The crux of this story of the healing of the possessed man in Capernaum, is the authority of Jesus. He has the authority to guide his disciples through difficult and trying times. Both the crowd (2:22 and 2:27) and the evil spirit (2:24) recognise the authority of Jesus. They respond with questions. Who are you? What are you doing? Where does this new teaching come from?
Like so many of the narratives on healing, this story also comments on the nature of the kingdom of God. The evil can be seen to represent those powers that oppose the kingdom of God, and many of those powers are fed by the national, the tribal and the modern cultures that form our worldviews and attitudes towards others. It is these attitudes that cause much suffering to many people. Jesus has the authority to rule over these. He has announced a new kingdom. In Him a new period in God’s story with human beings has started. In this new era healing is possible, acceptance is possible, and in Christ we have life and hope.
The author of the gospel wrote to a congregation of Christians who were living in very trying times. The Roman Empire had unleashed its full power against Jerusalem, destroying many of the symbols of the religion they grew up with. Persecution was not uncommon. It was a world in which death ruled. Death expressed itself not only in persecution and violence, but also in name-calling, stigmatization, marginalisation etc. These are all things that we are also all too familiar with. They are means utilised to bring death to those who are weak and exposed to the powerful, those people who have power that was granted to them by the realities of politics, economics, and culture.
Jesus’ authority is represented by people living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is expressed in our world through the choices they make in every day circumstances: choices such as the refusal to participate in economic, political and cultural practices of evil and death. The authority of Jesus is expressed in practices and habits that sustain the weak and include them in caring and accepting communities. The authority of Jesus guides us to live lives of love and solidarity with those who have become the victims of evil powers.
To think about: How could our congregation/fellowship represent Christ’s authority, without being authoritarian?