Mark 1:21 (Jesus and his disciples) went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
V.22 says that the people of Capernaum were “astounded” at Jesus’ teaching, for he “taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes”. In other words, Jesus didn’t just quote other people when interpreting the scriptures, but would reveal his own interpretations. “It is said _______________ , but I say to you ________________ .” That kind of thing was unheard of in Jesus’ day because it was assumed no one had authority to make such statements.
Then, as if to prove he had authority to teach as he did, he cast out an unclean spirit from a man who was in the synagogue at the time. I’m sure that would have been quite a sight! I’ve seen demons cast out of people, and even helped to do so myself a few times.
As Christians we tend to take one of two perspectives as it relates to the discussion of demons. We either ignore them altogether, dismissing them as superstition. Or we obsess over them – focusing attention on evil spirits rather than the Holy Spirit. In my particular tribe of Lutheran Christians, we tend to the former, but I’ve also spent time with folks who tend to the latter. As in many things, the ideal (in my opinion) is somewhere in the middle.
As I read our story for today I’m reminded that, while evil spirits are real, I don’t have to worry about them so much. Jesus demonstrates his authority over evil then and now. When it seems there may be some evil at work in my life, or in someone I love, or in my surroundings I can call upon the name of the Lord to be rid of it. There is power in Jesus’ name. We should never forget that – but too often I do.
Lord Jesus, the bible shows that you have power over things in heaven and on earth. You are our defender when evil comes calling. Give us grace to trust in you, and the power of you Spirit. We pray this in your holy name. Amen.