There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!” Psalm 4: 6
The day came when Jesus arrived at a synagogue in Capernaum with a small group of swarthy fishermen. The leader of the synagogue asked the newcomer to speak to the gathered. The reaction of those assembled is recorded in the gospel according to Mark (1: 22).
They were astonished at his teaching. He wasn’t like the legal teachers; he said things on his own authority.
The hearers were εξεπλησσοντο – astounded, amazed, struck out of their wits, and were being knocked out. No second or third-hand hearsay accounts from Jesus.
Continuing the valid data stream (ευαγγελιου: Mk.1:1) begun of Peter’s eyewitness account of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son, Mark reports (Mk. 1:23-26):
All at once, in their synagogue, there was a man with an unclean spirit.
(You will read in Mark’s gospel account that the presence of Truth, very Truth, causes vile things to come crawling out of the woodwork and be exposed for what they are.)
All at once . . .” What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” he yelled. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you’re God’s Holy One!”
“Be quiet!” ordered Jesus. “And come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed the man, gave a great shout, and came out of him. Everyone was astonished.
Those in attendance were awe-struck not just by word but also by deed – the exorcism.
“What’s this?” they started to say to each other. “New teaching – with real authority! He even tells the unclean spirits what to do, and they do it!”
In chapter two of Mark’s narration (Mk. 2: 3-12) Mark reports the reaction of another gathered group to the healing of a paralyzed man. You know the story?
After ministering to people in the open country – the crowds were becoming massive – Jesus returned to Capernaum. When word got around that Jesus was at home, a large crowd gathered once more with the result that people couldn’t even get near the door as he was telling them the message – God’s kingdom was arriving.
Four people arrive carrying a paralytic on a stretcher. They can’t get near Jesus because of the crowd. So, with know-how and dogged determination to bring about the restoration of one of their community, the four neighbors create Plan B: open up the roof and lower the stretcher. (NB: The men didn’t lower their expectations. Their faith finds a way to place their ‘concern’ into the hands of God.)
Jesus saw their faith, and said to the paralyzed man, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”
Legal experts, who were among those gathered in the house, were likely there to investigate “mis-information”. Notice their reaction in the presence of True Authority.
“Who does this guy think he is. It’s blasphemy! Who can forgive sins except God?”
Jesus, knowing in his spirit that thoughts like this were in the air, poses a question to everyone’s Who does this guy think he is question.
“Is it easier to say to this cripple ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher, and walk’?
“You want to know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins?”
Not just by the word of forgiveness but also by deed, Jesus turns to the paralytic and tells him to Get up, take up your stretcher, and go home.
The man got up, picked up his stretcher in a flash and went out before all of them.
Everyone was astonished, and they praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this!” they said.
The authority by which Jesus forgave the man’s sins and then raised him up to new life amazed the people who witnessed it all. They had never visualized that this would happen – We never saw it on this fashion. They were so filled with awe, in fact, that they began to glorify (δοξάζειν, doxa) God, reimagining what it meant for God to dwell with man in his temple on earth. Themes of redemption, restoration, and resurrection were invoked that day when the hand of God reached from Scripture into their lives:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Not everyone’s reaction, though, was recorded by Mark. That reporting would take up volumes. No doubt, though, that the four men who carried the stretcher were relieved of their burden and went back to their community to rejoice with the healed man.
Let’s go on to reactions of fear, as recorded in Mark (chapters 4 & 5).
In chapter four we read about Jesus teaching a massive crowd as he stands on a boat just off shore. The evening of that same day, Jesus and the disciples sail over the sea to the land of the Gerasene’s.
Chapter five records Jesus encountering a man with an unclean spirit – a “Legion” of unclean spirits. The man’s brutish behavior undoubtedly frightened the people living in that area. They tried to restrain him but without luck.
