Today we read about Jesus speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum. Mark does not tell us a single word that He spoke. Instead, he deals with the reaction of the listeners, and it seems they were divided. Most of the people were favorably impressed. Mark says they were spellbound by Jesus’ teaching because He taught with authority.
All except one man, who screams at Jesus, “What have You to do with us? Have You come to destroy us?” Mark tells us that he was possessed by a demon, an unclean spirit. In those days that was a common explanation for almost anything. Today we would probably say that the man was emotionally disturbed.
This man did take Jesus seriously, he understood that Jesus was a threat to his present way of living. Sometimes we tend to forget what a disturbing presence Jesus could be. Take a casual stroll through the pages of the New Testament, and you will meet all sorts of people whose lives were disrupted by His influence. Even before His birth, He drastically altered the plans of Mary and Joseph.
Remember Zaccheus – He was probably the wealthiest man in Jerico, a tax collector. That was, until he opened the doors of his home and heart to Jesus.
That brief visit cost him most of his fortune: he ended up giving half of his money to the poor, and repaying all of his fraudulent gains with interest.
Then we have Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathie. Both had reached the pinnacle of their careers, both were wealthy. And both were changed by a meeting with Jesus, their conscience pulling them in one direction, toward Jesus, and their career pulling them in another. In fact, we read that Joseph of Arimathie secretly became a disciple of Jesus.
The pattern of disrupting people’s lives did not end with the crucifixion, Jesus still changed people.
Saul of Tarsus was killing the followers of Christ. He encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus, and Saul became Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, spreading the Gospel all over the known world. It is because of him that we are sitting here today.
It is incredible, the kind of things that Christ has done to people, and is still doing, from Mother Teresa to Martin Luther King. And the countless thousands of people who, day in and day out, struggle to be His followers, good people, here tonight…. Everywhere!
That man in the synagogue was right. We can call him demon-possessed, or emotionally unbalanced. Call him what you like, but he was aware that involvement with this Jesus would change him. I am not sure that the rest of the crowd that day knew it. O yes, they were spellbound by His teaching, but did they take that teaching to heart? Apply it to their own lives?
Perhaps, from time to time, we all need Jesus to expel demons from our lives. Demons of an unforgiving spirit, or a selfish attitude, a prejudiced mind….Whatever it is that keeps you from a closer relationship with Christ. Those things in our lives that we know are wrong, those things that make us uncomfortable in His presence.
We know beyond doubt that we can put our faith and trust in this Jesus, He taught us not just to exist, but to live, live for Him! Because He is the only one that can speak with divine authority.
It is never too late to change, no matter what our age or background. Never too late to let go of those things that keep you from a closer relationship with Jesus. It comes down to the question, who do you allow to have authority in your life? Who controls and rules you? Someone? Something? Or worse of all, Nothing?!
There was a man on retreat at Graymoor, and on his sweatshirt were the words, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Another retreatant made fun of this man, saying that was too much and over the top. This man had the words “Calvin Klein” on his shirt.
This leads me to a question: do we follow where our culture wants to lead us?
Or do we follow the one who speaks with authority? The one who said… I am the way, the truth, and life.