Teaching with Authority

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Mark 1:21-28 (Jesus Drives Out an Evil Spirit)

INTRODUCTION: Today we come to the first miracle story recorded by Mark. Remember the gospel of Mark is full of action. Matthew, Luke and John spend a lot of time on Jesus’ teaching, but Mark loves to share especially the things that Jesus did. And so we will see a lot of Jesus’ miracles as we read through the gospel of Mark. (Read Mark 1:21-28)

Never underestimate the power of a good teacher. Think for a moment about some of the teachers you have had in the past. You have probably had some good teachers as well as a number of forgettable ones. I remember one history teacher in high school who basically came into class and just read to us from the text book. It was one of the most boring classes I ever took. Contrast that with our physics teacher who was alert and alive and excited about the subject. He got us excited about it, too!

Well, I believe it is safe to say that there never was a teacher like Jesus Christ. Mark gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ teaching ministry here in this passage in Mark 1. And the main word he wants us to focus on here is “authority.” The thing that marked Jesus’ teaching apart from everybody else’s was his authority. So let’s take a look at this passage together.

I. Jesus’ authority in his teaching (verses 21-22)

Verse 21: “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.” (Mark 1:21) The “they” in verse 21 is Jesus along with the four disciples from last week’s passage – Peter, Andrew, James and John – who are now following Christ. Christ went to Capernaum, so they went with him.

Capernaum was a fishing town located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was a fairly large city of about ten thousand people and lay along a major trade route. Capernaum is pretty important in the gospels. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and he grew up in Nazareth, but when he began his public ministry he left Nazareth and made Capernaum his home base instead.

Because it was a large city, Capernaum had a major synagogue. And although the original synagogue is long gone, if you go to Capernaum today, you can still see the ruins of the synagogue that was built over its foundation later in the fourth century. (Show picture – you can still see parts of the original foundation)

Capernaum Snagogue Ruins

The synagogue was the center of religious life for the Jewish people. You might visit the temple in Jerusalem each year, but the local synagogue is where you gathered weekly on the Sabbath for worship. Worship included prayers, the singing of Psalms, various readings from the Scripture and a sermon or time of teaching from the Scriptures.

Now, not just anyone could get up and start to teach in the synagogue. You had to be invited. There were regular rabbis and teachers, but there were also guest teachers from time to time. If you remember from last week, Jesus had already begun his public preaching ministry. The gospel of Luke tells us it was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue each Sabbath, so it was natural that the ruler of the synagogue might extend an invitation for him to teach. You will notice that Mark does not tell us what Jesus taught on that morning. (Wouldn’t you like to know?). That’s because his emphasis here is not so much on what Jesus taught but rather on how he taught. And the point Mark keep hammering home is that Jesus taught with authority.

Look at verse 22: “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22) I want you to notice two things from this verse.

    A. The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching.

First of all, the people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. I don’t know what they were expecting when they went to synagogue that morning, but whatever it was, they got something different. There was something about Jesus and his teaching that stood out to them, and they were amazed. We are going to see this theme of “amazement” again and again in Mark’s gospel. Mark, more than any of the other gospel writers, loves to emphasize the people’s amazement at what Jesus said and did.

    B. Jesus taught as one with authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Why were they amazed at this teaching? Back to verse 22: “Because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22) They had been to synagogue before, they went every Saturday. They had heard teachers before, probably some really good ones. We know they were at least teaching from God’s word, so it couldn’t have been all bad. But there was something about Jesus when he taught that their teachers lacked, and that was authority.

Some people think this refers to the way the teachers of that day would reference other teachers as they taught. They would say things like, “You know as Rabbi Heller says, etc.” They would try to footnote everything they said to build a case for their interpretation. That may have had something to do with it. When we look at other examples of Jesus’ teaching in the gospels, we don’t find him referencing other rabbis to bolster authority for his words.

