SYNOPSIS – Jesus demonstrated his victory over Satan by driving his forces out of the children of God – Mark 1:21-28.
Jesus defeated Satan during his Temptation in the Wilderness, the effects of which were demonstrated subsequently when he exercised authority over demonic spirits in a Synagogue, and on the Sabbath Day. The town of Capernaum was on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee near the entrance to the River Jordan. It lay across a major trade route between the seacoast and the city of Damascus in the border region between the territories of Philip and Herod Antipas – (Mark 2:14).
‘Synagogue’ means “gathering place” – It functioned as an assembly hall for Jews to study the Torah. It was not an institution established by the Torah; most likely, the synagogue came into existence during the Babylonian Captivity as a vehicle to maintain Jewish religious practices and identity. It became central to the practice of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple by a Roman army in A.D. 70.
(Mark 1:21-28) – “And they journey into Capernaum. And straightway, on the Sabbath, entering into the synagogue, he began teaching; and they were being struck with astonishment at his teaching—for he was teaching them as one having authority and not as the Scribes. And straightway, there was in their synagogue a man in an impure spirit—and he cried out aloud, saying—What have we in common with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Hast thou come to destroy us? I know thee, who thou art, The Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying—Be silenced and come forth out of him! And the impure spirit, tearing him and calling out with a loud voice, came forth out of him; and they were amazed, one and all, so that they began to discuss among themselves, saying—What is this? New teaching! With authority to the impure spirits also he giveth orders, and they obey him! And forth went the report of him, straightway, on every hand into the surrounding country of Galilee” (The Emphasized Bible).
The Jews at the synagogue were astonished by the authoritative manner by which Jesus taught, but NOT by the content of his teaching. The Jewish scribes expounded the Law by citing oral traditions and legal precedents, the “tradition of the elders.” In general, the scribes did not make authoritative pronouncements on scriptural interpretations; however, Jesus taught decisively on his messianic authority.
Of the thirteen miracles recorded in the gospel of Mark, four are exorcisms, the most frequent type of healing by Jesus in this gospel. Eleven times it refers to demons as “unclean spirits,” and at least eleven times as “demons.” Four times Mark employs a verbal form of the Greek term for “demons” to signify someone who is “demonized.” In other words, oppressed by demons.
In this story, “unclean” refers to a state of ritual defilement. A person with an unclean spirit would be excluded from the synagogue and the rituals of the Temple in Jerusalem, at least, not without undergoing the required rituals to reestablish ritual purity. Why, in this case, was the man allowed into the synagogue?In Mark, the synagogue was a place where, all too often, demons were present, religious authorities antagonistic, and hardness of heart persistent. The synagogue became an arena of conflict whenever Jesus arrived and began to teach – (Mark 1:39, 3:1, 6:2, 12:39, 13:9).
It is not accidental that the first recorded miracle of Jesus was an exorcism. He came to destroy the works of the Devil – His real battle was with the cosmic forces opposed to God that were determined to enslave humanity. Furthermore, several times he demonstrated his authority over ritual purity.
The demon spoke through the man – “What to us and to you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Although only one demon was present, he used the plural pronoun to represent all demonic forces. This event was a harbinger of the larger conflict building between Jesus and the forces of Satan that, ultimately, culminated in his arrest, trial, and execution.
Thus, the Messiah began to plunder the Strong Man’s house. The “destruction” of the works of Satan was a key component of his ministry. The demon in the synagogue recognized Jesus as the “Holy One of God.” Though hidden from men and women, the demonic spirit knew who and what Jesus was. His command to silence the demon was not an attempt to hide his messianic status; however, by identifying Jesus in public, the demon could discredit his mission.
More than the content of his teachings, what matters in this paragraph is the way in which he taught – As “one having authority” – and its effect on the assembly in the synagogue – (“They were all amazed”).
His words demonstrated his superior authority over that of the scribes. His exorcisms demonstrated his authority over the Devil. The authority by which he taught was the same authority by which he expelled demons. Each exorcism demonstrated that the “coming one” was reconquering territory from Satan and adding it to the Kingdom of God.