Once again, we’re in the Gospel of Mark and we’re finally witnessing the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. So far, we’ve seen the announcement of the coming of the King, the Son of God. We’ve witnessed His coronation in His baptism, we’ve seen Him exercise His authority over Satan, sin and sinners. Jesus is indeed the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
We see the authority of Jesus immediately put into practise in our passage this morning. Now, we know that Jesus is the King, but what kind of King is He? Can He deal also with those under the devil’s power? A good king seeks to expand his territory, to take over from wicked and terrible rulers, and to bring peace and goodness to such people. Is Jesus such a king?
Our passage begins with, “Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. There’s several things to note: Then they—that’s after calling His disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, they, all of them went into the Synagogue. Why did they go into the Synagogue?
Remember, what kind of Kingdom is Jesus’ kingdom? It is not an earthly kingdom, as defined by human beings. Jesus didn’t enter the courthouse, the senate, or the Sanhedrin. Jesus’ kingdom isn’t a political kingdom, it is a spiritual kingdom. Where does spiritual warfare take place? In the synagogues, the churches, the places of worship. Jesus comes into a place, not unlike this place, and He exercises spiritual authority, he demonstrates true authority.
He entered the synagogue and taught. Human beings are thinking, feeling beings. We’re not all intellect, we’re not all heart. True teaching and preaching connects the heart and the mind and addresses both. Now, Mark doesn’t describe the kind of teaching that the Jews were used to in the Capernaum synagogue. But he does describe the reaction: people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
The people were astonished at His teaching. Jesus spoke boldly, and bluntly. He laid out the truth. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t care how people would receive His teaching, He didn’t worry if it was politically correct or not. He spoke the Word of God, clearly and authoritatively.
The scribes didn’t. They were deeply concerned with what people thought—they wanted to ensure that the people stayed in line with what they had all agreed to require of them. They would consult one another, they would say things like, “According to Rabbi so and so, we understand God is saying...” Or “In the Hillel tradition, we understand so and so.” And then they would debate the teachings of these other rabbis, rather than expounding on the actual Word of God. They were very interested in hearing themselves speak, rather than compelling their hearers with the very Word of God.
Add to this, maybe, their synagogue leader, the scribe that did the teaching, was very boring to listen to. Maybe his sermons were very academic, with little application. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it, but if that was the sole diet the people were receiving, it could grow stale.
Instead, Jesus taught with true authority—as one who knew the scriptures in and out. As one who could take all the different teachings of scripture and weave them together to show how they pointed to Him. That’s what He did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Lk. 24:27). This is also what He did when He read from Isaiah and proclaimed that the Prophet’s words were fulfilled in their hearing. All the scriptures point to and describe Jesus, the King and the Saviour of the whole world. No one ever preached like Him, before or since. Its the difference between being a commentator, a news reporter and being a player or someone in the news.
The people were amazed at His teaching. The demons were terrified. Now, let this reality sink in. There was an unclean spirit in a man, in their synagogue. There’s so much wrong on so many levels. Can you imagine an unclean spirit in the church?
An Unclean Spirit in the Church
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. There was a lost man in the church. He was in the right place. But I find myself wondering, “How long was he in the synagogue? Did people know him? Did they try to help him at all? Were they aware that he had an unclean spirit in him?
I side with John MacArthur on this. The demons were always around, and are still around. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, demons disguise themselves as angels of light. They hide in plain sight in religion. There was a demon hiding in plain sight in the religious institution of the synagogue. It was hiding there among the false teachers.
False teachers belong to Satan’s kingdom, Satan’s domain. Look at the false teachers you see on TV, some of them, they just look demonic. They have crazy eyes. Some are just so slimy and sleazy. Others, seem so authentic, so true, but you just sense that there’s something off about them. If you go to a Mormon meeting, or a Jehovah’s Witness meeting, you’re in the presence of Satan’s kingdom, because he’s pedalling lies as truth. Mormons look good, they are morally upright people, but they believe lies.
Let us not be surprised that there could be false angels within the church. Certainly we ought to be aware of ourselves enough to know that we all want to justify our own sinfulness. Therefore, we ought not be surprised when false teachers appear in Christian circles, or when stalwart, orthodox leaders, and denominations begin to slide toward no longer calling ‘sin’, ‘sin’. Not only do we need to keep our own minds and hearts sharp, we must be vigilantly committed to God’s Word, testing the spirits, testing the teaching, testing the preaching, in order to know that it is in agreement with Scripture once handed down through the ages.
So, the people who heard Jesus were astonished, but the demons were terrified. Why?
Recognised and Silenced
The demons recognised Jesus. In fact, in fully the first half of Mark’s gospel, only the demons recognise Him. They knew who Jesus is. And though they were invisible to all the people, they knew that Jesus could see them. After all, Jesus is One by Whom all things, visible and invisible, are created. He recognised them, and they recognised Him.
