Saint Francis of Assisi performs an exorcism on a woman,
Illustration from Vie et miracles de saint François d’Assise,
Painted miniature on Vellum,
Executed circa 1480
© Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAF 28640

Saint Francis of Assisi performs an exorcism on a woman,
Illustration from Vie et miracles de saint François d’Assise,
Painted miniature on Vellum,
Executed circa 1480
© Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAF 28640

Gospel of 14 January 2020

He taught them with authority

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his disciples went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

Reflection on the Gothic Illuminated Miniature

Yesterday we discussed how Jesus was fundamentally very different to the rabbis. In today’s reading Mark takes it a step further. Mark writes that Jesus taught with authority. Jesus wasn’t just interpreting the laws, but He was teaching with authority. This was different from the scribes or rabbis whose teaching was dependent on what others had said or written before them. Jesus was teaching with authority: his own authority. This authority also led that he could cast out devils, as described in today’s passage. Such exorcisms are a witness to the final victory of the Kingdom of God over evil and death.

We are still in the very first chapter of Mark. Why is Mark accounting this episode at the beginning of his Gospel? Mark wants to set the tone and make the point that Jesus came to heal. Jesus, from the very start of His ministry revealed how the gift of Christ’s power is to be revealed: not in dominance but in healing! Casting out devils is part of this healing.

The Gothic illuminated manuscript page on vellum depicts Saint Francis of Assisi performing an exorcism on a woman. The black winged devil is leaping out of the woman’s mouth. Assisi is depicted in the background. I love the way the exorcism is depicted. It is a very simple, yet very effective way to show what happens, in a single illustration. Just like Jesus, Saint Francis and many of the saints spoke with courage, wisdom and... loving & caring authority...

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