These are my notes from a sermon series I did though the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for grammatical or spelling errors. I present it to you as-is.
If you are going to follow Jesus, it is important that you understand who He is and what He can do! The Gospel of Mark helps us to do that very thing. Mark has already introduced us to Jesus as the divine King. In chapter 1 we see…
- Jesus being introduced by a royal forerunner called John the Baptist (1:2-8)
- Jesus experiencing a divine coronation at His baptism (1:9-11)
- Jesus defeating His archenemy the prince of darkness in the wilderness (1:12-13)
- Jesus proclaiming the kingdom message of salvation (1:14-15)
- Jesus calling His kingdom citizens to follow Him (1:16-20)
What we have here is Jesus being announced by John the Baptist, commissioned by the Father, filled with the Spirit, victorious over sin and Satan, and accompanied by His disciples. Therefore, the Lord Jesus began His public ministry with every necessary credential needed.
Jesus has full authority to do what the Heavenly Father sent Him to do. The stage is now set for Jesus to begin His earthly ministry and demonstrate to us His full authority and power as the suffering servant who is the divine King. With that said, we pick up the story of Jesus in Mark 1:21, Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. 23 Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. 26 At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. 27 Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” 28 The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. (NLT, see also Luke 4:31-37)
This event focuses on a dramatic showdown one Sabbath day between Jesus and a demon. Once again, the authority of Jesus is vividly put on display, leaving no doubt about the His ability to dominate demons and to demolish the satanic bondage that can hold people captive.
This event relates one of what must have been many such encounters. Here Jesus confronted a demon while teaching in the synagogue. Mark says that the demon “cried out” to Jesus. The verb translated “cried out” (anakrazo) means to scream or shout with strong emotion and describes the shrieks of someone experiencing intense agony. The demon’s screeching outcry was abrupt, disruptive, and startling. From this encounter we see three aspects of Jesus’ authority.
- The authority of His word
- The authority of His judgment
- The authority of His power
Remember, if you are going to follow Jesus, it’s important that you know who He is and what He can do. Let’s unpack the authority of Jesus as seen in this encounter.
The Authority of His Word (21-22)
First, let’s look at the authority of Jesus’ Word. Mark 1:21 says, Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law (NLT). So let’s make sure we understand what’s happening here.
Jesus and a few of his new disciples go to Capernaum. It’s the Sabbath (the day of worship in the Old Testament). Jesus “went into the synagogue.” In synagogues people would read the Scriptures, pray, and worship God. They did not do sacrifices there, that was over at the temple. In some ways, the synagogue is like one of our church services today.
So, Jesus enters the synagogue “and began to teach.” We are not told the content of the message. My guess is it had something to do with the Kingdom of God, faith, and repentance because of what we are told back in verses 14-15.
Notice what Mark says next, The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
- The people were amazed at his teaching – The word “amazed” (ekplesso) literally means “to be struck out of one’s self” with awe and wonder. Today, we would say they were blown away or Jesus blew their minds. The word “amazed” is an intense word. Mark could have used several New Testament words that can be translated “amazed” or “astonished.” But the one he used is one of the strongest and most intense. Jesus’ message was so riveting and powerful that His audience sat in stunned silence, hanging on to every word He uttered (cf. Luke 19:48).
- Why were they so amazed at Jesus’ teaching? Because “he taught with real authority.” First of all, teaching with authority has nothing to do with how loud you are. You can teach with great volume and be completely wrong. The word “authority” (exousia) speaks of rule, dominion, jurisdiction, full right, power, privilege, and prerogative. Jesus taught with absolute conviction, objectivity, dominion, and clarity. He spoke the truth with the unwavering confidence of the divine King, and the people could only respond in amazement (cf. Matt. 7:28-29). They were listening to a master communicator who was teaching in the unbridled and unhindered power of the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus’ authority in His teaching was so different than what they had been hearing from the religious leaders of that time. This is why Mark says that Jesus’ teaching was “unlike the teachers of the religious law.” These were the scribes. Over the centuries, from the time of Ezra to the time of Christ, the teaching of the scribes grew less focused on the text of Scripture and more focused on what previous rabbis had said. By the first century, scribes prided themselves on being familiar with all possible views. Rather than faithfully explaining the simple meaning of Scripture, they delighted in complex musing, fanciful allegories, obscure insights, mystical notions, and the teachings of earlier rabbis. The religious teachers of that day were in bondage to quotation marks. They love to quote authorities. This person says, “….” That person says, “….” Another person believes, “….”
