Reflection on This Week’s Readings


“They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Why is Jesus’ authority so astounding? What makes Jesus’ way of teaching and healing so astonishing? Apparently, the scribes did not speak with or embody authority. They interpreted what ancient texts said. They did not open up new possibilities. They were powerless to create new life for people.

Jesus’ authority is about his power to open up new possibilities, to create new life for people. Jesus shows his authority to forgive sins and cast out demons. Rather than repeat worn out religious clichés and give easy answers to people’s questions, he spoke words that transformed. He brought healing that restored life. Throughout the first half of Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ authority amazes people. At the same time, it is questioned and challenged by those who fear him, those invested in the old ways of teaching and preaching that do not bring life and healing.

Later in Mark’s gospel, Jesus does something else astounding: he grants authority to his disciples to do the same as he is doing. He sends them out to heal, forgive, and set free. He sends them out to astound people with the authority of God to author a new reality in their lives through grace and love.

How do we respond to Jesus’ authority? Do we welcome the new chapters of life he authors for us and for the world? Are we rightly astounded at how he forgives our sins and heals our diseases? If we are open to his authority, his power to transform our lives, then we, like the disciples, can also be open to the authority he gives the church to do the same things for others: forgive, heal, transform, renew. Who can you astound today with the love and grace of God?


Fourth Week after Epiphany

In most of the standard or “ordinary” Sundays after Epiphany and after Trinity Sunday, year B reads through the Gospel of Mark. Christ was hidden and for many people, mad or sane, remains hidden, but Christians hear his words of authority proclaimed on Sunday from the ambo and the table.
When Jesus speaks, evil flees. For Mark, “an unclean spirit” is more than an example of sickness or insanity: the risen Christ gives his Holy Spirit to conquer the power of all unclean spirits of the world. The miracle attests to Christ’s divine authority. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we too are able to recognize Jesus as the Holy One of God.
The passage from Deuteronomy is chosen to indicate Israel’s religious hope that God will continue to speak words of covenant, comfort, and command. Christians see Jesus as the divine prophet for whom we all long. Mark’s way to present Jesus responds to the Israelite desire for an authoritative prophet.

Our Sung Response

We respond to the reading in Deuteronomy by singing Psalm 111. We have hoped for God to send an authoritative prophet, and we welcome him in Jesus Christ. The psalm is an exuberant praise to God who has indeed remembered the covenant. In verse 9, we anticipate the gospel reading as with the healed man we praise the name of God.

Although it is always tempting to lay down a new law, Paul instead thinks through the ethical dilemma and urges the community members to care for each other. Twenty centuries later Christians are still split on many moral questions, including food issues. May we heed Paul’s advice, and live together in one Lord, Jesus Christ.
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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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