Mark 1:21-34 Authority Over A Generation Of Fragile Gods

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.

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Authority Over A Generation Of Fragile Gods

Jesus’ ministry was not centered on Nazareth.  Capernaum was his base and it is a town located on the northwestern corner of The Sea of Galilee.  I pictured Nazareth and other towns on the lake to be close together because they are in Galilee, and I assumed close to the lake.  The truth is that Nazareth is some distance away from the lake and located in the hills.  Jesus may have taken a special trip home, but he left Nazareth to preach and teach.  We find later that the people in his home town had become too familiar with him to accept him as anything special.

Notice how Jesus goes into the synagogue. The synagogue was both the religious and educational center of his day.  He would have gone there in both the role of the pastor and the college professor in today’s society.  I find this convicting because I teach in both school and church settings.  However, when Jesus teaches he does not rely on human tradition and scholarship.  When I teach, I am expected to site sources and give authority and credibility to what I say by appealing to the broader community experience.  Jesus has no mediators for his authority.  People today more and more set themselves up as self-referencing authorities and they are fools to do so.  Today people ignore their own lack of insight and worship themselves as gods.  It is true that a person can be limited by some of the ideas that others have had.  Too many ties to tradition can limit creativity.  It seems Disney and Hollywood have a point when they keep telling children to break with what others tell them and look to themselves.  Ironically, the child usually has an outside guide or guru who tells them to believe this.  Jesus is God and has absolute authority and even as a man has uncommon insight.  When he teaches from his own understanding, it is superior to his peers.

Did you notice how the man who cries out in the presence of this teaching is in the synagogue.  Being in a religious context does not make one exempt from demonic activity.  However, the authority of Jesus’ teaching sets itself up in direct contradiction to the authority governing this man’s life.  The man has not sinned.  He is not told to repent.  He may have passively or unwittingly become possessed but has somehow managed to go through the motions in his local religious community.  Now that he is faced with rival authority he is thrown forward by demons.  the demons inside the man either know that their game is up, or they counter Jesus by trying to name him and thus assert their authority over Jesus.  Of course, we know the result that awaits all those who set themselves up as an authority against Jesus.  Jesus quickly silences opposition that may distract him from his assigned task.

What news spread about Jesus across the region of Galilee?  It seems that it wasn’t the news of his preaching with authority but the news of his authority over unclean spirits.  In that age people more easily accepted that illness and troubles were spiritual in nature, at least to some extent.  We may think that our age is superior in its materialism.  However, the youth that I teach at Moody are well cared for physically, but they are more fragile over all with each passing year.  Jesus’ authority was welcomed in a world which could see the physical effects of sin and decay around them.  We have cleaned up the surface of our world, and the darkness within needs Jesus’ authority more than ever.

Jesus’ authority is established over fever as well as feverish demons.  Peter’s mother-in-law is healed immediately with healing only God could bring.  This leads to a tumult of people and Jesus has compassion for them and heals them.  However, just when the disciples and locals think they may have found a new faith-healer to do with as they wish, Jesus establishes his own ministry under the authority of the Father.

Prayer

Jesus, I am struck by your authority once again.  You have the authority to clean up lives and heal broken bodies and spirits.  You have authority to change the world.  However, you don’t demand that I submit to you, you ask.  I am resistant.  I think I am afraid for some reason.  I think that I will let you down, I don’t have the capacity, or I will just get something wrong and bring shame on myself and your cause.  Then I think of those in the biblical story who you brought along.  Not many were wise.  Often those you used were unaware of their ability to serve.  I do give you the authority over me.  However, I am afraid that it will hurt.  To rip out my selfishness, develop devotion, and to serve others sounds painful.  I fear people.  They seem to cause each other pain.  When I commit to something, they often don’t show up.  When I share something, they often don’t listen.  When I love someone, it often feels like they do not love in return.  I acknowledge my neediness and I bring all those needs to you.  May you satisfy my desires for support, as you always accept me without condition.  May I speak the truth in love and not worry about the response because I am speaking the truth for you.  May I love unconditionally because I know you.

Establish your authority in me and through me.

Questions

  1. In what different ways does Jesus reveal his authority?
  2. Why were people amazed?
  3. Why didn’t Jesus allow demons to broadcast his true identity?
  4. Does Jesus have complete mastery over all you do?
  5. Pray now that Jesus would establish his absolute authority over each part of your day.
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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