But I think there was something even deeper going on here. We saw last week that the general thrust of Jesus’ teaching was this. Going back to verses 14 and 15:

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)

Jesus was not simply teaching the Scriptures, but he was also proclaiming the nearness of God’s kingdom and calling people to a personal response. Jesus’ message was urgent: “The kingdom of God is near!” Jesus’ message was bold and demanding: “Repent and believe the good news!” And he clearly had the personal authority to deliver this message.

Personal authority is not something that comes cheaply. Personal authority comes from experience, integrity and maturity. If a ten-year old gets up to speak about married love and commitment, it is a different thing than when a wife who has cared for her ailing husband for thirty years gets up to speak. Nothing against ten-year olds, but that wife has an authority that the ten-year old lacks.

Well, Jesus had a personal authority unlike anyone you have ever met. He was commissioned by God, sent from heaven, filled with the Holy Spirit, and specially anointed for his task. Jesus had a personal authority like no other, because his person was like no other. He was the eternal Son of God who had entered our world as a human being. He was not part God and part man. He was fully God and fully man, and so when he spoke, he spoke with the full authority of God. That’s why later on, when the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Jesus and they came back empty-handed and the chief priests asked the guards, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” the guards answered, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (John 7:45-46)

The people were amazed at Jesus, because Jesus taught them as one who had authority, and not as their own teachers of the law.

II. Jesus’ authority over the demonic (verses 23-26)

So that was Jesus’ authority in his teaching, but this passage also shows us Jesus’ authority over the demonic. And as we will see in a moment, the two are related to each other (i.e. Jesus’ authority in teaching; Jesus’ authority over demons). But let’s look at this demonic encounter first. Look at verses 23-26:

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil 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 evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. (Mark 1:23-26)

    A. Jesus is confronted by the evil spirit.

And so Jesus is busy teaching in the synagogue, when all of a sudden this man with an evil spirit cries out in the middle of his teaching. Boy, I’m glad that’s never happened while I’m preaching. Once when I was preaching, I mentioned something about the word “Philadelphia” meaning “the city of brotherly love.” Someone in the congregation yelled out, “They also make a great cheese steak!” I think it took me ten minutes to find my place again! But can you imagine being interrupted by someone who was possessed by a demon?

I was at a Christian concert once when the singer was nearing the end of his presentation and was speaking softly about Jesus and what it means to commit your life to him, when someone in the audience started screaming out in tongues. I mean, this guy was just yelling and screaming. It was completely out of place. The singer paused for a moment, and then he just did this in the microphone: (raspberry sound); he gave him the raspberry, and the person stopped right away. Was that a case of an evil spirit trying to disrupt the preaching of the gospel? Possibly, I don’t know.

But in Jesus’ case here, we know that it was an evil spirit because the text tells us so. And this spirit cries out in the midst of the assembly: “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!” (Mark 1:24) The demon’s words are combative and confronting. Literally, the demon cries out, “What have we to do with you, Jesus?” This was a common phrase in Biblical times used to set one party against another. It is a rhetorical question where the answer is clearly, “I have nothing to do with you; I don’t want anything to do with you.”

What’s so sad about this is when you stop and consider what an evil spirit or a demon actually is. An evil spirit is a fallen angel. Angels are beautiful and awesome beings — created by God, worshiping God, loving God and living in God’s presence. But we know from the Bible that a number of angels chose sides with Satan during the great rebellion and were expelled from heaven along with him. Think about it. This evil spirit once worshiped God in heaven as a beautiful angel. His place is supposed to be with God, and now he cries out, “What have we to do with you, Jesus?” And the answer is, of course, nothing. Good can have nothing to do with evil, and evil cannot live in God’s presence.

The demon asks Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” Do you know why he asked that? Remember, Jesus was teaching that the kingdom of God is near – and that meant that Satan’s kingdom was coming to an end. And so the demon asks, “Have you come to destroy us?” And the answer is yes. 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” The book of Revelation makes it clear that Jesus will destroy Satan and all of his followers in the great battle at the end of time. This demon, who once was a beautiful angel, is now just spitting anger and evil and bitterness at Jesus in this confrontation because he knows that God’s kingdom has drawn near through Christ, and he hates Jesus with a passion.

