Jesus casts out religious demons

TEXT: Mark 1:21-28

Here in this passage, we have poof that the devil goes to church.

Setting the scene: Mark writes that Jesus has been baptized by John the Baptist, then tempted by Satan in the wilderness. After that, John the Baptist is imprisoned, and Jesus begins his ministry by calling  four fishermen to be disciples:  Simon (Peter), his brother Andrew, and James and John, who also brothers and the sons of Zebedee.

And now Jesus and those freshly called disciples go to church (synagogue) on a Sabbath.

MISSION FROM GOD

The trip to the synagogue in Capernaum was not an accident. Jesus intended to go there after calling the first disciples to follow Him.

Why was this trip intentional? Jesus wanted to establish the authority of God's word and to do a work in that synagogue - and He wanted the disciples, his fellow Jews and the Evil One to hear and see that.

Note that Mark shows that  Jesus used the authority of God to both teach (verse 22) and to cast out evil (verse 27) from the synagogue. This authority, Mark says in verse 27, "amazed" the synagogue goers.

Compare these two references to Jesus' authority in this passage in Mark (verses 22 and 27) to the authority shown by Jesus with our previous study of Jesus chasing out the money changers in the Temple in the Book of Matthew: "Jesus establishes  His authority").

More broadly, this particular event in the Book of Mark was intended to be witnessed by three audiences - the synagogue goers, the disciples, and the Evil One (and, by extension, his minions).

AUDIENCE NO. 1: SYNAGOGUE GOERS

Note that in Mark 1:21-22, the first thing Jesus did was to declare the Word of God. Jesus wasn't just "teaching" the Word, He was teaching the Word with authority.

Here we see an important difference between the declaration of the Word by man (the scribes) and the declaration of the Word by God (Jesus).

The religious establishment - that which was the normal source of instruction for all synagogue goers - had not previously shown this congregation  the same authority when speaking scripture as Jesus now showed them.

The scripture spoken by Jesus to this congregation was the same as that recited by the scribes (there was no "New Testament"). So, what was the difference between the impact of scripture spoken by the scribes and the impact of the scripture spoken by Jesus?

The authority of God behind the scripture.

Scripture, without an authority behind it, is merely recitation. In short, God "inhabits" His Word, which is the authority behind that which what was spoken by Jesus (the Son of God) to this congregation. Man, by contrast, can be said to attempt to "inhabit" scripture when he puts his own spin on it and tries to fashion it to his own purposes.

Jesus spoke the Word as God had intended it, with purity and without interpretation or adornment. When Man, a fallen being, speaks the Word, he must be careful not to manipulate that which has been spoken from the Throne Room of God and then faithfully recorded in Holy scripture.

Jesus, the Manna from heaven and the very Son of God, spoke with authority because He WAS the Word (REFERENCE: John 1:1-5). Man has no such authority or credentials.

IRONIC TWISTS

As a final note, isn't it ironic that the one now standing before this congregation was also the very same One who, before becoming man,  had sat beside the Father as that Word issued from the Throne Room of God? In other words, Jesus could speak with authority because ... not only was He there when it was issued ... but also because He WAS and IS the personification of that very same Word.

It is also ironic that the son of the very God they worshiped was standing before them - in little Capernaum - and they didn't even recognize Him in their spirits. Indeed, God had returned to visit Israel, but Israel knew it not.

AUDIENCE NO. 2: THE DISCIPLES

The sight and the sound of a screaming demon [ NIV: shrieking ] got the disciples' attention in the synagogue at Capernaum - as it did the synagogue congregation (Mark 1:23-26). (Actually, there were several demons in this man, speaking with one voice).

How were the demons revealed?

When Jesus established the authority of the Word of God, it charged the spiritual atmosphere in the synagogue and revealed the evil  that had come through the doors with the worshipers. And that evil was "wearing the body" of a worshiper.

What Jesus had shown the disciples they would later recall and invoke in their ministries. They learned that the preaching of the Word issues forth a light that reveals evil - and if that evil be a demon, it must, in the authority of Jesus' name, flee.

Jesus would later grant that authority to his 12 chosen inner-circle disciples (SEE Mark 3:13-15), and later to all believers in Christ (SEE Mark 16:15,17). You can find more about this subject here.

AUDIENCE NO. 3: THE FALLEN

The third audience this event was intended for was the world of fallen angels and their leader, Satan.

