Mark 1: 21 – 28 Jesus drives out an impure spirit
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who has authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’
‘Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
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Jesus taught, not in the usual way that a teacher of the law would have taught, but with authority. A teacher of the law would have referred to authorities. He might have said something like this: “Rabbi Hillel says this about divorce, but Rabbi Gamaliel says this. Rabbi Ananias supports Rabbi Gamaliel, but when the Sanhedrin considered the case of Nathanael they determined the case in line with Rabbi Hillel’s view…” In other words, their teaching was about precedent, and the arguments of legal experts.
Judaism, which had been the passionate love between Israel and God, had become adherence to a complex set of minutely detailed rules.
Jesus’ teaching was not like that. Mark has told us (in Mark 1: 15) what Jesus was saying at this early stage of his ministry. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’
This was a call to action. It’s still a call to action today. We none of us live sinless lives; we can always do better. There is always a need to repent – but note, it’s not a grovelling, miserable contrition. We are to ‘Repent and believe the good news!’. The good news is the news about Jesus, the news about forgiveness, the news that God will take us by the hand and help us to do better. It is the news that God loves us, and that we can come close to him.
Repentance for a Christian is allowing God to help us to be obedient to him.
Mark tells us that ‘The people were amazed at his teaching’.
But even while the congregation was marvelling at Jesus’ teaching, he was challenged. ‘Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’
Without hesitation, Jesus ordered the impure spirit out of the man – and it obeyed, shaking the man violently and coming out of him with a shriek.
The miracles of Jesus are signs that the power of God is working in him. Mark makes that point here by juxtaposing his account of Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum with the account of the driving out of an impure spirit. The train of thought is this: Jesus’ teaching is new and amazing, and Jesus casts out an impure spirit, therefore Jesus’ teaching is true and supported by God. To make the point even clearer, Mark has the impure spirit recognise Jesus as the Holy One of God.
If Jesus did signs like this that validated his ministry, should today’s Christians expect to see similar signs? – and if not, why not? And, if they should expect such signs, how does this affect their ministry?
And – I can’t in good conscience leave it out – what are the implications of these verses for spiritual warfare between good and evil?
Thank you that you call us through Jesus to repent and believe the good news. Thank you for your love for each one of us. Please help me every day to love more and want my own way less.
In Jesus’ name, Amen