4 Epiphany – Year B

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

“The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.” – Albert Einstein

A man who has an unclean spirit approaches Jesus. Hardly a day goes by that we ourselves do not draw near to others with our own unclean spirits. If any of us think that is not true in our own individual case, we have an unclean spirit of self-righteousness. We think ourselves “right” when we still need more spiritual maturity. Einstein says that evil unclean spirits are hard to drive out. It may be hard but not impossible. That is the message that Jesus demonstrates today when he orders the unclean spirit in this man to depart (Mark 1:25-26). Unclean spirits and moods go hand in hand, or maybe they are one and the same. We are all unique with our own personal moods, often not our fault. (see Greek below) What unclean spirits do we have? Are we possessed by arrogance, or its abandoned sister, spirit of poor self-image? Are we haunted by fear of failure, or its brother spirit, disappointment? Our quote for today could have been from Shakespeare: “Out damned spot!” It is notable that Jesus does not blame the man for his mood. Who of us have not been innocently inflicted with circumstances that leave us, if not depressed, at least cranky? But this need not be. We are to blame if we do nothing and just wallow in self-pity. We can use the words of Jesus to say to our inner voices “Be silent, and come out.” (Mark 1:25) We need not define ourselves by what happens to us. We are not our bad luck. We can take possession of ourselves and instill a new spirit. This is what Jesus offers.

Greek

Mark 1:23 says, in most translations, that the man came “with” an unclean spirit. However, the original Greek says “in” an unclean spirit. It may be too fine of a distinction. But what mood are we “in?”

Mark 1:24 has an interesting idiomatic expression in the Greek. It is usually translated something like “What have you to do with us?” Literally it simply says “What to us and to you?”

Haiku

Out damned Spot! Silence!

Spot on spirit repossessed.

Speak soul serenely.

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