Mark 1:21-28 – The Man with an Unclean Spirit
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
I know I will return to a similar theme with the healing stories of Jesus, but I could not get past the word “unclean” in this passage. Its such a profoundly wounding word that we can experience ourselves or place upon others. Its a concept in what we say and in what we do that can stay with people for a very long time – whether its something like what is described here in this passage or any of a host of other “unclean”-nesses. We place this idea upon people as individuals in school, in our workplaces, even in our homes. We put it upon others in society – people groups, countries, and the list goes on. We place it on people with diseases or who simply look or act different. Unclean. In the times of Jesus, some who were considered this would have to carry a bell around so that when they came near someone they would ring it so that the other would know to stay away. I remember people in my life who I have consciously or un considered unclean – I have walked to the other side of the street or turned my gaze. Haven’t we all? Yet here, like in so many other stories that we will see, Jesus ignored the bell ringing and encountered this man and set him free. This passage was a conviction to me that my calling is to not turn away from the ringing of the bell, but to go towards it and ultimately to the broken and hurting one who rings it.