Gospel of Mark Week: 8-Jesus’ assault on the powers of darkness

MARK 1:21-28

I knew all these facts, of course, but until reading this concise summary of Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom and his attack on evil, it never all came together being shown a planned progression (so to speak). Once I was shown, it was so obvious. So it is not Mark that is simple, it is my reading of his work. (That’s a tune we’ll be singing throughout the book … he’s a much smarter cookie than he gets credit for.) I like the points made in the reflection also because it makes me think of Jesus as our shepherd. He appears on the scene and begins swiping the wolves away from his sheep. And we clearly need it.

The call of the first disciples is followed by Jesus’ first miraculous work, an exorcism. By this act Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom (v. 15) becomes dramatically perceptible and concrete. Throughout the public ministry mark shows Jesus’ progressive dismantling of the powers of darkness, the advancement of his assault on Satan’s kingdom that began with the temptation in the desert (1:13; see 3:23-27).

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REFLECTION AND APPLICATION: The story of Jesus’ first exorcism portrays the forces of evil in a way that may appear to readers today as strikingly personal. For Mark, as for the whole New Testament, evil is not an impersonal force but is concentrated in invisible, malevolent beings who are bent on destroying human beings and hindering God’s plan of salvation. These evil spirits are responsible for various mental and even physical maladies (7:25; 9:17-27; see Matt 12:22; Luke 13:11). Some exegetes, nothing that the Gospels do not always clearly distinguish between illness and demonic possession, have concluded that the references to demons are simply a mythical way of symbolizing the misfortunes to which human beings are prone. The Church has always taught, however, that demons are real spiritual beings, fallen angels who were created by God but became evil by their own free choice (Catechism, 391-95). Anyone tempted to dismiss accounts of demons as fables does not have to look far to see evidence of their influence today. Such phenomena as “racial cleansing,” group suicides, and the sexual abuse of children show a more than merely human malice at work, seeking to destroy the image of God in man. But as frightening and real as is the power of demons, the authority of Christ is infinitely superior. Through his cross and resurrection, Christ definitively conquered the powers of hell. For the present time, however, their malicious actions are permitted by God, who is able to good out of every evil (Rom 8:28). The grace of baptism affords us protection from demons and the strength to resist their seductive influence.

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