Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus' Authority

Today's Gospel shows us Jesus' authority both in teaching and in expelling an unclean spirit.

Use your imagination, and place yourself in the scene. You are sitting in the synagogue at Capernaum with your fellow Jews. You go to the synagogue every week to hear the Scriptures, pray, and listen to the teaching of the scribes. As you wait for the service to begin, you can't help but think of the work you have to do the rest of the week, for you are a fishermen in this little village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

As the service begins, a Man stands up to teach. You've heard of Him. He is Jesus of Nazareth. A few of your neighbors, fellow fishermen Peter and his brother Andrew and James and his brother John, have recently become His followers. You've heard rumors about what happened when He spoke at the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. He had read from the scroll of Isaiah, the famous passage about the anointed one who is to come, and He had declared that the passage was now fulfilled. Could He really be the Messiah? You lean forward anxiously, curious about what He will way.

As you listen to Jesus, you become more and more astonished. He announces that now is the time of fulfillment. He speaks of the Kingdom of God, which is at hand.. He urges you to repent of your sins and believe in the Gospel.

There is something different about the way Jesus teaches. His words are powerful, forceful. They go straight to your heart. You have a sense that this Man knows exactly what He's talking about and has the right to say everything He's saying. He doesn't raise His voice. He doesn't shout or point or wave His hands. But He radiates confidence and firmness. And something else... You can't quite put your finger on it. You've never heard anything quite like this. Certainly the scribes never teach this way. In Jesus there is no hesitation, no uncertainty, no equivocation, just pure authority. You wonder Who He really is, and you are struck with a deep sense of awe and even a little fear.

Then you witness something even more startling. A man whom you know must be possessed by some unclean spirit cries 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!” These words are followed by a shocked silence. You wonder what's going to happen next.

You look at Jesus. He doesn't seem shocked or bothered by the man's words. He looks at the man and calmly says, “Quiet! Come out of him!” There is a loud cry that makes you jump. The possessed man convulses and then lies still. When he sits up, you can tell immediately that he is a different person. The unclean spirit is gone!

After a few moments of stunned silence, the synagogue erupts in whispers. Your neighbor leans over, and you see your own wide-eyed, opened-mouthed expression reflected on his face. “What is this?” he says, “Who is this that commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him?” You can hear similar words spoken all around you. You can't quite decide how you feel about what you've just seen...amazement, wonder, terror all blended together. But you're sure of one thing: Jesus of Nazareth has more authority in word and action than anyone you've ever seen before.

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