How long had the demon-possessed man been in the synagogue before anyone noticed him? Years? Decades? He had probably been there a long time, but nobody knew he had a demon. Then “immediately” (there’s Mark’s favorite word again!), Jesus went into the synagogue, which was like a church, and began to teach. Jesus taught like none other.
Everyone was astonished, because he taught with authority, unlike the other teachers. Almost instantaneously, as soon as the man with the unclean spirit heard the teaching of Jesus, the demon surfaced. It cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” (1:24). The demon was threatened by the authoritative teaching of Jesus.
Then the demon-possessed man made the first public declaration of the true identity of Jesus, saying, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” This declaration came from a demon-possessed man, rather than a disciple or religious leader! How did Jesus respond? “But Jesus rebuked him” (1:25). Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to exit the man, which it did, convulsing him one last time. Everyone was amazed, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” (28). Put another way, it’s equally amazing that the unclean spirits did not obey the other religious teachers of the day!
Of Men and Mice
It’s like the mice in my shed. Since I don’t go into the shed during the long winter, it remains undisturbed. In the spring, I finally open the doors of the shed and expose the rodents living inside of it. As the light shines in for the first time in months, I’m able to see their nests, droppings, and terrified eyes! They immediately scurry out of sight, for they recognize me as an enormous enemy. I usually shout at them a few times, as if they understood English, “Get out of here, stupid mice!” before I begin to clean up the mess they left. Then my shed can begin to be used for what it was meant to be used for, rather than a Motel 6 for mice!
Again, how long had this man been sitting in the pews of the synagogue before Jesus showed up? The demons, like my mice, were quietly gnawing away at him, completely undisturbed. But before they could devour him altogether, Someone showed up who actually spoke the truth with authority. The kingdom of God arrived and the kingdom of his world shrieked and fled.
Have you ever heard anyone speak with authority? Maybe it made you want to get up and leave? Or you got scared? Or offended? I wonder how many people there are with unclean spirits in our churches, who remain completely undisturbed because nobody is teaching with authority? The antonym for authority is “powerlessness,” which makes one wonder about the teaching going on in our churches today.
If we want to see our inner demons surface and flee, then we have to expose ourselves to the authoritative word of God, not the powerless babbling we’re used to hearing.
What’s more important to you, the veracity of a teaching, or the authority of the person who speaks it? Don’t answer too quickly, because we’d like to believe we’re objective and are able to measure a teaching on its own merits; but, most often, we decide on a teaching before we even hear it, because of the trustworthiness of the speaker. Would you rather hear a confusing and difficult message, from someone you trusted completely, or hear a teaching that makes complete sense to you, but it comes from somebody you do not trust at all? Our present political climate should make this obvious. The media won’t agree with certain politicians, no matter what they say! The majority of the time, we listen to people we trust, who speak with authority, even if their messages don’t make complete sense to us yet. We tend not to listen to those we don’t trust.
Since Jesus spoke with authority, people trusted him and listened to what he said, even if they didn’t understand at first.
Disagree to Agree
Let’s face it, even though we tend to trust Jesus, he said some pretty crazy things! In fact, let’s be real here, we would be shocked if you agreed with everything Jesus said. We’ll go one step further, those who agree with everything Jesus said are completely out of touch with themselves. After all, some of his words were meant to offend. His words stir us up. His words shine a light into our hearts, causing all the rodents in there to scurry. He wasn’t always easy to listen to. He said some extreme things. He condemned really good people and he praised really bad people. Again, if you agree with everything Jesus said, then you’ve not been paying attention. He spoke not just to comfort the sinner, but to disturb the self-righteous. The words of Jesus are like the Ten Commandments, nobody measures up to them!
Regularly expose yourself to the teachings of Jesus, in order to get your inner demons to surface. You might not know they’re there, just like nobody knew about the undetectable demons of the man. In fact, the better the job the demons do, the less you’ll even notice them. It takes the word of Jesus to expose them.
And maybe this little devotional on Mark 1:21-28 is raising your ire, kindling some furry, because you don’t want to admit that you have demons or darkness or secret places or doubts. Maybe it’s exposing something you really need to see right now.
The most dangerous part about us is not our most wicked thought or disgraceful deed, but it is our unknown one.
“But,” you protest, “How can I ever know it, if it’s unknown? How can I ever be conscious of my unconsciousness?” That’s exactly why we need to expose ourselves to the words of Jesus, because they cause the unknown parts of us to reveal themselves. You might not know how to fix you, but Jesus does.
Has Jesus disturbed you? If not, don’t worry, he will! Don’t think you have any demons? Just spend some time with him and the demons will come shrieking out of you. We all have unclean spirits inside of us, hiding in the neglected corners of our being, the parts we don’t like to talk about.
Yes, Jesus is disturbing, but he has the authority to disturb you.
And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. —Mark 1:22
- What stood out to you the most from Mark 1:21-28?
- What are some of the teachings of Jesus you find difficult to agree with?
- What are some ways you can expose yourself regularly to the word of God?
- Are there areas in your life you haven’t addressed in a while? Spend some time in prayer, asking God’s Spirit to search your life and reveal the neglected parts. Then ask Jesus to teach you his word about these areas.