Regardless of what Jesus taught that day, His content was reliable, His reasoning irrefutable, His theology impeccable, His presentation flawless, and His insights penetrating. Most of all, His authority was compelling – even astonishing. In every sense of the word, he was awesome!
Let’s pause for a moment and talk about this.
- Why is it important that we receive the Scriptures with full authority?
- What happens if we don’t receive the Scriptures with authority?
The Authority of His Judgment (23-24)
We now understand that Jesus taught with full authority and perfectly in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s why verse 23 happens. Mark says, Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (NLT) Here is where we see the authority of Jesus’ judgment. As we will see the “evil spirit” is afraid that Jesus has come to bring judgement on them. The evil spirit knows Jesus has the authority to judge them this way. Let’s look at a couple of things here.
- Mark tells us that during Jesus’ teaching this confrontation with the evil spirit happened “suddenly” (euthys) or immediately. I’m picturing Jesus teaching the people in the synagogue and they are entranced, focused, and completely amazed at they are hearing from Jesus. Then out of know where this man interrupts the service and “cried out” asking Jesus some questions.
- Mark tells us the man who cried out “was possessed by an evil spirit.” Literally, God in the flesh confronted a demon in the flesh. This evil spirit referred to Jesus in two ways and asked two questions.
- First, the evil spirit referred to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth.” This title carried a tone of scornful disdain. Nazareth was an obscure town, held in low esteem by other Israelites (cf. John 1:46). The Jewish leaders, in particular, used the term to belittle or downgrade someone. They mocked the idea that anyone significant, let alone the Messiah would come from such a place (cf. John 7:41, 52). In referring to Jesus’ hometown, the demon joined the scorn of the disbelieving crowds.
- But the evil spirit also referred to Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” At the same time, the evil spirit knew exactly who Jesus was. Consequently, his scorn is mixed with terrified dread. As a wretched fallen angel, his response was one of hate intermingled with fear. He called Jesus “the Holy One of God” because he was fully aware of Jesus’ divine authority. This unclean spirit, a being characterized by ultimate depravity and incurable wickedness, cringed in the presence of perfect holiness.
Let me make an observation here: It is very possible to recognize Jesus for who He is and hate him all the more. I know who you are and I don’t like it. This evil spirit recognized Jesus’ humanity by calling him “Jesus of Nazareth” and recognized Jesus’ deity when he called Him “the Holy One of God.”
This brings us to the two questions the evil spirit asked.
- The first question, “Why are you interfering with us?” – This was the demon’s way of saying, “Mind you own business.” Notice the “us” in this question. The evil spirit is probably speaking on behalf of many evil spirits that were in this man. He was infested with them.
- The second question, “Have you come to destroy us?” – From the evil spirit’s perspective this is referring to the final judgment that he knows is coming, but doesn’t know when that Jesus will bring on them. The evil spirit knows that Jesus has the authority to interfere and to destroy.
Let me make another observation: Evil spirits find it very easy to hide in false religions and churches that do not exalt Jesus Christ and His kingdom. As is their nature, demons disguise themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and promote false beliefs (1 Tim. 4:1). But when confronted with the authority and holiness of Jesus in His teaching the demon could not remain hidden in the man any longer. Unable to restrain himself, the demon erupted in a fit of rage in response to the truth of Jesus.
Another observation: I believe there are people today just like this demonized man who sits in church able to tell you who Jesus is and even trembling with fear of judgment – yet lost! (see James 2:19). Who knows how many church services this demonized man had sat through?
Let’s pause a moment and talk about this:
- Are “evil spirits” real today?
