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By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds

1/28/2013 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Who is this man who claims and exercises such wondrous power?  There are three possibilities: Jesus is either deranged, demonic, or divine.


By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds

Catholic Online (

1/28/2013 (3 years ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: Gospel of Mark, Year of Faith, Daily Homilies, Who is Jesus, Miracles, Scribes, Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds, St. Theresa Sugar Land

SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online).  Those who heard Jesus teach found his words compelling because "he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22).  Even before Jesus performed a single miracle, the authenticity of his teaching made a deep impression on his hearers.  The Gospels contrast this with the pseudo-authority of the scribes.

The scribes were scholars of the Law, and dedicated themselves to copying-out the Word of God, preserving it for future generations.  Due to their intimate knowledge of the Old Testament, the scribes gradually acquired the role of interpreters of the Law as well.

When Jesus enters public view, the scribes opposed him on two fronts.  First, they disagreed with Jesus' interpretation of the Scriptures.  Second, they reacted negatively to the authority which people ascribed to him.  The Gospels give the impression that the scribes were motivated by jealously as much as by principle.  In any case, they accuse Jesus of acting in concert with Satan: "He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out demons" (Mark 3:22).

The scribes raise an important question.  What is the source of Jesus authority? Who is this man who claims and exercises such wondrous power?  There are three possibilities: Jesus is either deranged, demonic, or divine.

Perhaps Jesus is mad, or a fraud who uses sleight of hand and trickery to give the appearance of working miracles. Some of Jesus' childhood friends from Nazareth seem to think this.  "He is beside himself," they say (Mark 3:21).

If not a fraud, then perhaps Jesus is in league with the devil.  The scribes make this accusation because they cannot deny the reality of the miracles that Jesus performs, they being witnesses to many of these events.  Yet, the scribes were unwilling to ascribe divine power to Jesus, so they conclude that he must be the devil, or in league with him.

The third possibility is that divine power is at work in Jesus.  People called him a prophet.  They would later acclaim him as Son of God.

How does the Lord help us to navigate these competing identities?

Jesus response to the scribes is threefold.  First, he shows that his miracles are actually working against Satan rather than in his favor.  He thus cannot be in league with the devil.  

Second, Jesus compares Satan to a "strong man" who must be bound before his works can be undone.  Jesus is undoing the works of Satan, so he must be his master.  He is not crazy.

That leaves only one option: the power at work in Jesus is the power of God.

Finally, Jesus' criticizes the scribes' blasphemy, rooted in their critical spirit.  Because they were looking for an evil explanation for the good that Jesus did, they were blinded and fell into the "unforgiveable sin," attributing the work of God to Satan. 

"There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept this mercy be repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.  Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1864).

If there is any judgment that we want to get right, it is the question of Jesus' identity.  The scribes are blind to this possibility, and the only option left to them is to call Jesus the devil.  We have the benefit of faith to illumine our minds and hearts.  Through faith, we can acclaim Jesus as Lord.  Let us never fail to do so in every circumstance of our lives.

Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, a suburb of Houston.  You may visit the parish website at:


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