For today's devotional I want to combine the two NT readings from the Daily Lectionary -- the Ephesian reading and the Gospel (Mark) reading. Liberal biblical scholarship going back to late 19th century Europe distinguished "Jesus of history" from the "Christ of faith." These scholars believed that there was a historic person called 'Jesus of Nazareth' but this figure had to be separated from the mythic figure called 'Christ of faith'. The historic Jesus died on a cross; the mythic Christ "rose" again from the dead. These scholars believed that the early community of Jesus followers "mythologized" the historic figure, turning him into a divine being and these mythic overlays eventually gave rise to a new religion called Christianity, a religion based on this reconfigured God-man, Jesus Christ.
The major problem of this approach is that the distinction between the so-called Jesus of history and the Christ of faith is that the distinction is driven not textually from the biblical witnesses themselves but by the presuppositions of materialistic science. What is historic and what is not was predetermined a priori by the dictates of "science." Whatever that seemed "unscientific" -- virgin birth, miracles, healings, casting out demons, knowing the thoughts of others, being raised from the dead -- were all jettisoned in the name of "true" knowledge, that is, in the name of reductionistic, materialistic science.
It is absolutely clear that for the eyewitnesses of Jesus and the early followers of Jesus that their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Lord rested on a most improbable event -- the Resurrection -- that actually occurred. Paul writes that if this resurrection did not actually take place, then Christians, of all people, should be most pitied (because they would be basing their lives on a BIG LIE). But it's not a lie nor is it a delusion or wishful thinking. Jesus who was crucified also rose again from the dead. Jesus is the crucified and risen Lord. It wasn't until the writings of Karl Barth in the early to mid 20th century that liberal biblical scholarship finally quieted down (not completely but substantially more reticent than before).
For the remainder of this devotional, please read the two readings (Ephesians and the Gospel of Mark). See how Jesus is one and the same person in both passages. See how even the unclean spirit in the Gospel reading recognized who Jesus was -- "I know who you are, the Holy One of God." The Jesus of Ephesians, the Jesus who is above every rule, authority, and power, is the same Jesus who interacted with regular human beings (Simon, Andrew, James, and John) and spent time with them, as Jesus spends time with us. Lofty yet humble. Lord yet friend. Powerful yet gentle. All knowing yet knowing our strengths and weaknesses. Almighty yet kind. The one and the same Jesus of Scripture is the Jesus of our own lives, here and now. How wonderful and amazing!
This time, after you read the two passages, close in a prayer that comes naturally to your lips. The Lord bless you.
15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
21They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching — with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.