4th Sunday after the Epiphany

by Crossings

Jesus’s Authority
Mark 1:21-28
4th Sunday After the Epiphany
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sunday a week hence, February 2, is both The Presentation of Our Lord (Candlemas) and the 4th Sunday After the Epiphany. The Gospel for the Presentation is Luke 2:22-40. That was also the Gospel for the First Sunday After Christmas a few weeks ago. Sabb. theol. 45 sent out then offered a Crossings matrix for that Lukan text. At present I have nothing more to add to what was there in Sabb. 45. For the rest of this Saturday’s offering let’s turn to the Gospel for the 4th Sunday After the Epiphany.
Peace & Joy! Ed 

A Crossings matrix for Mark 1:21-28 might go like this:


Stage 1 Although the demons know who Jesus is and acknowledge his authority, the people are merely amazed at his authority. Although recognizing that his authority is “not as the teachers of the law,” they do not move to place themselves under that authority, and thus they are left “oohing and aahing” about his authority, but the ownership which they are under does not change.

Stage 2 Demonic “possession” is Mark’s metaphor for alien ownership. That is Mark’s deeper diagnosis for all of the people to whom and for whom Jesus comes, not just the one man in the synagogue patently possessed. Their deeper need is ownership-transfer. To be liberated from alien, deadly, owners and to be brought back under God’s ownership. By not moving into Jesus’ field of ownership, the best they have is that coming from the teachers of the law. That’s not good enough for coping with demonic possessors.

Stage 3 Final destruction. If no one “stronger” comes on to the scene, with “greater authority” than the alien possessors, these possessors will destroy what they possess. One of the Bible’s names for the prince of the demons is “diabolos”, which literally means destroyer.

NEW PROGNOSIS when Jesus intersects the scene:

Stage 4 Jesus has authority over the demons and exercises it for the benefit of the one man in the synagogue patently possessed. Ownership-transfer is literally re-demption, rescuing someone and returning him to his original owner, the one to whom he belongs. Jesus’ authority over the alien owners does not come simply from his primal connections to God. Nor is it synonymous with having raw power over someone else, even the evil powers. Mark 10:35-45 makes clear just what the contours are of Jesus’s authority–“authority under” rather than “authority over.” In Mark the 3 passion predictions and the passion week they point to, give us signals of the final grounds for Jesus’ authority over the demons, and the way he exercises that authority for us. He goes all the way to the cross to make it happen.

Stage 5 When such liberating ownership transfer actually takes place in a human being, it is wrenching (v. 26). It’s like dying and rising, like confession and absolution. It is “repenting and believing the good news,” as Mark told his readers a few verses earlier (1:15).

Stage 6 Mere marveling at Jesus’ authority is not living under that authority. “Follow me” (1:17) was his earlier word for living daily life under his Mercy-Messiah authority. Throughout Mark’s Gospel he does not show us many examples that model such discipleship. Even the 12 disciples seldom model faith-full discipleship. They seldom show that they comprehend Jesus’ authority, that they themselves have undergone the primal ownership transfer, and are now patently living their daily lives in the force field of Jesus authority. The demons throughout Mark are on target about Jesus’ authority, the disciples never. Best examples for real discipleship in Mark come from odd-ball, “ochlos” outsiders: the centurion at the cross, the blind man at Bethsaida, the Gerasene man exorcised of his “Legion” of demons, the bleeding woman, and the widow with but two copper coins. For more concrete pictures of Stage 6 see the second lesson for this Sunday, I Cor 8:1-13, one of Paul’s classics for discipleship under Christ’s authority.


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