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The Mystery of Healing

Lesson 5 –

Mark 1:21-28 NRSV

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 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.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 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.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

You will find that this chapter tells a story about how Jesus comes into “his Father’s business.” In contrast with Matthew’s first chapter that features a genealogy, or Luke’s first chapter which features visions of Jesus’ childhood, Mark runs straight into Jesus’ ministry. We don’t even see him as a child here! The chapter begins with John the Baptist in the wilderness who excitedly proclaims the way of the Lord, Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ temptation by Satan, and the calling of the first disciples. This chapter depicts a person with a plan! A man on a mission! In your own devotional period this week, consider verses 35-39. Why do you think Jesus wants to focus on “what he came out to do?”

Today’s lesson will focus on the mystery of healing. Read the scripture out loud together.

Discuss with someone in your home. Has there ever been a time you didn’t feel you deserved random kindness?

What’s happening during this passage?
Jesus goes to Capernaum and Sabbath is soon coming. As he enters the synagogue, people are surprised at his command and clarity in teaching because he is not an “official teacher.” A man comes into the synagogue in need of healing. The spirit in him asks, “What are you here to do with us? Are you here to hurt us? I know you, you’re the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked him and told the spirit to come out of him. The spirit
obeyed and came out of him “crying with a loud voice.” Everyone gathered was shocked, to the point that they asked each other, “what is this? A new teaching! Unclean spirits obey him!” And due to this, his fame picked up around Galilee.

What is Jesus doing wrong here?
Jesus is already breaking several social norms here. First of all, consider the scene. He entered the synagogue, and taught, and confused people by being there. This is not his home temple! He just showed up and started teaching! Secondly, he healed someone in the temple on the day of the Sabbath. This is not the only time he gets caught doing something like this. In Mark 3, he does something similar. When he sees that people are concerned about him healing a man on the Sabbath he says, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”

How do the people react to Jesus’ work?
It just doesn’t make sense! The people are confused. How does this unknown man know how to heal the people? A new teaching! And he did it without having the right credentials. He is quite unknown at this moment in time. But it is so compelling, necessary, and worth exploring that his fame begins to spread around the community. He’s doing something that hasn’t been done, at least not in this way. In Mark, this is the beginning of people hearing about his teaching and healing. And the people are so downtrodden and desperate that they follow him. This is a statement about the needs and concerns of the people. People would not follow him if they did not have a need.

What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?

Connection to Today’s World
In 2013, Maya Angelou sat down with Oprah Winfrey to speak about life, God, art and community. In a compelling moment, Dr. Angelou reflects on the mystery of God’s grace and kindness. A mentor invited her to read a short sentence: God Loves Me.

“And he said, “Read it again. Read it again. Read it again.” And finally I said, “God loves me” [crying]. It still humbles me that this force that makes leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything. And do it well. Any good thing, I can do it. That’s why I am who I am, yes, because God loves me and I’m amazed at it. I’m grateful for it.

The unclean spirit inside of this man was also confused. “What have you to do with us, Jesus?” Perhaps it was named as an unclean spirit in this text, but as Dr. Maya Angelou names it, it was a humbling force she had to hear over and over. Sometimes we do not believe that we are worthy of the love and care that God can give to us. Sometimes we sabotage good things because we think we are not deserving. But God loves us. Not because of what we can offer, or what we can be. But just as we are.

Journal: Can you think of a time you were the beneficiary of unexpected care? What did you feel in your heart? In your body? In your mind?

Closing: Listen to “What is This,” by Bishop Walter Hawkins
For a video, click here:

What is this
That I feel deep inside
That keeps setting my soul afire
Whatever it is
It won’t let me
Hold my peace

What is this
That makes people say I’m mad and strange
What is this
That makes me want to run on in Jesus’ name
Whatever it is
It won’t let me
Hold my peace

It makes me love all my enemies
And it makes me love my friends
And it won’t let me be ashamed
To tell the world that I’ve been born again

Dear God,
You are the God of kindness and beauty. You want us to be well. You have made so many creatures on this Earth. And all of them somehow fit in your plan. And you love us all the same. You looked at us and called us “good.”
We need reminders that we are worthy of love. We need compassionate teachings about our value. This world has tried to dehumanize us at every level, and we need your kindness. The world is cold enough as it is.
So, whisper words of comfort in our ears when we feel unworthy. Show us what we deserve. Help us demand something more than the scraps we’re given.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Works Cited