I begin my second week of daily bLOGs, working through my favorite Gospel. Remember that these result from my devotional work, so these reflections are not necessarily complete commentaries. Please do not expect a comprehensive analysis.
A Surprise in Every Box!
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
And immediately 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 out with a loud voice, came out of him.
And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28
Jesus enters the synagogue (aka Jewish religious assembly)in Capernaum on the Sabbath. This scenario will be Jesus’ practice until chapter 6, when he gets rejected in his hometown synagogue. Mark never mentions Jesus entering a synagogue ever again from that point on. Could this be a glimpse of Mark’s context, where followers of Jesus have been persecuted and run out of the Jewish assemblies?
I am sure the people in attendance at the synagogue that day were expecting the usual: psalms, scriptures, exposition, and prayers. Instead, Jesus walks in and teaches with words and actions, unlike the scribes the people were accustomed to. The two Greek words recording the people’s reactions are ἐξεπλήσσοντο and ἐθαμβήθησαν, both mean astonished, amazed, dumbstruck, and surprised. These words are used many times throughout Mark’s Gospel as reactions to his expositions, the miracles and exorcisms, and the foretelling of his impending death. One could say that this is yet another central theme of this Gospel (like geography and immediacy).
This theme calls the question: Are we expecting to find Jesus when we enter the building on Sunday morning or come to Bible study? When we read and ponder scripture or approach our devotional time, are we still astonished, amazed, or dumbstruck by our Lord? Do we still anticipate finding a surprise in every box?
I am sure people in many synagogues were surprised by the authority Jesus had in his words and actions that was greater than anything they had witnessed (hear John the Forerunner’s words echoing, “…he who is mightier than I…”). And news of him spread throughout the region!
Continue to surprise me! Continue to surprise us! Please help us to be open to being surprised? And help us to lovingly declare what the demons all seemed to know; you are “the Holy One of God.”
I pray in the name of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Amen!