Jesus, the prophet powerful in words and deeds
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (Mark 1:21-28))
National Bible Sunday, January 28, 2018
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
FOR centuries, the Jews had been waiting for “the prophet like Moses” who would be for them what the great leader and legislator had been for the Israelites during and after their liberation from Egypt. Nobody knew, however, what that “prophet like Moses” would do.
Jesus Christ was the one sent by God the Father to fulfill the expectation of the Chosen people and far beyond. When he began his public ministry, it was not easy for the people to see in him the fulfillment of the prophecy/promise uttered by Moses some twelve centuries earlier, for their views were too much conditioned by their political and social situations obtaining at that time. Their concerns and expectations were still temporal (limited to earthly hardships), and nationalistic (limited to the Israelite nation).
Jesus had to crack that mold and bring his own people to realize that there is a harsher form of servitude than that imposed by the Roman power – the servitude/enslavement imposed by the Devil not only on the Jews but also on all mankind.
His behavior and message contained in today’s Gospel passage mark only the beginning of the revelation of his identity and mission. Everything in what he said and did left his audience wondering . . . Jesus spoke with all the authority that divine wisdom and truth possess. He was not one of the many interpreters of the law, nor a “commentator” like so many teachers who could be found throughout Palestine. He was showing himself to be a “Master,” actually “The Master.”
Authority and majesty radiated from all over Jesus’ person. In him was the moral power of the Holy One, who commanded respect even of the devil. And with good reason. For the first time in human history, Satan was afraid of man—of that Man.
Things had been different up to that moment. Men had been living in continuous dread of “evil spirits.” Not a few had become their victims, “possessed” and tortured by them in frightful ways. Out of fear, entire nations had tried to keep demons quiet through sacrificial offerings . . . the perversion of idolatry that had sadly marked the history of mankind.
Jesus’ behavior in today’s Gospel episode shows that he is a LIBERATOR greater than Moses, for he sets people free not from the enslavement to an earthly ruler, but from the tyranny of the EVIL ONE. He has come to wage a war of liberation against the devil and his allies. With Jesus, fear of Satan and compromise with him are over. He comes to proclaim that the Reign of God is at hand and that the reign of Satan is done.
Today’s account of the liberation of the possessed man spells out who is going to be the winner in this most “unconventional war.” Powerful in his words, Jesus is also powerful in his deeds, unlike the people of his time; indeed, unlike the people of all time, unlike all of us. He is braver and more powerful than any simple man can be, for the saving power of God is at work in his words and in his actions.
As followers of his, we share in his prophetic and liberating mission. We also share in his strength if we cling to him in our struggle against Satan. Knowing who will be the winner, shall we still wonder on whose side to stand and fight?