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Jesus’ synagogue encounter in Mark 1:21-28 points to a number of problems we have in modern American Christianity. No doubt, these were issues in 1st Century Palestine as well. I’d like to visit three views of Jesus, only one of which is adequate.
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. We need more teaching. There’s little doubt about that. Polls of church members have often asked what they think they need the most. At the top of their list, or at least near the top, we almost always find a desire for good, sound teaching and preaching. It is certainly necessary. Thanks be to God that Jesus was providing the teaching needed in that synagogue.
Its inadequate, however, to look at Jesus solely as a teacher. His teaching did not heal anyone. It did provoke inquiry. It even provoked amazement. But knowledge does not make redemption. it never rescues us from death.
Jesus can also be seen here in a prophetic role. That’s what the unclean spirit tries to provoke. Why is Jesus there? Is he going to destroy the demons now? Jesus the prophet would be able to say why he is there and whether he was intending to destroy the demon at that time.
We do need people who will boldly interpret God’s Word, telling the consequences of sin and warning of the dangers of disobedience. We need people who will understand the world around them and tell what will happen, at least as accurately as possible, trusting in divine providence. But that will not redeem anyone or rescue anyone from death.
What do we need? We need exactly what Jesus showed himself to be. He removed the evil spirit from the man. He purchased him back from sin and death into righteousness and life in God’s kingdom.
Please, don’t settle for a teacher or a prophet. Look to Jesus as all that, but also as a savior.
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