#18: First Impact

Mark 1:21–28

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

At thirty years of age Jesus comes out of the harbour of preparation, steers his boat onto the wide waters and hits Galilee like a landing craft hitting a D-Day beach. It begins in a small village synagogue in Capernaum and finishes with his fame sweeping out over the whole area.

A synagogue was rather like a small village church. Except, it was Jewish not Christian, and more of a gathering of local people than a building made out of local stones. The synagogue members probably met together in an outdoor area or perhaps in a rich member’s large house if they were lucky enough to have such a person. They met on the ‘Sabbath’, their restful, holy day. A sort of combination of our Saturday and Sunday.

The faithful met to study their religious writings, to say their prayers and to catch up on local gossip. Jesus had grown up in just such a ‘small village synagogue world’. He knew the ropes and the sorts of people who pulled them, he was confident and assured in this place. Here he makes his first impact. He begins as a new and astounding type of teacher and then moves on to become a ‘driving evil out’ type of saviour:

His teaching is truly authoritative,
His salvation is totally amazing.

Here begins the Kingdom struggle, the great epic clash between goodness and evil, Jesus and the devil, light and dark, life and death; it has started.

In a land alive with teachers, Jesus stands out. Every time he opens his mouth people know straight away that he is different. He carries a certain authentic truthfulness. He is fresh, relevant; he is one of them. He understands the ordinary people, their lives and their struggles. He understands the extraordinary God, His love and His salvation. In a word, he has ‘authority’.

I must have listened to hundreds of scribes or religious teachers over the years. Most of them have been ok to quite good. They all had an ability to open the book, read the book, understand and explain the book. Every now and again I have listened to a teacher who didn’t just open the book, he opened me, my life, my pain and hopes, my inner place. Great teachers have the ability to take a deep insight into the heart of God and plant it deeply in the human heart. Jesus was just this sort of teacher, ‘What is this? A new teaching – with authority?’

Jesus wasn’t just a teacher, he was a professor; not just another guru, but an absolute genius; not so much a life coach as a life transformer.

He talks, they listen, a single voice, an attentive silence, and a place of peaceful thought. Suddenly an almost satanic shrieking breaks the calm.

Now I have to confess that I am never quite sure what an ‘unclean spirit’ otherwise known as a demon actually is. Is it a sort of dark, underworld ‘fallen-angel’? Is it an illness? A psychological weakness or a deeply buried hurt or fear that somehow takes over or grips our inner heart? What I do know is that unclean spirits are always dark and destructive and are as prevalent and real today as they were in Jesus’ day. ‘Alien’ the movie comes pretty close to the truth, in its image of a hungry, devouring presence living inside a human ‘host’.

The unclean spirit is powerful, more powerful than the man he lives in, but not as powerful as Jesus. The spirit knows this. The spirit whom everyone fears is instantly fearful of Jesus, ‘Have you come to destroy us?’ When Jesus calls the darkness to come out there is a huge struggle. The spirit has got its hooks into the man, but Jesus’ voice has got its hooks into the spirit and he commands/drags it out of him.

Jesus the teacher becomes Jesus the ‘liberator’, the ‘driver-outer’. These twin themes of teacher and saviour have begun, soon they will be running like spring hares. ‘His fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee’.

Jesus the Teacher speaks to our brain, our intellect, our thinking. Jesus the Saviour reaches deep into our heart, our memories, our ‘inner-me’. Brain and heart; intellect and emotion; thinking and feeling. Never just brain or just emotions, but always the whole me.

So what is the big thing you want to learn about and what is the inner bit of darkness you want to be rid of?

Lord Jesus,
As you teach my mind
And excite my intellect,
May you also reach into my heart,
Cleanse my soul,
And set me free.