Notice what else the demon says. He says, “I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24) Remember, Jesus is God’s Son. He lived in heaven long before he came to earth as a man. Jesus existed before all things and he created all things, which means he also created this fallen angel. This demon who confronts Jesus as a man in the synagogue once worshiped Jesus as God in heaven. He knows who Jesus is. Jesus is the eternal Son of God he is the Holy One, he is the Messiah sent to bring God’s kingdom and deliver God’s people from Satan, sin and death.

The people may not know who this Jesus is in their midst. They are amazed at Jesus’ teaching and his authority, but they do not know his identity. But this demon knows Jesus all too well and so he cries out: “I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24)

    B. Jesus drives out the evil spirit.

How does Jesus respond to this demonic confrontation? (A whole lot better than I would!) Jesus drives out the evil spirit. Look at verses 25-26:

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. (Mark 1:25-26)

Jesus doesn’t go through any elaborate exorcism ritual. He simply tells him, “Shut up, and get out.”

Notice Mark says that when the demon left, he first “shook” the man’s body. The word here means “a violent shaking or convulsion.” This shaking is actually very common when a demon is driven out from a person. When you are possessed by a demon, the demon takes up residence within you. And the demon becomes so lodged with your being, so intertwined with your spirit, that when it leaves, there is a tearing in your person at the spiritual level which manifests itself in this shaking or convulsion. And so this violent shudder passes through the man’s body as the demon tears himself apart from the man’s spirit, and then the demon leaves with a shriek. And at this point I am guessing the demon was probably saying: “Note to self: Confront Jesus, and you lose.” By the way, that is true every time.

III. The people’s response (verses 27-28)

So, what was the people’s response to all this? Look at verses 27-28:

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 evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:27-28)

    A. They were amazed at Jesus’ authority.

Once again, Mark stresses how amazed the people were at Jesus’ teaching and authority. And notice the connection between the two. Jesus taught with authority about the coming of God’s kingdom, and he demonstrated that authority in his power over the demonic world. Now, remember what we read in Deuteronomy 18 earlier this morning? How did you know if the prophet was really sent from God? How did you know he truly had authority? If what he spoke, came true. (Deuteronomy 18:14-22) When Jesus drove out the demon in front of them all, he was demonstrating the truth of what he was teaching: “The kingdom of God is near. Therefore, Repent, and believe the good news!”

    B. News about Jesus spread quickly.

Mark tells us the people were so amazed at what happened that they were all talking about it, and the news about Jesus began to spread quickly. I mean, this was not your typical day at church. Can you imagine someone who missed that day? “So, anything interesting happen at synagogue today?” “Well, let’s see, where shall we begin?” The people were amazed, and the news spread quickly. “There is a new teacher in town, and he is not like our own teachers of the law. He teaches with authority. He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”

CONCLUSION: Well that was the people’s response to Jesus. How about our response? What are some ways we can apply this passage to our own lives this morning? I would like to close with three applications.

1) Read the gospels. The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching, and much of that teaching has been preserved for us in the gospels. Do you want to know Jesus better? Then read the gospels often and frequently, and be amazed at the person of Jesus as you encounter him again and again through the gospel accounts.

2) Claim Jesus’ authority over Satan. Satan is an enemy, but he is a defeated enemy. Although e still causes plenty of damage in the world, if you are in Christ, he has no authority over you. I don’t know at that concert if the person who was screaming out in the audience was possessed by a demon. But I do know this: if it was a demon, the singer who silenced him was relying on the authority of Christ. You have no authority of your own over the demonic, but you have been given authority over Satan in Christ. That means you do not have to fear Satan or his attacks. That is part of the good news of the kingdom.

3) Spread the news of Jesus far and wide. When Jesus came to earth, the kingdom of God broke into our world as evidenced by Jesus’ teaching and miracles. God’s kingdom continues to advance in the world today as believers in Christ yield their lives to him and share about Christ with others. All authority belongs to Christ, so we need to do our part in spreading the good news of Jesus far and wide. Who will you share Christ with this week?

© Ray Fowler

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