Last week, Jesus announced the kingdom of God is at hand. This week, in mighty words and deeds, he exercises his dominion — asserting royal authority over the ruler of this world, Satan (see John 12:31).
Notice that today’s events take place on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be an everlasting sign — both of God’s covenant love for his creation (see Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17) and his deliverance of his covenant people, Israel, from slavery (see Deuteronomy 6:12-15).
On this Sabbath, Jesus signals a new creation — that the Holy One has come to purify his people and deliver the world from evil. “With an unclean spirit” is biblical language for a man possessed by a demon, Satan being the prince of demons (see Mark 3:22).
The demons’ question, “What have you to do with us?” is often used in Old Testament scenes of combat and judgment (see Judges 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18).
And as God by his word “rebuked” the forces of chaos in creating the world (see Psalms 104:7; Job 26:10-12) and again rebuked the Red Sea so the Israelites could make their exodus (see Psalm 106:9), Mark uses the same word to describe Jesus rebuking the demons (see Mark 4:39; Zechariah 3:2).
Jesus is the prophet foretold by Moses in today’s First Reading (see Acts 3:22). Though he has authority over heaven and earth (see Daniel 7:14, 27; Revelation 12:10), he becomes one of our own kinsmen.
He comes to rebuke the forces of evil and chaos — not only in the world, but in our lives. He wants to make us holy in body and spirit, as Paul says in today’s Epistle (see Exodus 31:12).
In this liturgy, we hear his voice and “see” his works, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And as Moses tells us today, we should listen to him.
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.
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