Epiphany 4, 2024

Jesus has gathered his disciples, what now? Mark takes us right into the heart of the matter, doesn’t he? We are barely at the midway point of the first chapter and Jesus, having contended with Satan in the temptation is now contending with him in the real human lives of people in a synagogue and the little villages of Galilee. Did you notice that there was a demoniac in the congregation in this reading this week? How did he get in there? Are there any sitting in the pews when I preach? What if there are?

Mark wants us to focus on Jesus’ authority. He rebukes the demons and they comply. He rebukes the fever in Peter’s mother-in-law it also leaves her. Having the Holy Spirit and being the beloved Son of God means something, something very important. For Mark’s first century audience which saw the world as a place filled with spirits, many of them malevolent, this was good news indeed. But we and our hearers largely live in a disenchanted world. We are not terrified of the demons are the demoniacs and if you show up at your doctor’s office and confess that fear he or she will likely check of the “mental illness” box on your chart. But we do have many reasonable fears and the preacher may want to address some of the “forces” which are arrayed against us today. Perhaps it is economic, social, physical, or mental forces (depression?) which afflict you or the ones you love. Perhaps it is something else which you fear: a woke mob, a Trumpist mob, the anti-vaccination crowd, or the COVID-terrified who want the state to regulate your life. We can all find someone or something to be afraid of.

Is Mark pointing us to a Jesus who makes us less afraid? How does he do that? What does it mean to follow this same Jesus today? Preachers will want to know.

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