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Silencing the Unclean Spirit

February 03, 2021

“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” - Mark 1:21-28

One of the things I find fascinating about this story is that Jesus was preaching in a synagogue. He wasn’t looking for someone to heal, or for a demon to cast out. Jesus was just preaching the good news of the Gospel. But in keeping with Mark’s quick pace, the author tells us that a man with an unclean spirit was “immediately” there to confront Jesus. Whether this event was caused by Jesus, by the man, or by the unclean spirit inside the man, Jesus used it for his glory.

Before the man arrived, the people in the synagogue were already astonished at Jesus’ teaching because of the authority that came through in his words. They were impressed, listening, and interested. But the unclean spirit came to start a fight, to distract from Jesus’ message of good news. Maybe it was hoping that Jesus would debate with it in front of everyone so that it could somehow discredit him.

Instead of engaging with the spirit or allowing it to distract from his preaching, Jesus told it to be silent and leave the man. Not only did this help the man the spirit had possessed, but it also confirmed Jesus’ authority above and beyond anything the people had probably ever seen before. Instead of the people leaving the synagogue to tell their friends and neighbors that Jesus was a good teacher, now they would leave telling how “even the unclean spirits” obey this authoritative teacher of Scripture.

Sometimes I forget how powerful God is and how he works things out for the people he loves in some of the simplest ways. Jesus didn’t yell, scream, or do some magical hand motion; he spoke and the spirit obeyed. Just as he spoke creation into being, so also he spoke the unclean spirit into silence. His authority is mighty and final.

As the world pours out a constant stream of reasons you should live in fear, hold tight to the authority of Jesus. Nothing happens or exists outside of his control.

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