Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 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!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
The first half of the Gospel According to Mark is dedicated to answering the question: Who is Jesus? Already, Mark’s Gospel opens with the declaration that Jesus is “the Son of God.” At Mark’s account of the Baptism of Jesus, the Father proclaims Him, “my beloved Son” with whom He is “well pleased.” Now, in this story of Jesus’ first miracle, Jesus is recognized by the people as one who “teaches with authority,” and who acts with authority, so that even the demons obey Him.
Last Sunday we read the account of the first disciples following Jesus when He called them. How powerful must Jesus’ call have been, that these men cast aside their nets and left their families behind to follow Him. This Sunday, we are given reason for the disciples’ confidence in following Jesus. He is the Holy One of God, who teaches and acts with authority.
Our Christian faith is founded on our trust in Jesus. Our trust in Jesus is founded on our confidence in the testimony of those who heard His teaching and witnessed His powerful deeds, especially His Resurrection. The Gospels claim to be the testimony of those who followed Jesus, who lived with Him, who heard His words, and witnessed His miracles. There is reason to have confidence that the Gospels truly do contain much eyewitness testimony of those first disciples and of the early communities that gathered around Peter, John and others to hear the story of Christ. From the earliest, ancient years of the Church, there were those who testified to the reliability of the Gospels as rooted in the accounts of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry. While some scholarship of the last one hundred years has called this into doubt, more recent scholarship, as well as the writings of early Christians such as Papias and St Justin Martyr, has renewed confidence in the Gospels as the fruit of eyewitness testimonies from those who knew Jesus. If you are so inclined, I recommend “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony” by Dr. Richard Bauckman.
Our confidence in Jesus is also rooted in our personal experience of the graces we have received over the course of our lives dedicated to Him. I don’t simply believe in Jesus because others have told me about Him. I believe because I have met Him, I have felt His presence in prayers heard and answered, grace through sacraments received, strength given to endure, joy overcoming sorrow, hope held in the midst of struggle and, yes, unclean spirits conquered.
We follow Jesus because we trust in Jesus. We trust in Jesus because His words and deeds testify to His being the Holy One of God who teaches and acts with authority.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all,