"Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties." 
1 Corinthians 7:32

When asked, "What was Jesus' first miracle?" most of us respond, "Changing water into wine at Cana in Galilee." 

That's correct if we're dealing with John's Gospel; but wrong if we're talking about the other three. 

Since those who originally read the Gospels already believed in Jesus' divinity, evangelists employ miracles not to prove Jesus is God, but to show what kind of God he is. 

The first miracle sets the theme for the rest of the Gospel. 

Just as it's significant for John's Jesus to replace the water of Judaism with the wine of Christianity, so it's significant for Mark's Jesus to begin his ministry by curing a demoniac (Mark 1:21-28). 

During Jesus' earthly ministry, demons were thought of as agents of evil. But unlike our day and age, demons reached far beyond just perpetrating moral evil. When something bad or painful happened, demons were behind it. Two thousand years ago, evil and demons were synonymous.

Confronting evil
That's why it's essential to Mark's theology that Jesus' first miracle is an exorcism. If we're to be like Jesus, then we are to eradicate evil wherever we find it. When today's Capernaum demon asks, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?" the Christian response is an emphatic, "Yes!" 

If we accept the call to imitate Jesus, then there should be less evil in the world when we go to bed at night than there was when woke up that morning.

No doubt this passion to eradicate evil is also behind Paul's suggestion to the unmarried in Corinth to remain unmarried (the only passage in the Christian Scriptures which ad-dresses celibacy). 

The Apostle begins this section of his letter (I Corinthians 7:32-35) by stating, "I have no commandment from the Lord," on this issue. Everything he writes on the topic is "my opinion."

His instruction is based on two premises. First, as we heard last week, "time is running out." Jesus' Parousia is just around the corner and may disrupt marriage plans. Second, unmarried people are better able to carry out Jesus' plan to destroy evil than those who are committed to a spouse.

Marriage okay
Since we're hearing Paul's words 2,000 years after they were first written, it's clear he was wrong about his first premise. He probably never would have encouraged anyone to live an entire natural life unmarried. 

Regarding Paul's second premise, if you've seen the movie Amazing Grace you remember how William Wilber-force's wife Barbara was the major force and support behind his struggle against slavery in the British Empire during the early l9" century. He would never have succeeded in eradicating that horrific evil had he remained single. 

But no matter what we think about marriage or celibacy, we must never forget Paul's disclaimer: "I tell you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you . . ."

Our Deuteronomy author hits the evil-eradicating nail on the head (Deut. 18:15-20) when he reminds his people that Yahweh will always supply us with prophets: people who cut through culture, security and even organized religion, to point out what evils should be on our eradication list. 

Those who refuse to recognize or try to silence the prophets among us usually believe our culture and religion have disposed of all the evil God wants eradicated. Without prophets we have no list.