Sunday I continued my series of sermons on Mark’s gospel. My approach to preaching Mark 1:21-3:35 (“For Who He Really Is“) was shaped significantly by Ched Myers’s analysis of this text in his tremendous commentary, Binding the Strong Man. These two introductory paragraphs to Myers’s reflections on this text seemed particularly poignant as I prepared.
From the moment he strides into a Capernaum synagogue, it becomes clear that Jesus’ kingdom project is incompatible with the local public authorities and the social order they represent. A “demon” immediately demands that Jesus justify his attack upon the authority of the scribal establishment; Jesus vanquishes this challenge and commences his ministry of healing. He brings wholeness and liberation to the poor, and receives hospitality from the socially outcast, with whom his solidarity lies. The risk of provoking official hostility does not deter Jesus from pressing his criticism of every social code that serves to institutionalize alienation. Then, to dramatize his opposition, Jesus publicly breaks the law. It is at that point that the authorities determine that he must be neutralized.
Jesus will withdraw to the sea, and there reflect upon his mission in parables, drawing upon the wisdom of those who work the land in a plea for discernment and patience. But before retreating, he makes his intentions clear in a climactic debate with government investigators. Jesus spins a parable so shocking that it not only polarizes the political climate, but provokes a rift with family and friends. He compares himself to a thief struggling to break into the house of a “strong man,” whom he intends to bind and whose captives he intends to liberate. And he claims that in this criminal venture, his accomplice is none other than the Holy Spirit! (137)
Like many people, I don’t often think of myself as possessing power. The truth, though, is that I do possess power. I only hope I’ll use that power faithfully, selflessly, so that I don’t find myself being bound by Jesus the thief.