Evil spirits haunting a man in the synagogue knew Jesus and asked why He was interfering with them. That made those in attendance stop and stare in disbelief. Jesus had performed miracles before, but a conversation with evil spirits? When He told the spirits to be quiet and come out of the man, the crowd heard something they hadn’t heard before. They heard a man speaking with authority and wanted to know where He got that authority.
Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach.The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting,“Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered.At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.
Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!”The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28 NLT)
The crowds were used to being read to, lectured, and told how they should behave. They were not accustomed to hearing someone speak with God’s authority. Jesus exerted that authority to the evil spirits, and they obeyed Him because they had no choice. God gives me a choice because He wants my obedience to be out of love.
Religious leaders resented Jesus. They were, and wanted to remain, the authority when it came to God and His Word. Who did this rabbi think He was? To the Pharisees, authority meant control. To Christ, authority meant freedom. The evil sprits were forced to obey Christ’s commands, and He could make all of us obey in the same way, but He wants obedience born in freedom and carried out in love. That’s the way He obeyed, and it made a beautiful difference in the world.
Jesus spoke with authority, and that upsets those who place a lot of faith in their own authority. The Pharisees, Sadducees, religious teachers, political leaders, Zealots, and Essenes disagreed with Jesus differently, but they shared an unwillingness to give up their own authority. I have the same problem. That was not an easy lesson this week, but it was a very freeing one. We all have issues with authority at some level, and that causes us to miss the life God intends for us to live. Mark 1:21-28 says,
“They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.” NASB
It’s easy to talk about God’s love and power as long as I don’t apply the lessons to my own heart. The unclean spirit in the demoniac knew exactly who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing. Shouldn’t I have the same knowledge of His power? I struggle with my issues, but I wouldn’t have to if I would relinquish my authority and believe in His. Why is that so hard to do? It may be because I’m comfortable with my issues. They are mine and define who I am. Letting God define me means I have to change who I am, and I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with the new me.
God’s timing and ways always amaze me, but this week’s lessons have been so very powerful that I don’t know if I will ever stop shaking my head in amazement. In addition to Mark 1:21-28, I’ve been studying David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. I would never put those scriptures together on my own, but God connected them in a powerful way. Tony W. Cartledge says in the Smyth & Helwys commentary on 1 Samuel,
‘The surprising truth about the spirit of God is that we do not do something to get it. We do not have to become more attractive or even more worthy. Our openness is enough. Our not knowing is enough. Our willingness is enough. The Bible makes it clear that God delights in surprising the world by doing great things through small people. We may never be anointed with royal oil, as was David, but we can be anointed by the spirit of God. We can look forward to a future that is filled with unknown opportunities for life and service and joy. We can become the persons God wants us to be; there is no greater goal in this life.”
I was struck by his last statement. No greater goal in this life!! Giving up my authority and letting God have authority isn’t easy or we would all be doing it. The demoniac and David had something important in common; they trusted God. They both learned that God saw them in a way they could not imagine on their own. They trusted His authority, and it made an amazing difference in their lives. God will do the same for all of us.
I’m not sure what I had in mind when I thought of unclean spirits, but I think it was the stuff of horror movies that didn’t apply to me. When I realized evil spirits are my need to control, my anger, my insecurity, my lack of trust, my bitterness, etc…I was taken aback. Jesus has authority over all my issues if I will acknowledge and trust His authority and let go of mine. There is a degree of comfort in the known evil. When I let go of my issues, God will redefine me. God’s definitions of the demoniac and David were not the same as the ones they or the people in their lives had. The transformations God has in mind will always be a shock. Perhaps that’s why I hesitate to let go of those old habits and issues.
Whatever the reasons for my hesitating and complicating when it comes to my issues and authority, they pale when compared to Christ’s authority and His precious love. Together, they make for an amazing transformation. I feel the peace, love, joy, gratitude, and grace God has in mind when I surrender my authority and embrace His. Seeing those pesky issues as demons helps me call on Christ to help rid my heart of them. The Wizard of Oz theme continued into this week; God used images of those flying monkeys to make me smile and realize that I can’t handle my issues on my own. Christ already knew that; He was simply waiting for me to ask for help. It is something I must do daily if I am to live the life He desires. There is a place over the rainbow, and it doesn’t have to stay in a lullaby. I can enjoy its peace here and now. The happy ending is knowing God’s transformation will allow me to be who he wants me to be. There truly is no greater goal than that.