Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Every generation loves a super hero.
From the classic Superman and Batman comic books to Star Wars
From Harry Potter and Marvel movies, we all love a story where the good guys win the day.
Whether you’re a kid or an adult, there is something satisfying about these stories
It gets at a fundamental wish:
That life was a bit more black and white,
And that there was someone who had the power to stop the destruction around us.
You could read the Gospel of Mark as a similar tale.
First line of the Gospel is: “the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”-
Jesus is the good guy in this story.
Our reading for today introduces the villain.
It’s Jesus’ first day on the job as savior of the world.
Jesus enters the synagogue and encounters a man in the grips of evil—he is possessed by a demon.
The demon immediately recognizes his mortal enemy:
“I know who you are, the Son of God!”
In a dramatic display of power, Jesus casts out the demon and frees man from evil’s grip.
You can almost hear the comic book sound effects as Jesus sends demon packing: POW! ZAP! ZOWIE!
It’s classic good v. evil stuff: Jesus takes on the powers of evil, and wins the battle.
And so the story of this powerful rabbi Jesus spread like wildfire through the countryside.
As you continue reading chapter 1, you see that crowds were following Jesus everywhere.
At Simon Peter’s house, Mark says ‘the whole city’ gathered at the door,
Bringing the sick and those possessed by demons.
Jesus went on a preaching tour through Galilee, and the crowds swelled.
Everywhere Jesus went he proclaimed his message of the Kingdom and cast out demons.
The people wanted a super hero, and it seemed that they were getting it.
I think most of us can identify with the people who followed Jesus.
We too want someone who can make things right
Someone who has solutions to the intractable problems we encounter.
We don’t necessarily think in terms of demon possession these days,
But we do know experiences of being possessed:
Possessed by ambition or greed
Possessed addictions or cycles of abuse
Possessed by the desire to please, or the desire to retreat into one’s own comfortable world.
Each of these ‘possessions’ are compulsions—like the demon possessed man in our lesson
In these states our actions are automatic-- we do not have the freedom to choose our response.
And so we often act in ways that are destructive to self, others and the earth.
What people noticed about Jesus that first day in the synagogue was that he had authority.
They contrast his authority with that of the scribes, the people in charge in their day.
The scribes had power based on heredity, as professions were generally passed down in families,
And by virtue of their education.
Their job was to teach and interpret the law of God.
But they had no power to affect the kind of change that Jesus could.
Jesus on the other hand, represented a ‘new teaching—with authority.’
The same word in the Greek is translated power or authority.
It means the ability to act, to the freedom to choose.
Because Jesus possessed this power, he could choose to heal people, and he did.
No wonder people thronged to see him.
Whether we are in a personal mess, overwhelmed by an issue at work or in the family,
or frustrated by political stalemate,
We are like the people who followed Jesus
We want someone with authority to take over and deal with the evil and free us.
We want a hero to save the day.
If we knew of someone like that, we’d be lining up at the door, too.
Except that wasn’t what Jesus was going for.
While Jesus does continue to use his extraordinary power to heal people and cast out demons
His true purpose is not to be a rock star or an exceptional healer
His true purpose is to share his authority with others.
In chapter six he deputizes the disciples in the same work:
Mark in fact uses the same words to describe the disciples’ work in our story today:
“he gave them authority over the unclean spirits”
Instead of holding onto his power, he shares it with others.
It may be surprising, but Jesus’ mission as the Son of God
was not to be the sole proprietor of authority and power.
He came to share the power to confront and overcome evil with others.
It’s a sign of the Kingdom of God.
It requires people to recognize the power they have been given
It requires them to claim the responsibility for the authority they have.
I think this is an important point to unpack, because some of us, perhaps many of us,
Have negative associations with power.
Authority seems like a dirty word, meaning, authoritarian.
Power can seem autocratic, top-down, greedy for one’s own gain.
This is often the way we see power used in the world around us.
This is power over other people. This is power used toward selfish ends.
But that is not the kind of power and authority that Jesus shares with his disciples.
The power that Jesus shares is power with others. It is power used for the benefit of others.
And so the authority that we are talking about here is evidenced in Jesus’ compassion
Which leads him from his stated mission of proclaiming the Good News and redirects him to healing people.
Jesus begins to accompany his words of the kingdom with visible signs of the kingdom’s presence
In liberating people from all that binds them and keeps them from being whole.
As Jesus’ modern day disciples, we stand in this flow of power.
We have been deputized in the fight against evil powers that can infect and inflict.
Jesus shares with us today his authority-
The power to stand with others, and to use our talents, our training, our hearts
To lift up, to heal, and to forgive.
As much as we long for a hero to rescue us, Jesus instead empowers us to carry on his work of liberation
Tapping into Jesus’ healing power for ourselves and our own healing
And then sharing it with others.
Today we have our annual meeting
As we review the past year and look toward the new one, it is a great time to consider this message
As a community.
Together we have been entrusted with Jesus’ power and authority.
What shall we do with it? How shall we as a community of faith act in compassion?
How will be use the gifts we have to heal ourselves and others?
How will we tap into the resources we have as a community to share Jesus’ message of Good News?
It begins in the care and welcome we share right here.
It’s a conversation that begins today, and will continue throughout the year.
I am eager to see what God may do among us.