Jesus Casts Out an Evil Spirit
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 began shouting, 24 "Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One sent from God!"
25 Jesus cut him short. "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.
Teachers of the law had turned the law (essentially our OT) into a series of legal precedents, endlessly citing one interpretive tradition after another. In so doing, they divorced the law from its true intent as a light both to reveal human sinfulness and to guide us to God. Jesus is different; he cuts to the chase by going back to the law itself and explaining God's original intent for it. Jesus' miracles are an extension of his teaching - both reveal his authority.99
Amazed (Mark 1:22)
Twice Mark mentions that Jesus' audience was amazed (literally, "struck as by a blow" (v. 22)100) - first at his teaching and then at his miracle-working power. How was Jesus' teaching different from that of "the teachers of religious law"? As evidenced throughout the gospels, there are several points of contrast. Unlike that of his contemporaries, Jesus' teaching was: truthful, significant, systematic, illustrative, loving, and authoritative.101
Evil spirit (Mark 1:23)
Demons are actually fallen angels who, along with their leader, the chief angel Satan, rebelled against God.102 They could and would take up residence in human beings, and the usual method for casting them out involved the use of magical formulas and even going so far as to incite one demon to attack and drive out another.103 Whereas Jesus had been on the defensive during his wilderness temptation, he now takes the offensive as he begins a frontal assault on Satan and his demonic army.104 Jesus does so, it should be noted, not by the exorcism techniques common to his day but rather by his supremely authoritative word alone - a feat so unusual it was perceived as "a new teaching."105
It should also be noted that modern skepticism regarding demon possession is proved false by Jesus' attitude toward it. If, as some hold, demoniacs were actually nothing more than people suffering from mental illness and/or epilepsy, then either Jesus himself was ignorant or else he chose to accommodate the ignorance of the people around him by going along with the superstitious belief that people can be possessed by demons. Either option irrevocably impugns the righteous character of our Lord and Savior.106
The fact that demon possession appears to be much less prevalent today is often attributed to the fact that Jesus overthrew Satan and ushered in a new era characterized by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, the lost and confused persons today who go looking for demons - i.e., "spirits" - through witchcraft and other occult practices quite often find them to be very real indeed.107
There are several types of "authority," including: "ability to act or produce an effect ... legal or official authority, capacity, or right ... possession of control, authority, or influence over others ... political control or influence."108 Here the word Mark uses for "authority" (exousia) includes the ideas of power, lordship, and freedom,109 and in this the first chapter of his gospel record, Mark presents Jesus as being the one "authorized to proclaim the good news of the kingdom (Mark 1:14-15), to call followers (Mark 1:16-20), and to make war on Satan (Mark 1:21-28)."110
Jesus has "all authority (exousia) in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18) - at least part of which he earned through his sacrificial service on our behalf. Jesus is our perfect model of servant-leadership, and we actually share in his authority whenever we tell others about God's kingdom and whenever we serve others in his name.
??? What's the difference between being told to do something and being asked to do it? What does that say about our natural reaction to authority?
Jesus Heals Many People
29 After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew's home. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. 31 So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.
32 That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.
Jesus Preaches in Galilee
35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, "Everyone is looking for you."
38 But Jesus replied, "We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came." 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.
Jesus' healing of the multitudes instantly brings him celebrity status. He responds to his newfound popularity by drawing close to God in prayer, where he gains a renewed sense of purpose and direction.
Healed ... cast out (Mark 1:34)
Just as soon as the Sabbath ended (at sunset [= 6 P.M.] on Saturday111) and the people were once again free to work and travel without restriction, Peter's house was mobbed by people seeking miraculous healing and deliverance.112 As he often does, in his account Matthew adds that Jesus' actions were intended as the fulfillment of OT prophecy - in this case Isaiah 53:4, which primarily has to do with the Messiah's atoning death. Jesus' many miracles were a foretaste of the total healing to be found in the atonement, as well as a powerful declaration of his authority as the unique Son of God and thus the only one able and willing to atone for the sins of the world.113 As John Calvin aptly put it: "[Jesus] gave sight to the blind, in order to show that he is 'the light of the world,' (John 8:12). He restored life to the dead, to prove that he is 'the resurrection and the life,' (John 11:25). Similar observations might be made as to those who were lame, or had palsy."114
Pray (Mark 1:35)
We get the impression that prayer was of vital importance to Jesus and that there was, in fact, an indelible bond between Jesus' public ministry and his private prayers. As one source puts it: "The praying of Jesus, as far as we are able to judge from the recorded instances (Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; Matthew 11:25, etc.; John 11:41; 17:1, etc.), is always concerned with something important in his ministry."115 In this particular instance Jesus' prayerful conclusion was that he must take his disciples and proceed on a preaching "tour through the Galilean towns and villages."116 Notice that in both Mark's account and that of Luke, Jesus fails to mention the many marvelous miracles that would accompany his preaching. Why? Because the miracles were secondary to the message, intended primarily as a means of authenticating Jesus as a true prophet and, ultimately, the Son of God.117
Depending on God
As witnessed by his habit of prayer, Jesus depended on God his Father. If, as the divine Son of God, Jesus realized his need for dependence on God, should we do any less?118 Sadly, within our hyper-individualistic society, dependence on God is seldom a prized possession. To be sure, many of us claim our faith in God is very important to us - even as we neglect the habit of prayer and the study of the only objective source of truth regarding God's will, the Bible. As demonstrated by Jesus, dependence on God means trying to please him rather than trying to please the crowd. It also means placing God's ultimate will above our own immediate desires.
??? In one respect Jesus' popularity can be seen as a continuation of Satan's efforts to derail his mission.119 If Jesus had wanted to, he could have had his own "megachurch." Instead, he forsook what many would consider success in order to pursue God's will.
Is popularity ever a bad thing? Explain. What can this section of Mark's gospel record teach us about being popular versus being in God's will?