In our Gospel, we read about Jesus speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum.
Capernaum was a small town that suffered greatly. Many people were brutally killed there, as Israel was constantly being invaded. In the minds of the Jews, Capernaum was a place of darkness and death. But Jesus chose Capernaum as the place to launch His campaign.
So He goes into the local synagogue, a teaching institution. Services in a synagogue consisted of prayer, scripture reading and a sermon. There was no music; no singing or sacrifice. The synagogue was a place of instruction. But, there was no permanent preacher or teacher; there was no professional ministry.
More or less, any man could be asked to stand and comment on the scripture reading. That is why Jesus was able to open His teaching ministry in the synagogues. Mark does not tell us a single word Jesus spoke. Instead, he deals with the reaction of His listeners and it seems they were divided.
Most of the people were favorably impressed. Mark says they were spellbound by His teaching, because He taught with authority. All except one man, who rebukes Him. “What have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us?”
Marks tells us the man is possessed by a demon, an unclean spirit. In those days, this was a common explanation for everything. Today, we would say the man was emotionally disturbed. This man took Jesus seriously, but saw Jesus as a threat to his present way of living.
Sometimes we tend to forget what a disturbing presence Jesus could be. Take a walk through the pages of the New Testament. You will meet plenty of people whose lives were disrupted by His influence. Even before His birth, He drastically changed the plans of Mary and Joseph.
Remember Zacchaeus? He was probably the wealthiest man in Jericho. Until he opened the doors of his home 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 his fraudulent gains with interest.
The same can be said of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Both had reached the pinnacle of their careers and were wealthy, only to be changed by a meeting with Jesus. Even after His crucifixion, He changed lives. Saul of Tarsus was killing followers of Christ. He encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus and then became Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. He spread the Gospel all over the known world.
It is incredible, the kinds of things that Christ has done to people – and continues to do, from Mother Teresa to Martin Luther King, Jr, and the countless others who day in and day out struggle to be His followers.
That man in the synagogue was right. Call him demon-possessed or emotionally unbalanced, but he was aware that involvement with Jesus would change him.
I am not sure if the rest of the crowd knew Jesus would change them. Yes, they were struck by His teaching, but did they take that teaching to heart? Apply it to their own lives?
Do we take His teaching to heart and apply it to our lives? It comes down to the question: Who do you allow to have authority in your life? Do we follow where 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 the life.”