Mark 1:21-31 (King James Version) And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
23And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
29And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. 31And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
There are two themes in this sermon. The first is who Jesus is. The second them is the cost of service.
This text starts with Jesus in the synagogue. Not a bad place to be on Sabbath. He is there teaching. Again, the Messiah is setting an excellent example. He was there to serve. Jesus was probably acting as a scribe, as a Torah reader.1 In synagogues, a portion of the Torah or the Mosaic books is assigned for study each week. The Torah teacher teaches from the assigned passage.
There is something different about Jesus’ teaching. He did not teach like other Torah teachers. You see the Torah teachers were not ordained rabbis. That means they were not supposed to introduce new interpretations or make legal judgments.2 Jesus did not quote rabbis or depend on their teachings.3 The authority of Jesus did not come from people. His authority came from God.4 Want authority in your life, in your service for God? Follow the teachings of God. Get your authority from God.
Verse 22 says the people were amazed at Jesus’ authority. James Moffatt, in the Moffatt Bible, translates it “astounded.” David Stern, who wrote in insightful Jewish New Testament Commentary, says they were in shock.5
But the people had more reason to be amazed. They were to see Jesus’ authority extended well beyond the pulpit, well beyond teaching. As the Son of God, He has authority over spiritual powers. A man with an unclean spirit enters the picture.
He cries out that Jesus is the Holy One from God. Jesus tells the unclean spirit to be quiet. The commentator Dake makes an interesting point. He says the evil spirit might have identified Jesus to try to show Jesus was of the devil.6
You may wonder why this is in the bible. The exchange is significant. Through the exchange, Jesus is identified as the Messiah. A subtle message is present in this exchange too. The devils could identify Jesus, while the religious leaders who were supposed to have a superior connection to God, could not identify Jesus. A person who was an outcast was able to identify Jesus, but the powerful religious leaders could not identify the Messiah. That is true today. Queer people and secular people in society can identify the risen Christ in the lives of queer Christians, but many religious leaders cannot see Christ in the hearts and lives of queer Christians.
The evil spirit identified Jesus as the Messiah. He refers to Jesus as the “Holy one of God.” The term “Holy one of God” comes from Psalms 16:10.7 Psalm 16 is a Messianic chapter. The chapter identifies the Messiah as our refuge (verse 1), the source of our goodness (verse 2), our inheritance (verse 5), and the one who preserves from the grave (Sheol) (verse 10).
The evil spirit knew Jesus was the Messiah. Knowing Jesus is the Messiah is not enough. Matthew Henry, a well-known commentator, notes knowing Jesus, but having no faith in Him is doing no better than the devil.8 The demon knew Jesus was the Messiah, but he also knew Jesus was not his Saviour, so he could not really have any faith in Jesus. Jesus is the Savior of the world, not the savior of evil spirits.
Jesus’ power over evil spirits showed He was the Messiah. In the ancient Near East, it was believed you could gain special powers over somebody if you knew their name or identity.9 This was thought to be true of humans and gods. That is why most of the gods names were descriptions. For example, Baal, means lord.10 Athirat is an ancient Near Eastern goddess.11 She is also known as Asherah.12 Athirat’s name means ‘she treads on Sea.’13 Athirat is a description.
The evil spirit here is trying to gain power over Jesus by identifying Jesus as being “the Holy One from God.” In the occult, there is also a belief that “the precise use of a person’s name” could give at least some control over that person.14
But what happens? The bid for power fails. The evil spirit comes out of the man with a shriek. In Jesus’ life He did more than just kick out a few demons. The demon asks if Jesus came to destroy all demons.15 A case can be made that Jesus will do just that.
Relating this to salvation, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). John 6:37 (Moffatt Bible) “All those will come to me who are the Father’s gift to me, and I will never reject one of them.” Your Bible may say Jesus will not cast out or drive away anybody the Father gives Him. The meaning is the same.
We can pray in Jesus’ name. John 16:26 (Moffatt Bible) “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
There are limits to the influence we have on God. We cannot get anything or everything we want. If we could get anything we want, do you think I would look like this? Do you think I would drive the car I drive? Own the home I own? I think not!
Those in the synagogue are mega impressed with the Messiah. The news of Jesus, the one who teaches with authority, gives new teachings and gives marching orders to evil spirits, spreads all over Galilee.
