Sunday Gospel and Readings Commentary
The 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
28th of January, 2018
Lectionary readings: Dt.18:15-20; Ps. 95:1-2, 6-9; 1Cor.7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28
In today’s Gospel, Mark clearly shows us that Jesus is both teacher and healer. He is the one who nourishes by his word and makes us whole again. The setting is in the synagogue at Capernaum where the people have gathered on Sabbath as a community to worship.
While speaking on the scripture, Jesus is interrupted by the shouting of a man who is possessed with an unclean spirit who questioned Jesus, “What have you come to do - to destroy us?” (1:24) Jesus immediately addressed the inflicted man and rebuked the unclean spirit commanding, “Be silent and come out of him!” (1:25) Immediately the unclean spirit left the man. He now stood erect freed from his tormentors. Those attending were astonished as they remarked, “What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands the evil spirits, and they obey him.” (1:27)
Those in attendance were not only amazed at what they had witnessed but were shocked and therefore questioned by what authority does he do this. They had never seen anything like this before. Other teachers had never acted in this way but now Jesus taught with a power that they had never seen.
It was not the unclean spirit that troubled the audience for this was a common occurrence in their lives. What disturbed them was the way that Jesus acted. He had asserted by his words and actions that he had the authority and the right to act in this manner.
The common belief at that time was that a person would become defiled if he/she had any contact with a person possessed by an unclean spirit. “In fact, the simple presence of the unclean spirit in the synagogue contaminates the entire synagogue. The scribal advice was avoidance. The people and individuals were holy to the degree they kept distance from what was unholy.” (Shea, 48)
Therefore, it was common practice to avoid all contact with a person possessed by an unclean spirit. That person was to be left alone. The unclean spirit knew this and counted on being left alone. That is why the unclean spirits wondered what Jesus would do to them. They realized who Jesus is, the Holy One of God, and they did not think that he would risk defilement.
Jesus, however, did not accept this thinking for it is a form of domination of God’s good creation. He silenced this way of reasoning with power and authority and the unclean spirits obeyed. “The higher Spirit of God who descended upon Jesus at his baptism (Mark 1:10) and leads his mission does not allow lesser beings to harm those whom God loves. It commands them, “Get out!” And they got out, taking with them all the pain they have caused.” (Shea, 50)
In this extremely dramatic scene, Jesus by his actions addressed both the plight of this poor individual and the prevailing understanding of the people. Was avoidance the way to deal with these evil spirits? No, Jesus wanted to convey that no human being needs to be held captive by evil and tormented like this. What this man had endured was a very real experience of bondage to the powers that enslaved him and destroyed his ability to be free.
God’s creation is good and cannot be ruled by evil. Jesus’ inclusive manner has shocked the crowd as well as the unclean spirits! He has come among us to teach that in the all-embracing love of his Father, no one is excluded and barriers are broken. “The reign of God is the ultimate threat to the reign of evil and this form of the “good news” has radical implications for every aspect of the Church’s life.” (Farmer, 1406)
For Reflection and Discussion: [1.] How do I face evil in my own life and in our world? [2.] If I see creation as a gift of God, how do I appreciate and treat this gift?
Bibliography: W.R.Farmer, The International Biblical Commentary, (Collegeville, 1998),
John Shea, The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers, (Collegeville, 2005)
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, nds, BA, B.Ed, Masters of Pastoral Studies, Jerusalem, Israel
Bat Kol alumni 2001
[Copyright © 2018]
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
Bat Kol Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
“Christians Studying the Bible within its Jewish milieu, using Jewish Sources.”