Introduction to this study
Last week we talked about the good news (culture, kingdom, reign) of God and contrasted it with the more secular, worldly “profane” culture that surrounds us. With Jesus, we encountered fishers Simon-Peter and Andrew, along with the brothers Zebedee James and John with their boats by the seaside in their typical occupational context. We discussed leading and following. Moving right along in Mark 1, this week we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath.
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and 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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 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.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
“...he taught them as one having authority...”
Following and leading:
1. When we decide to follow someone, what gives that leader authority?
2. All of us agree on Jesus’ ultimate authority, but what traits would make us willing to follow someone else?
3. When we have little choice (at work, for example) but for practical or sometimes moral reasons would rather not follow someone, what options do we have?
So far in Mark’s gospel we’ve heard John the Baptist’s announcement of Jesus who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We’ve seen the manifestation of God’s Holy Spirit over the baptismal water; then the action of the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out from the riverside into the wilderness. The Greek text uses the same word “spirit” for both the Spirit of God and the unclean spirit possessing this guy.
4. Why did this man with an unclean spirit come into the synagogue?
5. What do you think was going on “just then” with him?
6. Say something about ritually clean and unclean in Jesus’ day.
7. Ideas about the unclean spirit that possessed him?
8. “What have you to do with us? I know who you are?” How did he recognize Jesus?
9. How do we recognize Jesus?
Spaces and Spirits: Holy/Clean – Unholy / Unclean
As Christians we think and talk a lot of sacred/secular holy/profane. We know God in Jesus Christ has brought heaven to earth. You probably can reference several passages of scripture that support that concept right away.
Including – Excluding – Hospitality – Boundaries
Life can be complicated. We know God welcomes everyone, excludes no one. In many ways we consider our homes, offices, and neighborhoods holy places we want to protect from misuse and from unwelcome entry by strangers and other outsiders. Most of us also do whatever we can do protect and restore the integrity of our natural environment, the wholeness of all creation. We do not want our spaces violated or desecrated. We know God’s extravagant hospitality excludes no one! God has created us in his image, and baptized us into new life in Jesus Christ, yet we also know we need to use common sense to protect our safety, the safety of our children, neighbors, and communities.
10. What criteria do you use for welcoming someone into your home?
11. What criteria do you use for inviting them to join you for a meal at a restaurant?
12. Do we consider people clean enough or possibly too unclean to join us?
13. How about Thursday evening family dinners?
14. How about worship in the church sanctuary? We commonly call our worship spaces sanctuaries = holy places. If you are an usher or greeter, would you dare prevent a newcomer from entering the sanctuary to join us at worship?
Possessions – Being Possessed
Our society is possessed—violence. sex. money. drugs. work. consumerism. debt. gambling (state lottery, powerball, anyone?). stuff. pornography. what else?
15. What does scripture tell us about material possessions?
16. Material goods (and bads) sometimes possess us. Less tangible, quantifiable goods (and bads) sometimes posses us, too. How about work? Careers? Even families? Are these all goods? Sometimes bads? Sometimes equivocal?
According to Scripture: commanding the spirits – a new teaching
The assembly in the synagogue (gathering place) has just witnessed Jesus’s words driving out the unclean spirit; despite the text telling us they were amazed, their asking if this is a new teaching seems tame, although they add “with authority.” The word here is authority rather than power. Difference in connotation? God gives all of us, baptized into Christ, authority over unclean spirits. A new teaching? From Jesus? To us? Now what?
Final thoughts: What insights have you gained in this study?