Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit

Mark 1:21-28 and Luke 4:31-37

DIG: How is this story related to Ch – The Spirit of the LORD is On Me? Especially verses Luke 4:17-19? What similarities and differences do you see? What two things about Jesus amazed the people? Why? What does it mean to teach without authority? What was the nature and source of Yeshua’s authority?

REFLECT: What insights about the kingdom of God do you see here? On a scale of one to ten (with ten being the highest) how much authority does the Lord have in your life? What would He have to throw out for it to be a ten? What about Jesus’ authority grabs your attention? How is His authority bringing freedom to you?

After being rejected in His own hometown of Nazareth, He went down to Capernaum. Since Nazareth is about 1,300 feet above sea level and Capernaum is nearly 700 feet below sea level, He had to go down to get there. On this occasion we find Messiah, as was His custom, going into the synagogue in Capernaum where, as we will learn later, Jairus was the synagogue leader. And when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue, and began to teach the people (Mark 1:21; Luke 4:31). The Jewish custom was to permit any qualified man to read and interpret the TaNaKh, even though it was usually reserved for the rabbi.

The people were amazed at His teaching. The Torah-teachers (scribes) did not have s’mikhah (were not ordained as rabbis), and therefore could not bring chiddushim (introduce new interpretations) or posek halakhah (make legal judgments). This is why the people were amazed (one could say they were in shock). He taught like a rabbi, not a scribe. That was one level of amazement.

A second level of amazement was that He taught them as one who had authority, not as the Torah-teachers (Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). No rabbi taught (or judged, pasak) against the halakhah of his own rabbi. But Yeshua, who had no rabbi of His own, appeared to have authority beyond that of any of the rabbis. His teaching was like a breeze from heaven, and, as He summarized later, His authority came directly from His Father.400

Then Jesus cried out: Whoever believes in Me does not believe in Me only, but in the One who sent Me. The person who looks at Me is seeing the One who sent Me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness. If anyone hears My words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the person who rejects Me and does not accept My words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day (see my commentary on Revelation Fo – The Great White Throne Judgment). For I did not speak on My own, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me to say all that I have spoken. I know that His command leads to eternal life (see Ms – The Eternal Security of the Believer). So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say (John 12:44-50).

They were impressed with the content and authority of His teaching without attending a rabbinic academy. But as His reputation grew their question was, “Where did He receive His authority?” They didn’t understand yet. At that time the Jews had rabbinic academies where they were taught by a certain rabbi. When the rabbi’s themselves taught, they would reference their rabbi as their source of authority, saying, “Rabbi Cohen says . . .” Or Rabbi Edersheim says . . .” Eventually, however, Messiah would reveal that He not only has the authority to drive out demons, but the authority to forgive sins as well (see Co – Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man)!

Although the people were slow to recognize His authority, the demons were not. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by a demon, an unclean spirit, cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! 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” (Mk 1:23-24; Lk 4:33-34)! Whenever Jesus is confronted with demons they instantly recognize Him.

But every time one of the demons cried out who Jesus is, He immediately silenced them. Demons don’t make very good character witnesses; therefore, Christ accepts no testimony from them. Be quiet! said Jesus sternly. Come out of him! The demon shook the man violently and threw him down before all the impure spirits came out of him with a shriek, and doctor Luke adds: Without injuring him (Mark 1:25-26; Luke 4:35). But when He threw those demons out with a mere command, it created further amazement. They recognized that His method was different that Jewish exorcism.

The act of throwing out demons in that day was not particularly unusual at that time. Even the Pharisees and their disciples were also able to do it. Jesus would say later: If I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out (Mattityahu 12:27)? The Jewish people had already noticed that there was a difference in the way the Pharisees ordered out demons and the way Jesus did it.

The rabbis used a specific ritual when they threw out demons. The ritual had three steps. First, the exorcist would have to establish communication with the demon. When the demon spoke, it would use the vocal cords of the person being possessed to answer. Secondly, after establishing communication with the demon, the rabbis would ask for the demon’s name. Thirdly, once establishing the demon’s name, he would order the demon out. Normally Christ would cast them out without any ritual, which is what made His exorcisms so different.401

All the people were so amazed that they said to each other, “What is this? What words are these. A new teaching! With authority and power He gives orders to unclean spirits and they obey Him and come out” (Mark 1:28)! This incident in the synagogue in Capernaum causes word about Him to spread rapidly. News about Him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee (Mark 1:28; Luke 4:36-37). They recognized that He was teaching something new compared with pharisaic Judaism, and despite the fact that Jesus had no formal rabbinic training, He taught with authority.

After the morning synagogue service, the Jewish practice to this day is to have a special Sabbath meal. On this day Jesus was invited to the Sabbath meal at Peter’s house.

What quality was it in that special teacher that enabled you to turn on the light? You know, the “ah-ha” moment when you finally “get-it.” Some teachers are able to put the cookies on the bottom shelf where they’re easier to get to. Perhaps your father had it, or your mother. Maybe it was a teacher at school. But whoever it was, you knew in your heart that he or she knew what they were talking about. It’s called authority, and we can see here that Yeshua definitely had it in a unique way.

To the people of Capernaum, Jesus was amazing because through His words, He was opening them up to the thoughts of the Father. He was not merely repackaging human wisdom in a new box. No – His words were helping them to encounter ADONAI. Because He is God, Yeshua knows the deepest thoughts and desires of the Father. His authority came from above because He Himself was from above. His words were believable, and somehow the people knew He was speaking the truth. But if His words revealed His identity, so did His actions. Jesus used His authority and power to overcome the forces of evil and to restore His people to wholeness. We see here that He had the authority to force an unclean spirit to obey Christ against his will and leave the possessed man.

But Messiah’s desire to defeat the Adversary is no stronger than His longing to heal men and women who are in bondage to sin. Our weak hearts are attached to our earthly ways of thinking; they resist His new life. Through repentance, turning away from the sin in our lives and turning toward the Lord, we too can experience wholeness. Like the man with the unclean spirit, we can trust Jesus to cleanse our hearts and minds and fill us with new life. Today, let’s be clear that through the Holy Spirit, God is present among us and within us and that we can meet Him as we turn our hearts to Him in prayer when we cry out, Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15b-16).

Lord Jesus, open our minds and our hearts to your power and authority. We reject those interests that lead us away from You and ask You to renew our minds and revive our love for You. Amen.402


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