In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus meets a man with an unclean spirit. These days we are much too sophisticated to speak of people having unclean spirits. We are aware of the causes of illnesses. We know about bacteria, and these past few years we have all learned more about viruses than we ever wanted to know. We also have a fairly solid understanding of what are called mental illnesses. We have seen the changes that take place in people who are suffering from mental illness. A phrase that is often used to describe the behavior of such people is that they “are not acting like themselves”. It almost seems to us that they have been taken over by an outside force. It’s no wonder that people with less understanding than is common today would describe such people as being “possessed by an unclean spirit”.

Whatever the man’s condition is, however, we name it, the point is that Jesus healed the man. Jesus commands the man to be healed and he was. The people witnessing this event are surprised by the healing, but they are amazed by the authority with which Jesus acts. Jesus teaches not like the scribes, but like one with authority. Jesus uses His authority to heal a man.

Authority is as important today as it was in the days of Jesus. We acknowledge people with authority and we show them deference. We hope that they will use their authority for the good of the people in their charge, but that is not a given. Jesus certainly uses his authority for the good of his followers. I think the people following Jesus are not surprised by his authority, but by the way he uses it to help others. That was not common two thousand years ago any more than it is today.

Each of us has authority. We are, or have been, or will be in authority over family members and loved ones. How do we use that authority. Do we serve the needs of others like Jesus, or do we look out for ourselves? Just a thought brought up by Sunday’s Gospel.

Pastor Bill