting it go.
Jesus comes to us as one with
authority, enough authority to confront our demons, enough authority for our
demons to confront him. Jesus comes to
us and has the power to both help us recognize and then go through the pain and
process of letting go and starting again.
Jesus is the victor, he confronts evil and sends it packing. Our
authority comes if we really believe that.
But Jesus is not the only
victor. The true winner in this story is the man
whose life is opened up to new possibilities and new promises. This one who came to synagogue that day goes
home with his life. To follow Jesus is
to recognize his authority and to allow it to have its way in our lives, to
believe the promise that he is stronger than any evil that enters our life or
our world. When we believe that, then
we too will share in that authority.
Our lives will take on a new consistency, a consistency of word and deed……and that consistent life will bring wholeness to another, and another,
We too are given authority by a God
who says to us ….You are my child.
We too are given authority by a
struggle with the word that helps us to claim our witness and make it more than
a Sunday experience, rather making it a life journey.
We too, are healed by Jesus
authority and we take on his work as ours.
And when we do, the world is able
to see the authority of the one who sends us forth.