The people had reason to be impressed. In the ancient world, belief in demons was very common. This was true within Judaism too.16 The cures for demon possession could be very extreme. The minor cures an exorcist might use included incantations, spells, and magic.17William Barclay, who is a very popular and respected commentator, describes an extreme method of casting out demons. A small hole was bored in the skull. The small disk of bone removed from the skull was often worn around the neck like a good-luck charm.18 Just thinking of how that surgery would have been performed in the days before quality anesthetics and sterilization procedures gives me the creeps. All the Messiah had to do was to say a word.
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, when the demon attacked. Whenever Jesus’ teachings are lifted up, the Devil is not happy. The pastor, teacher, and lay leader who promotes the Gospel, news of Jesus’ death for our sins, will face attacks.
The person who attacked Jesus looked normal. Had he looked demon possessed, nobody would have let him in the synagogue.19 When people are exposed to the gospel, you learn a lot about them. People appear normal until they are exposed to the gospel. Then they may become transformed Believers or they may attack those who bring the goods of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Looking at verse 29. Immediately, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home. Peter and Andrew took Jesus home with them. Good idea. Take the Lord home with you. Do not leave God at church. When you take Jesus home, God will bless you and lift your burdens.20
Simon’s mother-in-law was sick. Again healing takes place. Jesus took her hand, raised her up, and she was healed.
Several important principles are illustrated here. First, no matter how close you are to the Lord, you will face difficulty. You can be so close to God, you can reach out and touch God, and there will still be problems in your life. Suffering is not a sign of spiritual bankruptcy. Simon and Andrew were very close to the Savior. That did not stop their family from experiencing sickness.
You face attack at home and at the church. Perhaps, you have felt that way. Unfortunately, the devil works harder today than on any other day of the week. He does not have to work very hard Friday night and Saturday night at night-clubs and bars. Friday and Saturday evenings are prime party time. But watch out at church. The devil is likely to show his head at church, just as he did in the synagogue.
You might have gone all week without hearing anybody use derogatory terms to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans-identified people. You go to church and you hear a few derogatory terms. And church people might sit around and talk about gays and lesbians, using very inaccurate and damaging stereotypes. This is an attack of evil, because you are serving the Lord.
Think of Sunday morning with young children. Getting them ready for church. You get one little dude ready, turn around, and he’s dirty again. That little girl. Man, she looked like such a little princess. Thirty second later, she looks like Miss Mudville.
Then there are the teenaged young people. They are so cool. They radiate “with-it” vibs. And talk about energy. They can stay up all Friday night and all Saturday night. Talk about getting up for church in the morning. No way. Trying to get some teenagers up for church is like trying to wake Lazarus from the dead. Only an act of God can do it. They might even dress like young lawyers for a date, but for church, NEVER! What do they want to wear to church? T-shirt and jeans that are so old and worn they look like body parts could fall out of them. And as a parent, you just know what the reaction will be. People at church will be mad as hornets and your teens will come home just as angry.
Vernon McGee tells a neat story about clothes. Some young people came to him. They complained that they had attended a church and were publicly criticized, because of the way they dressed. The young people asked Dr. McGee if the church was wrong. Vernon McGee told those young people they were in the wrong and the church was in the wrong. Neither acted in love. The church was wrong for publicly criticizing the young people. And the young people were wrong for dressing in a way they knew would offend the church members.21
I am going to talk for a minute about things that do not violate God’s word. When it does not violate God’s word, it is our responsibility to accept, even when we do not agree. We need to show respect, even when we do not like what another person has done. Many times we put the burden of fitting in on our young people. As more mature brothers and sisters in Christ, it is our duty to adapt too. We cannot expect young people to know how to bend and change to fit in at church, if they have never seen us doing that at church. Young people learn by example.
Some young people take a stand for the Lord and they do not get much support from home. Unfortunately, that is not limited to homes where the parents are not Christians. In some homes, going into a career where you serve God or humanity is not appreciated.
There is a principle. Having our family’s support is not necessary for our happiness. Your family might not always agree with you or approve of you, but that does not diminish your worth or value.
I will conclude with this very important principle. After Simon’s mother-in-law was healed, she got up and served them. After God has healed us from sin, from the sins of things we’ve done, and from the sins of things we neglected doing, and from the sins of homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia, and self-hate, we are to serve God and humanity. Jesus cured our spiritual illnesses not just to give us life, nor is it just to make us be happy, well-adjusted queers; the purpose of the cure is to let us be co-creators with God, by serving God. We are cured so we can better serve God.22
Creator, Redeemer, Comforter God, search us. Evaluate our hearts. Make our hearts into hearts of service. Remind us of your authority and power, so we may serve with confidence, without being paralyzed by fear. Amen.