A few months ago, a local man called Douglas who has mental health problems and spends much of his time wandering around the town, walked into the Church during a service, straight to the front, and started shouting at the musicians who were leading worship. He had been drinking, he was quite agitated, and he was very loud. In an instant, the atmosphere moved from calm and worshipful to tense and uncomfortable. One of the Church people who obviously knew Douglas, immediately and confidently responded to the interruption. Standing alongside Douglas, he spoke gently to him. Within moments the pair were sitting, chatting quietly in the corner of the Church.
In any religious ceremony, there is always a tension when someone other than the speaker raises their voice and disrupts the service. When that person is unwell or drunk, most of us feel very uncomfortable.
In Mark 1:21-23 we see Jesus preaching in the synagogue. Unlike other teachers and preachers, this Jesus speaks in his own authority. People are amazed and excited about this young rabbi. And then, while he is speaking, a man stands up and starts shouting. ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?’ Do you sense the tension in the room. ‘I know who you are, God’s Holy One.’
Jesus, the preacher, deals immediately and confidently with the problem. No need to raise his voice. ‘Hold your tongue and get out of him.’ The problem is not the man, but something deep inside the man. In an instant, the man is on the floor convulsing. He screams. And then he is still. The spirit has fled.
‘If his words had amazed the people in the synagogue, his deeds left them thunderstruck.’(i)
They had been amazed by the words of Jesus. Amazed by the authority with which he spoke. And now they see his sheer power, demonstrated through his actions. This was a dramatic scene. Small wonder that the news about Jesus rapidly spread far and wide.
‘Jesus, with one word of clear, simple, brief authority exorcised the demon. No-one had ever seen anything like this before. The power was not in the spell, the formula, the incantation, the elaborate rite; the power was in Jesus.’ (ii)
- Wm Barclay, New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Mark, [Kindle DX Version Loc 1001]
- Wm Barclay, ibid., [ Loc 1037]