In the Gospel for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark (1:21-28) writes about the time when Jesus visited Capernaum. He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began teaching. The crowds were astonished. Why? One word: Authority. Jesus taught differently than the scribes taught and people listened! What was it about Jesus that was so convincing? What made him stand out above all the other teachers and why were people so drawn to him?

A New Style of Teaching

Jesus’ teaching was new and he brought his message to the here and now. He didn't say, “Moses taught this” or “the prophet Isaiah reminds us” or “Rabbi so-and-so said”. Jesus stood up in the synagogue and he said, "I say to you…." The other Rabbis told the people to offer a sacrifice at the temple for the forgiveness of sins but Jesus said directly to people: “Your sins are forgiven!” Jesus was something new. He was the authority: “I am the door; I am the vine; I am the gate; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the light of the world.” God was no longer in the past. God was in the present and found in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

A New Way of Understanding

Mark tells us about a man who was in their synagogue. He is identified as having an unclean spirit and it had authority over him and his actions, to the point of him being possessed by it. This man who cries out to Jesus, "What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth, have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the holy one of God!” Jesus does an astonishing thing, he addresses the spirit who has taken over the man, not the man himself. He demands that the spirit leave, not the man. Jesus is able to recognise the evil itself and separate it from the person.

A New Way of Living

Jesus recognises the goodness in everyone and tries to free them from the source of whatever it is that blocks that goodness. He tries to bring us to a place where WE can recognise that there are forces and situations in our lives that get a hold of us and block us from being the man or woman we are meant to be. As we journey toward Lent, let us use this time to address our own unclean spirits. Jesus came into this world to give us power over evil. It is a new kind of teaching and a new kind of authority. It's astonishing.