Mark 1:21-34

Readings for this week February 18 – 22
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Day 1 – On His Own Authority

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 1:21-22

The Temple in Jerusalem was the central place of worship for the people of Israel. Originally built as a magnificent place where God could “make his home” and “dwell” in the midst of his people, it was expected that people from all over the land would at least try to make their way to the Temple at various times in their lives (festivals, infant dedications, etc.) in order to offer sacrifices and worship there. But as Jerusalem was too far away for many Jews to worship there with any regularity, many towns had synagogues where people could worship, and that also served as schools. Usually, the synagogue had no set teacher, no permanent rabbi (the way most churches have a permanent pastor or priest) that regularly spoke and taught to the gathered congregants. The custom was for the leader of the synagogue to ask visiting teachers to speak. That is why the gospels contain several instances of Jesus speaking in the synagogues of the towns he visited.

It was also customary for Jewish speakers to quote from well-known rabbis and teachers of the past, bolstering their sermon with examples and sayings and arguments from these famous teachers, using the words of others to give their words more authority. The crowd seems to be marvelling at Jesus because he is not doing this; they are amazed as he appears to carry his own authority within himself and does not rely on the authority of others to strengthen his arguments.

Questions to Consider
What do we mean when we say Jesus spoke by his own authority? What does this mean about what he might say to us?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the one who knows all and sees all. Help me remember to seek you first as the fount of all love and all knowledge. Everything is yours, myself included. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Getting Straight Down to Work

 Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 1:23-26

Mark’s gospel is short and to the point. Even though the very opening of the gospel focused on John and his preparatory message of the coming of God’s chosen one, once Jesus appears on the scene, he gets down to work very quickly. He preaches the good news, he calls some disciples to accompany him, he heals people and, in perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of his power and authority, he drives out demons from people afflicted by possession – a spectacular sign, yes, but also perhaps the surest sign of God’s newly dawning order, of the new way that the world is going to be run, the new kingdom that is at hand.

It is interesting (and somewhat ironic) that it is often the demonic forces that Jesus encounters that proclaim him unequivocally to be the Holy One of God, God’s anointed one, the Son of God. They do not prevaricate; while they might struggle and squirm and call on Jesus to leave them alone, they do not fail to openly (and quickly) acknowledge who he is. As soon as he turns up, before any sign of his power over them is exhibited, they have called him by name. It’s the human beings Jesus encounters that seem slow to acknowledge who he is, even after they have heard the power and authority with which he speaks, and even when he has shown miraculous signs of his power over the elements, over people’s broken bodies, and over the malevolent forces at work in the world.

 Questions to Consider
Why do you think the demons recognise Jesus so clearly? Why do we often fail to do so?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me to recognise you in the people and places of this world. Help me see your presence and know when and where you are at work so that I can join in the work of your kingdom. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – His Authority – and Ours

 Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 1:27-28

There were two parts to the crowd’s astonishment at what Jesus was doing. One part was the fact that the unclean spirits did what he commanded them to do. Jesus had power over the demonic powers that manifested themselves in the lives of the people he was delivering and healing. The second part of their fascination was with the authority with which he taught and with which he performed these miracles. They had not encountered such authority before, in any of the rabbis, teachers or scribes they had heard. To be considered an authority is to be an expert, to be someone who is especially knowledgeable about a certain topic. To have authority is to be invested with the ability to give orders and make decisions, and have those orders be followed and effective. Jesus qualified on both counts. As his followers, we are called to speak with power, with his authority, and in his name.

When the church learns again how to speak and act with the same authority, we will find both the saving power of God unleashed once more and a similar heightened opposition from the forces of darkness. Similar, but not the same. The demons knew Jesus, and knew he had come to defeat them once and for all. They can still shriek, but since Calvary they no longer have authority. To believe this is the key to Christian testimony and saving action in the world that, despite its frequent panic and despair, has already been claimed by the loving authority of God in Jesus.

N.T. Wright, Mark for Everyone, pp.12-13. 

Question to Consider
How we speak with authority without letting it turn into arrogance?

Prayer
Almighty Father, keep me humble so that when you speak to others through my words and actions, they hear and see you, not me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Giving Gratitude

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 1:29-31

Although this tiny section is only three verses long, it is actually an event that is described in all three synoptic gospels, and though each writer presents the same basic story, each also gives it a little twist by offering a particular detail unique to their telling. In Matthew, Jesus merely touches Simon’s mother-in-law’s hand; here in Mark, he actually helps her up. In Luke, he verbally rebukes the fever and it leaves. These are not contradictions that undermine the veracity of the encounter; they are details chosen to emphasise something of the character of Jesus in each case. Mark seems to want to emphasise the compassion of Jesus, not just in the healing, but in the care and gentleness with which Jesus helps her to her feet afterwards.

The episode itself is not a story about submission and subservience, but about thanks and gratitude. So grateful was Simon’s mother-in-law that her immediate response upon being healed was to get up and wait upon Jesus and his disciples. Though we may think that it was “only” a fever, Simon’s mother-in-law saw things differently. Jesus had helped her and restored her to health; her immediate thought was: “How can I show this man my gratitude? How can I offer him thanks for what he has done?” Jesus has done – and continues to do – so much for us. We need to make sure that we show him how genuinely grateful we are.

Questions to Consider
What stops you being grateful? What are the things that blind you to how good God is? How do we make sure we recapture the reality of gratitude and offer it to God?

Prayer
Loving Father, forgive me when I am ungrateful and lost in my petty jealousies and blinded by entitlement. Remind me of your love and let me see all you have done for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Why Keep Quiet?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 1:32-34

Jesus had shown the people who he was and why he had come. He had taught with unprecedented authority. He had driven out evil spirits, showing that he had power and authority over the powers of darkness. He had healed a woman, displaying his mastery of healing. People were starting to talk about him and his fame was beginning to spread throughout the countryside. The man who had proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God and who had called people to repent and turn back to God was certainly getting his message out there, both in words and signs and deeds. So why does he command the demons he has just evicted to stay silent? Why, later on in the gospel (verse 44 of the current chapter being the first instance) does he also tell people to keep silent about him?

Firstly, in the case of the demons, Jesus probably wanted people to believe he was the Messiah because of his words and actions, not because of the testimony of some recently exorcised demonic powers. People should be paying attention to his words, not theirs. Secondly, telling the demons to shut up was a further example of his authority over them. Jesus was in charge, wherever they went, whatever they tried to do. Thirdly, and this applies to his injunction to people to remain silent too, he had only just embarked on his ministry and opposition from the earthly powers that be would no doubt arise so much quicker if word of what he was doing was to prematurely spread throughout the land. He may be the Messiah, but he still needs time for people to encounter him up close and in person. It can’t all be hearsay.

Question to Consider
Why do you think Jesus told the demons to keep quiet?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may people meet you through what we say and do; may people see your love shining in us at all times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)