2022-2-13 “He Came…Exorcising”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                                     Sunday morning Franklin, NC 28734                                                                                                  February 13, 2022

He Came…Exorcising”
Mark 1:21-28

Indeed, Jesus has come—from lofty, glorious heights to our current domain.  He has come, from Heaven to earth, preaching for a favorable verdict upon His person and Gospel message.  He has come teaching as well—both that we may be well-informed and that we may be well-stocked to bless a needy world in His Name.  Jesus also has come healing, either by a touch (Mark 5:25-34) or even at His command—though he be some distance removed from the sick one (John 4:46-54, Matthew 8:5-13).  In today’s text, we see that Jesus came exorcising.  He came casting out demons from afflicted people—sending them into various realms and, ultimately, back from the infernal realm whence they came.  Let us hear God’s Word read and proclaimed once again in this place—and may the reading and proclaiming bless our souls, and honor God, once again.


The passage begins with Jesus teaching.  We have no inkling yet that an exorcism will occur later in the narrative.  Jesus teaches, on that Sabbath day, in the synagogue at Capernaum.  The people, upon hearing and seeing Jesus, are astonished at His teaching.  The Greek word here rendered astonished (ekplessomai [εκπλησσομαι]) carries sufficient force to indicated that those in Capernaum synagogue that day were almost overwhelmed by Him and His teaching.  He taught not like the scribes—those experts in the Law of Moses—appealing to this earlier learned rabbi or to another to justify every word flowing from their mouths.  Jesus taught as one with authority.  He needed no recourse to prior rabbinic authorities—as the scribes took—for His authority was (and is) Himself.

As Jesus delivers this astonishing teaching at Capernaum, an unclean spirit—that is, a demon—speaks to Him though the possessed victim.  He cries out in Jesus’ presence—a loud disruption of Jesus’ discourse—and his cry displays mostly fear of Jesus, though anger and disappointment likely also are intermingled.  He utters three sentences to Jesus during the now-interrupted worship service—and in these sentences we see the lesser bowing before the infinitely Greater One: Jesus Christ, God incarnate.

The demon first asks, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”  This question resembles another, namely, ”What have we done to You?”   Though the demon pretends to have no quarrel with Jesus, the quarrel of the ages is between their lord and the living Lord of life.  The answer to the question, “What have we done to You?” is, “Plenty.”  This question implies a promise, namely, “Leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.”  Of course, nothing demonic can be trusted.

The demon, properly horrified in Jesus’ presence, next, asks, ”Have You come to destroy us?”  After all, the demonic horde, unless self-deceived, knows its doom is sure.  The worry for this demon—and, presumably, for all of his class—is, “Is that destruction now?”  I wonder if this fallen angel, like those infesting the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5:1 ff., fears being sent instantly into the Abyss—to be tormented forevermore by their cruel overlord.  Fear and dismay permeates this question.

Then the demon makes his only statement within his words to Jesus, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God.”  Some commentators theorize that, in Jesus’ day, to name someone is to exert control over him—and that this may be the demon’s ploy here.  Perhaps, and I think this more likely, that the demon here produces a grudging confession of Who Jesus is.  One day every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11), and it appears this once-afflicting, now-afflicted demon would confess Jesus now—perhaps to mitigate his sentence of doom, if possible.

The demon’s words are ended here, and Jesus now speaks to it.  He rebukes and commands that spirit—with a threat implied (Greek epitimao [επιτιμαω]).  Then follows the substance of that rebuke.  First, Jesus commands him to be silent (more woodenly to be muzzled).  Hence, the demon says no more in this narrative.  Second, Jesus commands him to come out of his victim—and now we come to the highest point of tension in the narrative.

The unclean spirit, constrained by Jesus’ powerful presence, complies perfectly with His command.  We hear no more conversation—just a loud cry of anguish at the required surrender of his quarry.  Furthermore, we see the unclean spirit leave—after a final shake, to no harm of the victim (Luke 4:35).  Just as quickly as the situation escalated at synagogue escalated, it de-escalates—and the narrative now hastens, in the Spirit’s superintendence, to its denouement.

The worshipers respond to this sequence of words and events.  They are amazed at what they have seen and heard. They express this amazement, asking, “What is this?”  Then they answer their own question.  They confess that they have beheld a new teaching—a new teaching coming with authority.  Then they confess the evidence for Jesus’ authority: He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him.  Of course, we know that He commands far more than this, but this is sufficient unto the day.

Be ye one and all encouraged: A Christian cannot be demon-possessed, for Jesus has possession of him or her—sealed by and in the Holy Spirit—and, as we see, no power can stand before Him.  However, the evil one, the devil—and, by extension, his minions, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Moreover, he hurls fiery darts at the saints (Ephesians 6:16)—and, as it appears from time to time, without apparent letup.  What can avail to deliver us from these things.

The antidote against the evil one and his schemes, for the people of God redeemed in Christ Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is prayer.  This prayer is Spirit-empowered and girded with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).  The various parts of the panoply in Paul’s Spirit-led teaching of the Ephesian Christian households should be part and parcel of our warring prayer, in Jesus’ Name, against the evil one and his host.  Let our lives, and our prayers, then, rest upon God’s truth (as revealed in Scripture), His righteousness (imputed to us and received by faith alone), His Gospel of peace (which announces peace to our harried souls), faith (which itself is the gift of God, not of ourselves), salvation (our divine rescue and healing accomplished in Jesus’ death and resurrection), and the very Word of God (written, which testifies to the Word living, the Lord Jesus Christ).  Jesus came exorcising.  Let us, therefore, resist him whose doom is sure (cf. James 4:7).