“And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” (Mark 1:27 ESV)
The Gospel of Mark moves right along in its typical fashion, now with Jesus preaching, healing, and casting out demons in various locations with disciples in tow. Those disciples that we observed in last week’s message are now full-fledged participants in Jesus’ ministry. Mark moves swiftly, showing us that Jesus is on a pointed mission. Here, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God collide. And with the Son of God leading the charge, the darkness is giving way.
From the opening words of his gospel account, Mark wants his audience to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and in him is divine authority. Blessed by the Father, commissioned by the Spirit, and followed by disciples, Jesus now presses on in power, demonstrating that he has authority to teach divine truth, authority to heal the sick, authority to cast out spirits, and authority to forgive sins. In each clip of Jesus’ ministry, Mark points out the excited and often surprised reactions of those who witness these miracles.
The accounts of these narratives are divided across two chapters in our English Bibles, extending from 1:21-2:12. Despite this break between chapters, we can consider each event as one multi-linked chain of the Conquering King warring with the forces of darkness. They are sandwiched between the calling of the first disciples (1:16-20) and the calling of Levi (2:13-17). So, taken as a single unit, the climax is found in the last miracle in the chain, the healing of the paralytic (2:1-12), wherein Jesus performs the greatest miracles of all: the forgiveness of sins.
Considering this pattern as Mark’s intention, we can more clearly see the purpose of these stories is to demonstrate who Jesus is and why his ministry matters. The other miracles, such as healing and casting out demons indeed reveal Jesus’ authority and power, but they are subservient to the great miracle of forgiveness. One can be healed physically, but that does not change his standing with God. One can have demons cast out from him, but that does not wash his sins away. Other prophets and miracle workers have come and gone, but, as the scribes unwittingly declares, the only one who can forgive sins is God alone! (2:7)
This passage, then, brings us to the main point of the gospel: know who Jesus is so that you may receive forgiveness of sins. If Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, he must be God. And if he is God, he has all authority. Therefore, he once again proves he is worthy to be trusted.