21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “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!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
(Mark 1:21-28 NIV)
Up to this point, Jesus had begun His public preaching ministry (v. 14) and called His first disciples (vv. 16-20). With His disciples in tow, they all headed to Capernaum, a town along the coast of the Sea of Galilee. The NASB uses the word “immediately” again, signifying that Jesus went to Capernaum and taught on the first Sabbath after He had called His disciples.
Mark does not disclose what Jesus taught (as Peter probably did not remember). Peter did remember two things that happened that day: the response of the synagogue attendees to Jesus’ teaching, and the authority of Jesus revealed.
The attendees at the Capernaum synagogue were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. He taught with authority, not just reciting or reading what others had written. Jesus’ teaching was still from the same Scriptures, but was new and fresh – and grabbed their attention.
Mark records that something else grabbed their attention – the outburst by a man with an impure spirit. Imagine Jesus in the middle of His teaching, and suddenly a man shouts out from the congregation, addressing Jesus as Messiah. Jesus’ teaching with authority triggered the response by this impure spirit, further signifying the power that Jesus brought as He taught.
What was Jesus’ response? He sternly rebuked the impure spirit to be silent, and to come out of the man. The impure spirit threw the man into convulsions; with a final shriek, it was gone. Here we see Jesus expressing emotion – commanding the impure spirit to be silent.
Notice that Jesus did not call any special service or use any oils, herbs, or other such devices to remove the impure spirit from the man. There were no special rites or incantations, no special prayers. Jesus simply commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man, and it did.
So why did Jesus tell the impure spirit to be silent? Was the impure spirit telling a lie? No, it was telling the truth. Jesus did not want an impure spirit to bear witness that He was Messiah. There would be a time and a place for Jesus’ authority and deity as Messiah to be revealed; this was not that place or time.
Needless to say, the crowds were astonished at what had just happened. News spread like wildfire over the Galilee region. Again, the NASB uses the word “immediately” to signify the response of the people to Jesus’ teaching and the news about His authority.
This account is remarkable, as it is one of the few times that Jesus performed a miracle on a Sabbath and was not castigated by the Jewish religious leaders for doing so. As Jesus’ ministry progresses, Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath will become a source of misunderstanding and endless irritation with the Jewish religious leaders.
May we remember that the same God who spoke the world into being was the same God who spoke the impure spirit out of the man in the synagogue and made him whole again.
May we also remember that this same God who did all these things is also the same God who loves us and speaks love and truth into our lives and hearts.
While we may not be plagued with an impure spirit like the man in today’s text, Jesus’ words of love, truth, and authority speak into our hearts to remove doubt, fear, selfish pride, and anything else that makes us less than fully alive.
May we see today as a “fresh start” and experience God’s mercies and grace today, to the glory of God.