A few years ago I talked with a friend who lives in the high desert in California. There had been a recent earthquake, and it had been pretty big, although her home had escaped any significant damage. But then came the aftershocks, dozens of them, day after day. . . . No one could ever really relax, because as soon as they did, another aftershock would rock the house and rattle the cupboards. She said that after a while, she just wanted . . . things to stop being shaken.
Our Gospel story for today is about things being shaken, not by an earthquake but by the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. It was a Sabbath day, and in the town of Capernaum the whole community had gathered for worship. . . . But this Sabbath, there was a new teacher who had come from Nazareth. And as he taught, a stir began to spread through the crowd. What Jesus had to say . . . was shaking things up. Instead of quoting the respected authority so-and-so, who taught such-and-such, he spoke with an immediate, personal authority, declaring that God’s reign was present.
Things were really shaken up when a man with an unclean spirit stood up to challenge Jesus. But Jesus wouldn’t give the spirit a chance. He commanded it to be silent and leave the man at once. And it did! And the whole community was shaken up. People were amazed and agitated. They kept asking, ‘‘What is this?’’
This is how Mark introduces the ministry of Jesus. And it’s like this the whole rest of the way. . . . He made his way around Galilee, from village to village, teaching about the reign of God and bringing that reign to life by healing and forgiving and releasing people from the power of the demonic. In the end, the religious leaders tried to put a stop to everything being shaken. They colluded with the Roman authorities to have Jesus put to death. But God would not accept the ‘‘No’’ of the authorities, so God shook even the power of death to raise Jesus to new life. And God is going to keep on shaking things up until healing comes to our lives and our world, until God makes all things new.
– Aaron Couch
Unlike priests and kings, whose appointment to office accrues from executive fiat or birthright, Moses receives appointment by the sovereign decree of God. Ultimately, he will be regarded as one who points to Christ (i.e., typifies Christ): inasmuch as Moses delivered Israel from bondage, Christ delivers… from sin, evil, and death. Many scholars read into this passage a prolepsis that anticipates the announcement of God’s Christ. The end of prophecy comes in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Incarnated Word—the enfleshed God.
In Moses, God put [God’s] words into the prophet’s mouth. In Christ, God put [God’s] Word into our world (Jn 1:10–14).
– James Dodge
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Paul’s letter may offer a way to think about the location of authority or authorities in our own lives. Where are they? Who are they? How do we discern what is wise and what is foolish?
Knowledge is essential for faith, but it can also cause us to believe more in ourselves and our understandings than in the authority of Christ Jesus. Paul tells us “there is one God… and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
Jesus sees through the idolatry of the religious authorities, the apathy of the spectators, and speaks directly to the spirit that has destroyed the man standing before him. This is the power in which we are to put our trust. It is a mysterious power, amazing, and sure.
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
James Dodge is an Instructor at Canby Bible College in Canby, Oregon.
Homily Service 42, no. 1 (2009): 116-125.