- Why do “evil spirits” hate Jesus so much?
- What’s the difference between someone being ill vs. being possessed by an evil spirit?
- What does the evil spirit’s reaction teach us about the authority of Jesus?
The Authority of His Power (25-28)
We have seen the authority of the Lord’s Word over people and the kingdom of darkness. We have seen the authority of the Lord’s judgement upon the spiritual forces of evil. Now we see the authority of His power over the demonic world. Mark goes on to say in verse 25, But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. 26 At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. 27 Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” 28 The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. (NLT)
- Mark tells us that “Jesus reprimanded” the evil spirit by telling him, “Be quiet! Come out of the man.” This was a direct order and command. Not a suggestion. This command “Be quiet!” would also be used on a storm later that Jesus would calm. This is a command WITHOUT the option of disobeying.[i]
- Mark then says, At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. It’s like the demon tried one last convulsive attack, but then had to submit to the authority of God’s Servant and come out of the man.[ii]
- Mark goes on to say, Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!”The people in the synagogue were amazed and afraid.[iii] They realized that something new had appeared on the scene – a new doctrine and a new power. Our Lord’s words and works must always go together (John 3:2).
- Then Mark ends this event by saying, The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. This was just the beginning. Mark 1:39 says that “He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee preaching and casting out the demons” (NASB).
Here is one observation: We are not told anything about this man. We don’t know his name. He could have been married. Had kids or grandkids. We don’t know where he worked. What we do know is this man was in the synagogue the day Jesus arrived. I believe it was an intentional decision by Mark to leave out this man’s name because the focus wasn’t the man or even the evil spirit, but the authority and power and grace and love of Jesus. What we learn from Christ’s action is that His gospel of love and power is for all, even the least and the worst of us.
We are the Church, the Body of Christ, which by definition has to do with those who have been indwelt by the Spirit of God. Our lives are to speak God’s Word authoritatively. Not only that, but as the Church of Christ we are to be involved in deliverance from sin. Christ calls his followers to minister in his authority.
Among our Lord’s final words were these, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT).
[i] It is important to emphasize that during Jesus’ ministry, the demons did not attack Him. They assaulted the souls of sinful people but never Jesus. In fact, whenever a confrontation occurred, it was Jesus who attacked them. His mere presence sent them into a frenzied panic. Though invisible to the naked eye, they were not invisible to Him. They might be able to hide from people – disguising themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and dwelling comfortably within the confines of false religion. But they could not hide from the omniscient gaze of Christ. In His presence, they blew their cover due to the constraining power of their fear.
[ii] Casting out unclean spirits: Jesus the exorcist. The NT takes the existence of demons for granted but offers no explanation of their origin or descriptions of their appearance. Many are not comfortable with the idea of demons, although we still use phrases like, “What’s gotten into him?” or “What’s come over you?” The world of demons is exotic and bizarre to most moderns. They either reduce them to cartoon-like gremlins or deny their existence completely. Modern scientific attitudes heavily influence us; and since demons do not show up on scientific radar screens, many dismiss such cases as some primitive misdiagnosis that is now made obsolete by modern medical advances. It would make many happier if Mark had given some medical name to the maladies of these sufferers. At the opposite pole, however, are those who brand everything that they do not comprehend as demonic. Both views trivialize the problem of an evil that wages combat with God. In 1:32, Mark makes a distinction between those who are sick and those who have demons. Those afflicted with demons are never said to be “healed”; instead, the demons go out from them.
[iii] The passage itself reveals a striking contrast between the response of people to Jesus’ authority and the response of demons. On the one had, people were amazed at Jesus’ power and authority (vv. 22, 27). They reacted with wonder, curiosity, and surprise because He taught as no one they had ever head before. On the other hand, demons were terrified by Christ. They responded in horror, dread and panic. Those differing reactions lie at the heart of understanding the significance of this passage. Both the demons and the people were sinful. Yet, only the demons shrieked in fear. They understood Jesus was their Judge who would cast them into hell. The people certainly did not.