And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. – Mark 1:21-28
Jesus showed up on the scene, and he was different. When he taught, it wasn’t like the Scribes. Or, today we might say, it wasn’t like some dry seminary lecturer, not that all seminary professors are dry. But Jesus wasn’t speaking in academic terms. He was calling for life transformation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” He claimed it was time, time for the kingdom of God to be manifest. As I said, this wasn’t academic. The kingdom of God was breaking into human experience in a fresh way. Things were about to change big time.
To make his point, God had providentially arranged for a demon-possessed man to show up in the synagogue in the middle of Jesus’ teaching session. The demon-possessed man cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Obviously, there was more than one demon controlling this man. Jesus response was, “Shut up and get out.” While the demons did leave the man, it was anything but silent. The man convulsed and yelled loudly. This was quite a commotion in the midst of a synagogue meeting. It must have ruffled the feathers of the synagogue leaders who would have wanted everything to be done decently and in order. But when the kingdom of God comes into conflict with the kingdom of darkness things don’t always remain quiet and “in order.”
What blew away the synagogue attendees was this amazing display of authority on the part of Jesus. He came in like any other guest speaker and was teaching when all of a sudden when confronted with darkness, he demonstrated the power of God like they weren’t used to seeing. He taught with authority, so much so that demons obeyed him.
The obedience of demons underlined the need to listen and obey what Jesus had to say. Repent and believe the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.
What does this story say to us today?
Our experience with God’s word is not just academic; it isn’t just gaining new knowledge. It is to be an experience of obedience to the commands of Jesus. His word is authoritative, and we are to obey it. Life with Jesus is an experience, an experience with God’s love and God’s power. It is an experience of life transformation for those who get it. Jesus teaches with authority and darkness has to yield to his presence in our lives.
The book of Mark, from which I have taken this story, is unique in the use of the word translated here as “immediately.” The Greek word is used in Mark 41 times. It only appears in the New Testament 60 times, so two-thirds of the uses are in this gospel. I asked myself, “So what?” If you compare the gospel of Mark to the other gospels, you will see that Mark is a book of action. It is a book of the acts of Jesus. It is about action and doing. Mark is not so much a book about a religious leader contemplating the universe. To me, this makes it clear that we as disciples of Christ are to be people of action, those who do what Jesus commands. By this, I don’t mean that we are all to be a bunch of extroverts, but we are all to be people of obedience to the commands of Jesus.
I don’t mean to sound preachy, but I do want to emphasize what kind of people we are to be as followers of Jesus. The key word here is “followers.”
The glorious part of this story is that he is a teacher with authority which means when we are confronted with the evil one, we can call on the Greater Authority and be free. There is liberty for those who keep in step with the Spirit. Obedience is a place of freedom and joy. I pray for your freedom and joy in Jesus’ name.