They were terrified of Him because He has the power, the authority, and the means to throw them into their eternal destination—the pit of fire. They know whats in store for them, and they are terrified. This is why he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we do do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? The people don’t know who Jesus is. Even His disciples weren’t sure, even after the feeding of the 5000. They’re looking around, going, “What are we going to do, we don’t have any bread!” They didn’t get it. They didn’t understand that Jesus is the bread of life. They didn’t understand that Jesus is the true King. They didn’t understand that Jesus has power even over demons.
But the demons know. And Jesus immediately tells them to be quiet. He silences them. Why? You don’t want demons being your primary evangelisers. I mean, yes, what they’re saying is true. But that’s not the source you want to use.
But do you notice something about the demon’s behaviour here, and everywhere in the gospels? They don’t attack Jesus. They don’t try to possess Jesus. They can only scream and cry out. They are totally defenseless before Jesus. He has total power and authority over them.
This means that Jesus has all the power and authority needed to handle any situation you or I happen to be in. Jesus can handle anything. You, me? We can’t handle very many things at all. We can’t see demons. We can’t always recognise the dealings of the devil. We don’t always see through his lies. But according to 1 Jn 3.8 “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
And so, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, this is the new doctrine in Christ.
The people who heard Jesus’ preaching and teaching were amazed at His new teaching, new doctrine. For with authority He commands even unclean spirits, and they obey Him. The doctrine that Jesus taught, that the demons hate, that Satan hates is: Truth!
Truth damages every lie and deception. Satan is the father of lies. People are constantly being drawn into his schemes and deception. Satan, demons, and those who gain from lies, hate the truth. If Jesus was just a good teacher, why did people hate Him? If He was just imparting a new teaching that no one had ever heard before, why didn’t everyone embrace it? What was it about Jesus’ ministry that drew such reactions from the evil realm and from some people?
Remember what we’ve seen and noticed already. People loved darkness more than they loved the light. They turned away from God’s truth, and they embraced their own wisdom, their own understanding, their own ways. They so blinded themselves from the truth, that when the Truth—Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life, came before them, they hated Him and they hated His message.
The leaders of the day had developed a whole system of religious rule, that seemed like the truth, it was close to the truth, but it wasn’t the truth. It didn’t actually bring people to God. It kept them in bondage and slavery to sin. It was a works based righteousness.
We have to be on guard against these kinds of false systems of religion. They seem so good. They seem like they are from God. We hear about prophecies and words from God. People claim to have had dreams and visions. And some are very easy to recognise as false. But what about ones that aren’t so strange, and obvious?
What if someone says to you, “The Lord laid it upon my heart to tell you… such and such”? What would you do? Would you believe them? How would you test the spirit to see if it is from God?
The only way to test the spirits of this age is to bring it to the Word of God. Jesus is the Word, and so everything He taught was true, is truth. Those who are using the power of lies and deception to confuse people, to keep people in bondage, or at the very least, under their power, will hide and hate the truth.
And so, we find ourselves in a battle on two fronts, brothers and sisters. We must be prepared to know and examine the Word of God so that we can see false teaching, half-truths and lies dressed up as truths, as the Word of God, so that we can recognise them and not believe them. We need to know our scriptures, our doctrines, the teachings of God.
The first front is the false teaching, as taught by false teachers of our day and age. We all are aware of and have first-hand experience with false teaching: legalism on the one hand, and liberalism on the other. Both abandon the truth of God. But have we equipped ourselves to recognise the kind of false teaching that appeals to our heart’s desires, that sounds so good, that sounds so affirming? We have to be aware of and ready to reject any teaching that doesn’t conform to the Word of God.
The second front is in our own selves. We have to be willing to turn against our own flesh, our own fallenness, our pride. We have to crucify ourselves. We have to take up our cross and die, following Christ. Denying ourselves, and following Him, trusting Him, obeying Him. Look at the passage. The demon physically struggled, he caused convulsions before coming out of the man.
Jesus has the power, the apostles had the power. We don’t have the power. We cannot see demons. They’re still around. Them and false teachers are in religious places everywhere. So how do we battle?
We preach the gospel: first to ourselves, then to others. We remember who Jesus is. He is God. He is King, He conquered Satan and sin on the cross. He eradicated the curse of sin, the punishment of sin, through His death and resurrection! He is ruler over all! No demon can remain where Jesus is proclaimed! There is no demon here.
We preach the gospel to others. Wherever the gospel is proclaimed, the kingdom of Satan cannot stand. Jesus destroys the strongholds of the evil one. He dismantles all lies, all manipulation, all deceit. He is pure and He brings the pure truth of the gospel of the Word of God.
The demons were terrified, the people were amazed. The demons knew who Jesus was, but there is no salvation for them. The people didn’t know who Jesus was, didn’t believe Him, and so wound up in the same place as the demons. What is needed is both amazement and terror. We must be amazed at Jesus’ power and authority and truth, but we must also be terrified of His judgement. So terrified of His Holy purity, that it causes us to turn to Him for the salvation He offers us. Let us pray.