I grew up in a family of teachers and artists. Whether they were speaking in front of a classroom about the anatomy of a human being or assisting a student in the proper way to use a table-saw, my family was all about education. In being “about” education they were about words, words that hopefully provided enhancement for those who listened. Note, I said, “listened”, not just “heard”. There is a difference, but this morning we will focus on the teaching and the words, specifically the words of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus found in the Gospel of Mark 1:21-28.
Over the next couple of weeks leading up to Lent, we are going to look at several passages focusing on the identity of Jesus and who Jesus is as his divinity is revealed. As we begin to examine this text and the others to follow, I want us to take a three prong approach and look at the different ways in which Jesus’ divinity comes alive for the characters of scripture and our life. We will look at the 1. Authority 2. Power and 3. Hope found in the Gospel.
Today we have the wonderful example of Jesus bestowing all of these attributes in a claim upon his divinity.
Oftentimes in the biblical narrative we need to step back and look at the source of the words. In the text this morning, the power of the words is contained in the fact that Jesus enters the synagogue and begins to teach as one who has “authority”. He teaches, “Not like the scribes but as one with authority!” Here, in his simple entrance to the synagogue we have before us the one with authority, simply by his words that he used.
But the power in a word is extremely important in the use of many words. Some words are powerful and some words are empty, but the power in a word is often determined by the authority in which it is spoken. Those of us who tend to rely on words are sometimes amiss at what exactly the power of words can do, hence the story from Rev. Valbracht, “It was in the early years of my ministry that one Sunday preaching my sermon and I had just gotten well into the sermon, when a baby started to cry down in one of the front pews. The mother, very embarrassed, snatched up the baby and started out the side aisle. I stopped right in my sermon, and I said, “Madam, you don’t have to take that baby out. He isn’t bothering me.” Which in turn she replied, “No? Well, you’re certainly bothering him.”
Today we hear the story of Jesus teaching with authority. Authority in the command to call the unclean Spirit out in a way that was different than those who had been before him, namely the scribes. Jesus came to teach with authority and according to scripture those that were there were “astounded!!”
That authoritative word of Jesus was a word which knew what was needed and what was best for God’s children. It was a word of liberation, a word of comfort, a word of release, a word of pardon which Jesus spoke at the beginning of his ministry, Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent, and believe in the gospel.” It is through this authoritative voice and words that Jesus proclaims that God’s Kingdom has come to rest with those who believe.
But authority is nothing without the “power!” The power of God’s word through Jesus is seen when he calls out the Unclean Spirit from the man and his words offer a healing strength and forgiveness that brings that man into a relationship with him!! As one pastor says, “The power of Jesus’ words affects lives!” Yes, it affects lives and so do the words we use on Jesus’ behalf. Disciple words affect those around you!! What you have to say on behalf of the Son of God in offering his presence and healing and love, are words that require a great deal of power!!
We as Christians cannot take this lightly!! Our words have to be sincere, strong, and compassionate in a way that we can move people from a broken, sinful part of their life to a life of wholeness, healing, and fulfillment in the Good News that the Gospel of Christ provides.
Rev. Tim Zingale reminds us that “The cosmic battle of sin has been fought and Jesus has won. But this battle continues day in and day out for each of us.” This is a never ending battle that requires we continue to offer an authoritative and powerful witness in the gospel as we speak to people about the salvation and hope that Christ has for them!
This brings us to the “hope” that Jesus’ words bring to us in the scriptures. It is because Jesus has authority and because he has power, because his words affect our lives and the way in which we live our lives, then we are a people who can and must live in “hope!!”
As people of the Cross and Resurrection people, we are a gathered group of believers who can live with a hope that things will be different, lives will be changed, people will be made whole, and we become victors in the middle of strife and crisis and not “victims” because we have this hope in Jesus Christ to redeem our lives and bring this authority and power into our everyday lives.
Maxie Dunnam says in his book, Dancing at My Funeral, “I am dancing in the face of
tragedy over which I have no control except to trust God and life and circumstance. I am able to live in the presence of death because I trust myself as a victor rather than a victim.”
It is that type of faith that is produced when we combine all three of these attributes when it comes to Jesus as a teacher.
We become the pupil who must “listen,” not just “hear” what is being said to us in words, in relationships, in imagery and in the presence of the “Living Christ!!”
We as United Methodists have captured this in fine shape. We have ways in which we learn, ways in which we listen, and ways in which we participate in the wonderful glory of God in Jesus Christ.
Words are so important and I encourage you this morning, to listen to these words of Eucharistic institution, Confession, and the wonderful words of praise and thanksgiving that we utter to a God who loves when our words fail, when our words are empty, when our words are rich, and when our words become a part of our relational understanding between God and humankind in a way that releases in us a new understanding of love, care, and compassion!!
Now my friends, with the confidence of a well-spoken community, let us come to The Table of Our Lord!!!