Well, in between the off-shore teaching and reaching the far shore where the untethered demon-possessed man lived, a big wind storm blew up. The boats that Jesus and his followers sailed in began to fill with water. Jesus, according to Mark’s/Peter’s account (Mk. 4:38), was asleep on a cushion in the stern. (I would have no doubt that standing in the hot sun on a boat projecting your voice for hours would exhaust anyone.) They wake him up.
He got up, scolded the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Shut up!”
The wind died and there was a flat calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you scared? Don’t you believe yet?”
Great fear stole over them. “Who is this?” they said to each other. “Even the wind and the sea do what he says!”
Terror gripped the disciples. They were in the presence of . . . who? It appears that their reaction indicates a petrifying reimagining of Jesus as God with us.
The disciples certainly had been taught in synagogue to fear God (Deut. 10: 12-13). It appears that their reaction also indicates a reimagining of what it means to fear God – not just holding ultimate respect for God but also holding onto the reality of his sovereign power over all creation. They undoubtedly knew of God holding back the Red Sea so Israel could cross over and escape the Egyptian army. Now this! Right in front of their eyes!
Their fear would become a proper φοβος (phobos) or phobia and not an irrational phobia, of say, pagans. The disciples had seen God and lived to tell.
Fear abounds in Mark chapter five when Jesus does what no one had the ability to do: tie up the “strong man” and plunder his house (Mk. 3: 27). Jesus exorcises the man with the “legion” and commands the unclean spirits to enter a herd of pigs per the request of the spirits. The spirits didn’t want to leave the country. (My guess: the unclean spirits were given territory to control by the Satan.)
The herd of about two-thousand pigs rushing into the sea and drowning caused a panic.
The herdsman fled. They told it in the town, they told it in the countryside, and people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus: and there they saw the man who had been demon-possessed, who had the “legion,” seated, clothed and stone-cold sober. They were afraid. The people who had seen it all told them what had happened to the man – and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to leave their district.
The unknown and uncontrollable had happened. Folks were awe-struck, gob-smacked, and beside themselves with fear.
We then read that Jesus got back into the boat and the recovered soul asked to go with him. Jesus wouldn’t let him.
Go back home,” he said, “Go to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had pity on you.”
He went off and began to announce in the Ten Towns what Jesus had done for him. Everyone was astonished.
All men did marvel. And it could be said – as taken from the Greek wording – that people in the brief accounts mentioned were astounded, amazed, awe struck, put out of place, knocked out and beside themselves with fear. The hand of God will do that.
Tell me. What blows you away? Announcement of a new iPhone? A blockbuster sale? A blockbuster movie? Is it the computer-generated imagery (CGI) that Hollywood keeps cranking out? CGI has never block-busted me, not even fantastical sci-fi smash hits. I don’t marvel at Marvel comics on the big-screen. What’s to believe about what it offers? People in funny costumes role playing about saving the earth from made up monsters? (It unsettles me when I hear grown men talking about Star Wars and Spiderman movies. Ant Man?!)
What causes you to be afraid? It could be any number of things.
The hand of God may astonish you and make you wondrously afraid. Any fear should not be to the point of begging Jesus to leave, as the account above details. One of scripture’s most repeated commands is “Fear not”.
Ask Jesus to heal your imagination so that you will see the hand of God at work in your life. Then let the hand of God astonish you and make you reverently afraid. You will come to REAL-ize that you are I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Personal note: Shane (1953) is my favorite western. No CGI used. No PC. No soy boys involved. Just homesteaders in Wyoming territory defending their homes and farms against a bully named Ryker.
Ryker claims ownership and rights to the range. He ultimately brings in a hired gun to deal with the homesteaders and the mysterious Shane, a hired hand on a homestead.
The parallels to the abuse of power today are striking.
Special request: Congress members, including Nancy Pelosi and Lindsey Graham, should be made to take sobriety tests before they deliberate, pass laws and speak to the public in their capacity as congressional representatives.
One can pretty much tell what the media wants you to focus on by the changing yards signs of the virtue signalers in your neighborhood. Around me, the signs have changed from . . .
What the Left brings to bear: