(I preached this sermon on Sunday, January 31, 2021 in response to Mark 1:21–28. You can find the full service, including the sermon, on the church website).
What do you think about this Gospel reading today? What do you make out of it? When you think about Jesus performing an exorcism in a synagogue, does that resonate with you? Does it connect at all with you? Does it connect with what we experience in our lives today? On the surface, it probably doesn’t. How often have you witnessed the casting out of an unclean spirit in church? Or anywhere else for that matter, beyond the fictionalized version of exorcisms of Hollywood movies?
Probably nowhere. So why bother with this reading? We can listen to it and say that’s great and go about our lives, quickly forgetting the reading because we don’t connect with it. Or we can listen to the Gospel differently.
What’s going on here? We’re halfway through the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Remember, the very first verse of the Gospel said that it was the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That will carry through the entire Gospel. So, what is the Good News of Jesus Christ?
It is the news of salvation — not just for after we die, but now too — freeing people from bondage, sin, and brokenness, and restoring a right relationship with God and one another as a result. It is the establishment of God’s kingdom right here, right now. It is the ending of the status quo that holds people captive and in bondage.
We see this play out throughout even just the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
John the Baptist’s proclamation is preparing people for Jesus — a new way. A way that will upend how the world operates. Only something that is powerful can do that. And that isn’t John. He’s preparing the way though. John knows the power that Jesus brings and how it will change the world.
At the Baptism, Jesus is named by the voice from heaven — a recognition of the power and authority of Jesus to bring God’s kingdom near — a kingdom that changes the world.
And after the Baptism and after when Jesus spends time in the wilderness being tempted by Satan he comes back to Galilee and the first thing he proclaims is that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus brings this life changing, world changing kingdom of God to us, to the world. It…