Jesus set up a ministry headquarters in the region of Galilee at a prosperous town called Capernaum. From here, He began to teach, heal, and even drive out demons. In today’s passage, we see the power and authority of Christ’s teaching in a synagogue, which He further proved by casting out a demon from an afflicted man in the congregation.
The Text (Mark 1:21-28)
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority[a] He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.
There was something different about the Sabbath teaching in the synagogue that day. The Jewish congregation was used to hearing scribes read passages from the Scriptures. This new teacher did the same. But this man named Jesus read the text with a sense of conviction and power. He radiated holiness and spiritual strength. Not only did He seem to really believe every word and idea from God’s Word, but the crowd could tell that He lived like it. He explained the Scriptures clearly and applied them directly to their hearts. Jesus talked about the Lord as if He was right there among them, in their very midst. The whole synagogue could feel God’s Holy Spirit working, convicting the hardhearted of their sins while also comforting those who feared and and loved the Lord. They were not hearing the voice and thoughts of men today; they were hearing from God.
And then to further prove that something spiritual was indeed happening, that strange man stood up. The one with the evil eyes who was always mumbling angry curses under his breath. The man from whom everyone steered clear whenever he appeared at the synagogue. He stood up and began cursing Jesus to His face. His hatred for Jesus was almost like a beam of fire as he stared angrily at Him from the back of the room. Yet there was something else in the man’s words and expression – fear. The man began begging Jesus to go away, to leave him alone, and in fact to leave “us” alone (though there were no other men like him in the room – the demon inside him must have been talking about the whole demonic community). And then it happened. With a few words of strong rebuke, Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to leave immediately, and the demon was gone and the spiritual battle was over. The man was left sitting there, still and at peace for the first time in years. Yes, this man Jesus was no ordinary rabbi. The message about Him began to spread fast after that day. This man Jesus taught with authority.
The words of Jesus still have power for our lives today. While Jesus is not physically in our midst like He was in Capernaum that day, whenever true Christians gather to hear his words and pray in His name, He is there. By the power of His Holy Spirit who indwells all believers, God is with us. When the Bible is taught with conviction and clarity and passion, Christ is there. When God’s Word is boldly proclaimed, His Holy Spirit is at work, convicting the lost of their sins and need for salvation, correcting and encouraging the saved of their hope in Christ. Spiritual warfare is still real. Satan still works to keep the lost from realizing that they are lost, to keep them in bondage to their sins. The demons still work from the outside (they cannot possess born again Christians because we have God’s Holy Spirit in us) to discourage and distract true believers and keep them from spiritual victories.
This is one of the many reasons that attending church regularly is so important. God’s Spirit certainly works with power in your life as you read the Bible alone. We need that work each day, which is why a daily devotional time with Christ is so important for our spiritual growth. But there is a greater power when a humble, gifted teacher of the Word delivers it to the body of Christ gathered together. God gave the church pastors and teachers to build us up together in Christ. We need this powerful weekly encouragement from His Word and Holy Spirit, just as we need weekly fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to see God at work, not just in our own lives, but in the lives of our church family. Think about how sad the members of that synagogue in Capernaum might have been if they had been doing something else and missed Jesus that day. If your family needs help finding a church home, please don’t hesitate to have your parents contact me through my school email. Praying for you today.