They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried 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.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Mark 1:21-28 NRSV
I don’t know about you but every time I read these verses I wonder, “What was Jesus teaching?”. Why didn’t anybody preserve that for us? Which of course, misses the point. The point of the story isn’t the particulars of the teaching, the point of the story is who the teacher is.
Who is this teacher?
Theologians like to say that Jesus is what he does. Meaning that what Jesus does is as instructive and important as what he says. For some of us, this is a difficult idea. We would really just prefer Jesus to tell us things. Preferably directly, clearly. No hints, no suggestions. Don’t make us wrestle with meaning. Just please, tell us what we need to know.
So far, at least, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t say much- a sentence here, a sentence there. Mostly Mark shows us what Jesus did.
Jesus is baptized
Jesus is tempted
Jesus proclaims the good news by speaking one sentence.
Jesus calls disciples by speaking one sentence.
Jesus removes an unclean spirit by speaking one sentence.
Jesus heals Simon’s mother in law, and then
“That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” Mark 1:32-34
Then Mark tells us, after praying in a deserted place, Jesus goes to other towns “proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons”. Mark 1:39
The message is that the kingdom of God is at hand. Mark doesn’t spend time telling us what that means. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus shows us what that is. To be fair, Jesus does speak more as the gospel continues. But in the first chapter, Jesus doesn’t say much. We learn about Jesus by watching what he does.
This is a good reminder to me. What Jesus does matters. It explains and shows who he is. What I do matters. It explains and shows who I am.
What we do matters.
I wonder this week- if what I do shows who I am- what will those around me see?