This event is the first exercise of the authority that Jesus held over the hidden world of the Evil One. Recall that Jesus had taken authority away from Satan after successfully resisting the Evil One's attempts to turn Him to the dark side during Christ's temptation in the wilderness (REFERENCE: Mark 1:12-13).

By successfully resisting Satan, Jesus overcame the Evil One, and in so doing, proved that the power and authority the Evil One had historically held over the earth and men's souls did not extend to the Son of God. That meant that the devil HAD to give up that authority to Jesus - who was both God AND man.

And here's an important point: Since Jesus has the authority over the Evil One, those who are in Christ also have that authority (See Mark 16:15, 17). Any Christian who thinks they are too weak to deal with the Enemy should be encouraged by what Jesus has secured for all of Christians, and should now take that authority over the Evil One - in Jesus' name.

OBSERVATIONS

It seems odd that the man out of whom Jesus cast demons doesn't even appear to have thanked Jesus for what the Lord had done for him. The man was, apparently, just delivered and then went on his way. Hopefully, that wasn't the case, but the Bible tells us what can happen when there's nothing in our " house" after we are delivered from a demon (REFERENCE: Luke 11;26).

From Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, we also learn that:

Christ's thus casting out the devils, was really the destroying of their power. The heart of every unconverted sinner is the devil's palace, where he dwells, and where he rules. There is a kind of peace in the heart of an unconverted soul, while the devil, as a strong man armed, keeps it. The sinner is secure, has no doubt concerning the goodness of his state, nor any dread of the judgment to come. But observe the wonderful change made in conversion. The conversion of a soul to God, is Christ's victory over the devil and his power in that soul, restoring the soul to its liberty, and recovering his own interest in it and power over it.

Secondly, the synagogue goers had not even recognized that one of their own members was even possessed by demons. It was only revealed through the truth and authority of Jesus' teaching - which is to say, the Word of God.

Thirdly, the synagogue's congregation appears to have had no compassion for that demon-possessed man - even after Jesus cast out the demon from that man.

In Mark 2:27-28, we see that the congregation appeared to only be concerned about the WORK Jesus had performed and not about either the demon-possessed man or about the One who had performed the exorcism. It was just a "new thing", a "new doctrine" (teaching), a new "authority" and something to gossip about.

Fourth, the synagogue's congregation saw Jesus cast out the demon with authority, after teaching with authority and then speaking to the demon with authority - but they never linked that authority to God, only to man and the "supernatural."

One has to ask: Had Israel really become so used to the dark work of the "supernatural" that they couldn't recognize a demonstration of the power of God when it showed itself in front of their own noses?

And isn't it also odd that these Jews never questioned Jesus about where His power came from?

KNOWING THE ENEMY'S TACTICS

The things the demons said were not just ramblings (REFERENCE Mark 1:24-25).

Loud enough for all the congregation to hear, the demons:

  1. Feared Jesus (notice the phrase, "leave us alone")
  2. Had to answer Jesus (notice the use of the word "we")
  3. Identified Jesus as an earthly name and gave his address (Nazareth)
  4. Confessed that he (they) knew Jesus (notice that, at one point, a demon used the word "I", instead  of "we")
  5. Jesus had to power to destroy it (them)
  6. Identified Jesus with a Heavenly name (the Holy One of God)

In short, the demosn were attempting to "out" Jesus as the Son of God, after Jesus had first revealed them as evil spirits, but did not have Jesus' approval to identify Him as the Christ. Jesus told the demons in verse 25 to shut up, as He did a demon in verse 34, who also tried to identify Him.

Why did Jesus forbid the spirits to speak? Jesus didn't want the endorsement of a demonic spirit as to who He was. Even if a demon were to SAY who Jesus is, only the Holy Spirit is authorized to reveal the TRUTH of who He is to the hearts of those who seek Him (SEE John 16:14-15).

In Mark 4:11-12, we see that God reveals Himself to whomever He wishes, and hides Himself from others. This is what Jesus was doing in the synagogue - preventing demons from revealing His true identity. The demon's tactic - to "out" Jesus - was foiled.

EVIL NEVER RESTS

Another tactic the demons used was to let everyone know that they were there, had its own power, and were to be feared. That is why the screamed (shrieked) with the possessed man's voice, and caused their host's body to shake and convulse.

You can't overlook a screaming demon; everybody in the synagogue could hear it, and everyone saw its power as the possessed man flopped around as it left his body.

The devil never gives up; he only goes away until a more opportune time comes. That is why Christians should resist him every time he shows himself, and stay close to Jesus at all  times to keep those "opportune times" at a minimum.