WEDNESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered, O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Yesterday we read about how people were astounded by Christ's teaching because he spoke with such authority. By contrast, how might the scribes have taught? The scribes, as those who read, studied, and interpreted the law, emerged as a class around 450 B.C. beginning with Ezra, who first made a systematic interpretation of the law. Ezra was one of those who returned with Nehemiah from the Babylonian exile to rebuild Jerusalem. In one of the better known chapters of the Book of Nehemiah, Ezra reads the scrolls of the law to the people and interprets the law to them; the people are then thrown into sorrow and distress because they have been neglecting the law through ignorance, and must be comforted by Ezra, Nehemiah, and the priests, who tell them to rejoice and make the joy of the Lord their strength. So we can see the scribes, from the very first of their class, taught as those at some distance from God, seeking to regain their faith and national identity after a time of apostasy, war, exile, and rebuilding. Under the heavy weight of this history and the distance of time, they are sought to use their reason to find meaning in the ancient texts to guide their lives. So we can imagine the hedging, uncertainty, and convolution that would have pervaded their interpretation.
Now enter Jesus. As God made man, one in being with the Father, there is no distance between Himself and God as with the scribes. Jesus does not wonder what the sacred texts mean or need to guess or reason it out or to be taught; He knows, because He was there. The words are His own, and He has ownership of the scriptures and authority to declare them. And this utterly astounded His listeners; that is, it perplexed them and filled them with wonder and fear. The cannot yet name it, but they can hear God Himself in their midst.
Jesus’s authority is moreover apparent in His power over evil and even death. His followers are amazed at His power to heal and to cast out evil spirits, who tremble before Him and obey Him. It is too wonderful that God Himself would humble Himself, becoming for a time below the angels, to enter into the world of His creation, taking on our struggle with evil, being bound and distanced by time, and suffering death to bring us to salvation. Yet that is what He was pleased to do.
Today, the weight of time, the confusion of bad teaching, the presence of evil, and the reality of death are all around us. We face dangerous situations at global and national as well as personal levels. We may wonder why God has allowed us to come to such a place and wonder where He is in it. But as in that synagogue in Capernaum, He is right in our midst.
Let’s draw close to Jesus and give Him His appropriate authority in our lives today. Let’s pray that His will be done and that we will see His dominion in our lives and in our world and be amazed.