Let us give Mark the benefit of the doubt and say he was an honest man. I am sure he tried to tell the honest story of Jesus since, after all, when Mark was writing there were still plenty of people alive who knew Jesus and could contradict his version if he strayed from the truth. He must have written honestly given that fact and the fact that as far as we know he did not realize any gain from writing the story. If anything, there was great risk in writing about the man who was shaking the foundations of the Roman Empire.
Still, this passage seems rather convenient. First Jesus teaches “with authority,” and then he is presented with a convenient opportunity to show that authority in action – to walk the talk. He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him. (NIV).
I suspect, and the gospels bear this out to some extent, this sort of coincidental event after teaching happened all the time in Jesus’ ministry. Don’t put anything past God. And let us not forget that Jesus talked mostly to ignorant, essentially calloused and disinterested people who were convinced they pretty much heard it all and knew it all already. You know, people like us.
So Jesus taught and then had an opportunity to give legs to his words. Sometimes it happened the other way around – where he did something and then explained it. That would be like a divine show and tell, but I believe with Jesus it was more often tell and then show.
First, in this case, he taught with authority. Think about how such teaching might be received today and you can imagine what he faced. Some likely got turned off. Some likely got angry. Some might have been tempted to shout out, “Who the Hell does he think he is?” But then he showed who he was.
I have no doubt God sent the afflicted man into the synagogue at that point so first, he could be healed; but second, just to shut up the know-it-alls. So he spoke with authority? Yes, and his was God given authority such that even the unclean spirits obeyed him.
Curious that the people did not obey him. They were amazed, yes. They were quick to gossip the story, yes. Word went out all over Galilee about him, but who followed after him? Who came to him? Well, at first it was the lame, the blind and the sick who came to be healed, and plenty of demon possessed people wanting to be set free. They kind of missed the point.
The work of Christ simply proves his authority, that he has God given authority. That means his words ought to be worth listening to and applying to life and we ought to do what he says, don’t you think?. Anyone who does works like that should be worth listening to, but did they even hear him? Did they listen and want to hear more? Or were they so overwhelmed with the casting out of the impure spirit the words got lost in the shuffle?
Do we even hear him to this day? Do we honestly listen and take his words to heart, or are we simply looking for some miracle to manifest in our lives? Do we do what he says? To this day, I don’t know. Miracles show wonderfully that God loves us, but God’s love is a given for any who understand the gospel at all. Mostly they show us that Jesus has the authority so we can trust what he says; except we have to listen to what he says.
We follow him, but is it really so he can show us where to plant our foot, how to walk the walk, how to grow in grace and be ever closer to God, no matter our condition? Or do we follow believing that we have heard it all and know it all already and are only waiting for the next convenient opportunity for God to amaze us so we can gossip the latest miracle news all around town?