IN THEIR SYNAGOGUE
with Rev. Rachel
23 IN THEIR SYNAGOGUE Mark 1
“They went to Capernaum...They were astounded at his teaching.” Who is this ‘they’?
Imagine Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John setting for themselves a kind of page limit. The good news was that precious to them. These euangelistes would not subject the euaggelion to the perils of poor storytelling. Mark could not afford to allocate however many more verses it would take to spoon-feed us the fact that the ‘they’ of the first verse is not the ‘they’ of the next one.
This ‘they’ is on us to notice. We just might have to flip back to see who went to Capernaum, at which point God just might have to wink. Of course those whom I appointed to write these books would expect audience participation.
There is ‘they’, the disciples, and then there is ‘they’ who claim this particular synagogue as their own (vv.21-22).
I wonder how many formative moments we miss because we mistake a pronoun for insignificance? Are we prone to conflate the characters in a story because it’s easier (on us) that way?
Maybe none and maybe not, but I am trained to read this stuff carefully and nearly went without even looking them in the eye. Simply by failing to stop and and gaze upon these people of the 22nd verse, I missed out what the old-timers called the spiritual benefit.
But then the grace came. Something, let’s call it the Spirit, showed up and moved the chains. [That one’s for you, Super Bowlers.] In their synagogue, this ‘they’ shows us what it looks like to live curiously. They are where they are on their Sabbath so as to take a genuine and generous interest in their surroundings.
I’m told that the word for authority, exousia, is related to the verb exesti, meaning "it is free" or "it is permitted" (S. Hultgren). If Jesus taught as one having authority, maybe this had everything to do with the gift that ‘they’ gave. They granted him permission to be who he was. By their interest, their astonish-ability, they authorized him. And it was a beautiful, repeatable thing.