Today’s Gospel reveals Jesus as an especially authoritative enemy of evil as it affects human beings in body, mind, and spirit.
What is interesting in the story is that the unclean spirit recognizes right away who it is who is confronting it – Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God! This spirit, for all the evil it brings to the life of the afflicted person, recognizes right away that the person who has come into the synagogue is going to win the battle between itself and the power of God. The people in the synagogue marvel at the authoritative teaching of Jesus, but it is the demon who, without any hesitation or doubt, identifies Jesus exactly as who he is – the Holy One of God – and knows that Jesus’ power is the power of God himself, because Jesus is the Son of God who shares in that divine power.
This story reveals that part of Jesus’ mission is to put an end to the power of sin and evil in the world – whether it occurs through sickness, demonic possession, or death. This first miracle found in the Gospel according to Mark begins the story of Jesus’ confrontation with the powers of sin and evil and his victory over them, that we will see played out in many more situations as we continue to read this Gospel.
And yet, this Gospel will also reveal that Jesus is a Suffering Servant Savior, who in the end will surrender himself to the power of death so that, in doing so, he conquers sin and brings eternal life to those who believe in him. The power that Jesus reveals in this Gospel is one that surrenders itself in the service of others – the salvation of the human race through his own suffering and death. That surrender is the true authoritative power that results in new life not only for Jesus, but for those who follow him as disciples.