"Don't do anything else until you watch this amazing video!" We have probably all seen headings like that while being on Facebook, looking up something on YouTube or Googling something. I must confess that I have clicked on those things and almost every time have been terribly underwhelmed. The word "amazing" has come to be overused and now simply a way to attract someone to something that is marginal. What others say is "amazing" is often far from it. Yet there are really amazing things we can see.
As we continue our study of Jesus’ life and ministry we read about a time when Jesus did things that were truly amazing! He didn’t catch a football with one hand or make a diving catch. He didn’t do the things that we may find amazing today. He simply taught with authority and threw demons out of people. I hope you find my sermons helpful but I doubt if any of you have walked out thinking, “That was amazing!!!” But that is what happened with Jesus. We read about the amazing things Jesus did in Mark 1:21-28.
I. Let's look first at Jesus as he teaches in the Synagogue in verses 21-22.
Theses verses indicate what a typical Sabbath might have been like for Jesus. Jesus' Sabbath activity may have included teaching, exorcism and healing. But this is more than just a listing of the things that Jesus did on a Sabbath. By listing these things, Mark is displaying how God is going to change everything through Jesus. All of these things Jesus does will restore people to wholeness. But Jesus does this in a way that brings about both excitement and alarm. Jesus, along with his four new disciples, go to the synagogue in Capernaum. It is likely that Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, is the town where all four of the new disciples lived. This was a city specified by Mark as being a center of Jesus' teaching and healing activity while Jesus was in Galilee.
Mark concentrates on one particular Sabbath when Jesus' synagogue teaching aroused amazement in the congregation. Mark doesn't give the exact content of Jesus' teaching but it may have been the general theme summarized in Mark 1:15: "Repent and believe." However, it may also have been his teaching of the coming Jubilee fulfillment that we looked at a couple of weeks ago. Jesus may have announced this message of release in various synagogues. However, Mark's primary emphasis is on the authority of Jesus' preaching. Jesus' word is given with God-given authority and so there is no debate, questioning or theological reflection. It confronted the people with the absolute claim of God upon their whole person. In fact, Jesus' teaching is more like the demand of the prophets than the teaching of the scribes in that day. So the issue is not so much a high quality rabbi versus one of inferior quality. It is the difference between teaching and prophetic proclamation. Rabbinic teaching was carrying on the tradition of the elders before them. This was prophecy, with authority that assumes authority from God.
II. Jesus then confronts the evil spirits in verses 23-26.
We read in verse 23 that in the synagogue there was a man with an evil spirit. This demon filled this man to his core so that the demon actually spoke through him. The disturbance which Jesus brings to the people in that community now is expressed in the excited response of this demon. In fact, this demon sensed in Jesus a threat to his very existence. The demon's terrified cry in verse 24 is loaded with the language of fear and resistance: "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!" The expression "What do you want with us" is a common formula in the Old Testament in times of conflict and has the sense of "you have no business with us." The next statement is likely not as much a question but rather a statement of fact: "You have come to destroy us!"
The demon understands more than the people do of the significance of what Jesus is saying and more importantly who Jesus is. The demon clearly knows Jesus' identity: "I know who you are, the Holy One of God!" This kind of statement is never used as a confession on the part of the demons but rather as a defensive attempt to gain control of Jesus. In those days, the use of the precise name of an individual or spirit would be done in an attempt to show authority over him. Think of when your parents used your full formal name when you were young: Gerald Lee Hoek! When they used that they were showing their authority over you. The demon is trying to claim authority over Jesus by using Jesus’ proper and full name. Yet the demon does recognize Jesus for who he is and that is important to notice. In fact, there is a key difference in Mark as to how the sick versus the demon possessed addressed Jesus. The sick refer to Jesus as "Lord," "Teacher," "Son of David" or "Master." The demon possessed refer to Jesus as "the Holy One of God", the "Son of God," or "Son of the Most High God." The evil spirits recognize that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Thus, as we go through Mark, we can know the distinction between demon possession and ordinary sickness in the titles used for Jesus.
Then what Jesus does next is also amazing: Jesus simply speaks a word and the demon is gone. Jesus rebukes the evil spirit with the words, "Be quiet! Come out of him!" The attempt to show authority on the part of the demon was made powerless when confronted by the sovereign command of Jesus. In contrast to some exorcists today, who identify themselves by name or by relationship to some deity or power, Jesus utters only a few direct words. He shows his absolute authority over the demon that had held the man captive. The evil spirit convulsed the possessed man and then with a loud shriek left him. The silencing and expulsion of the demon is proof of God's judgment against the evil in the world that Jesus came to bring. Jesus' mission was to confront Satan and strip him of his power. We will see this repeatedly in Mark's gospel
"The downed American flier evaded capture for days in enemy territory until rescue helicopters found him. When the helicopter landed in the clearing near where O'Grady was hiding, he didn't relax in the brush and say, 'I wish that the pilot would have landed a little closer.' He shook off his fatigue, fought through the bushes, drew his weapon and, with every ounce of energy he had, ran to the escape that had been provided for him."
III. The response of the people is seen in verses 27-28.
The people were astonished... again! The people were utterly astonished and alarmed by Jesus= taught word. The same measure of authority with which they had been confronted in his teaching was demonstrated in the word of command to the demon. Again, there had been no technique, no spells, no incantations or no symbolic act. There had only been one word: “Silence!” Their astonishment is reflected in the question, "What is this? A new teaching -- and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him!" They intuitively believe that what they have seen once will happen repeatedly. They do not fully understand who Jesus is, but they cannot help but see that Jesus had authority in his words and actions that no one had ever seen before! The alarming report concerning Jesus went out into the surrounding region. The disturbance of men by God had begun and things would never be the same again.
What is our response to Jesus? Are we amazed at the teaching we receive from God’s Word? Do we hear sermons or go to Sunday School or Bible studies and yawn through them? When we hear the good news of Jesus, do we just shrug our shoulders or are we amazed each time at what God has done for us in Christ? When we hear God's word taught whether it is in Sunday School or a Bible Study or in a sermon, we should be amazed at what God is saying to us! If we are listening to what God may be saying to us, we cannot help but be amazed at God speaking to us.
Are we amazed at Jesus' authority? We often downplay God’s and Jesus’ authority over us but it is very real and we need to be aware that we must submit fully to him. Do we really believe that or is following Jesus just something that we kind of believe and go through the motions on? Jesus speaks to us with authority and that means he has a claim on us!