Two different responses to teaching from the heart of God

Mark 1: 21-28

Jesus taught from the heart rather than from the mind, and impure spirits recognised the authority of the heart of the Father in Him.

21  They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.

  • The synagogue gathering (and later, building) came out of the exile years and the Jews’ practice of meeting together for prayer and study of the Torah. By the first century they were widespread, also having spread to the Greek-speaking world as we know from Paul’s missionary enterprises.
  • Capernaum was where Peter’s home was and was an early base for Jesus and His disciples. It was not unusual for a visiting teacher – Rabbi – to speak by invitation, essentially to teach the Scriptures.

22  The people were amazed at His teaching, because He taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

  • The usual form was to quote precedents and the rulings of previous authoritative teachers, a bit like a barrister in court today. Jesus amazed them by citing no-one; instead He taught with directness and authority, i.e. the spiritual authority that comes from the Holy Spirit. There’s a difference today we can recognise, between dry teaching and the spiritual dynamic (and sometimes upset) that comes when the Holy Spirit is invited and we hear God more directly. However, the latter is not always comfortable. Jesus later warned, Matt. 10:34, that His words might not keep everyone happy, but would bring out different responses.

23  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,

  • “Impure spirit” or unclean spirit or demon are interchangeable terms in the gospels and letters. 

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!”

  • Reports of demonisation are not now uncommon. There is now greater awareness than a generation or two ago, helped by the greater connection of the first and third worlds and better understanding of the spiritual dimensions.
  • Jesus came to destroy the power of the Evil one, 1 John 3:8, so it is not surprising that this demon (or demons – often present in groups) manifested in the way recorded.

25   “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”

  • Jesus basically tells the demon spirit to shut up, and then to come out. Demons are all about control, and will talk and talk and argue to try to hold on to control. The response is not to be reasonable, as you would to a person, but to exercise spiritual authority, and command obedience, because this is a demon. There is no value in conversation with a spirit committed to lying and controlling. “Be quiet” and “Come out” are commands we can and should use in the name of Jesus when such a situation presents.

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.”

  • Each gospel has a particular readership in mind and moves quickly to show who Jesus is, to that readership. Mark includes this story early, for a reason. The way Jesus taught, as the One who is the Word teaching the word, and exercising authority over demon spirits, demonstrates to readers or hearers who Jesus is. This is not learning a religion – it is about encounter and relationship with the Living God.

28  News about Him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.


This synagogue was clearly not known for being vibrant and lifegiving. Jesus came to the front and the teaching came alive – people knew they were hearing from God, not man.

Many of our churches have the same need. Ministry carries on week by week but the Spirit of Jesus is not invited and so there is a lack of lifegiving encounter, or lifechanging presence. It is also true that worshippers, who may have made a personal commitment to make Jesus their Lord, also commonly carry baggage from past life which the Enemy can inhabit and use destructively.

We need to pray for a new hunger for the teaching that comes with spiritual authority as the teaching that Jesus would give.

At the same time, we all need the courage to face what can be a bumpy road. A ministry that never challenges anyone is a man-centred ministry. Jesus’ preaching did not bring harmony until it had first brought out what needed to be exposed. He later warned that this would result in division and strife, Matt. 10:34. The strife and insecurities and unresolved issues often lie dormant  in the minds of those in the congregation, but it can surface suddenly and with clarity, as in the outburst from the demonised man.

Discussion starters

When we find ourselves in a spiritual conversation, do we assert our opinions, or find confidence in the kind of authority that Jesus drew on? What does that look like, for us?

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