And Jesus, the Son of God (and, indeed, God in the flesh) had authority. In fact, it as an authority that was unparalleled in the first century. For Jesus, the base was Capernaum. And this is the setting for the message this week as we look at the authority of Jesus.
Jesus had the authority to teach.
Jesus begins by teaching in the synagogue. This was not because He was Jesus, or because He was a “pastor.” It was because He was a layman. Scribes could teach, and so could laymen if they had established some credibility. Teaching in the synagogue was done while sitting on what was called the Moses Seat. The chief aim of the teaching was to present an understanding of Scripture. Now, we must understand that this meant the Old Testament. This is obvious on the one hand, but easy to miss on the other. We look back with the truth of the New Testament at our fingertips, but the pages were not yet written. Indeed, at least physically, Jesus was in the process of providing the stories that were to be recorded. We cannot overlook this fact.
Mark does not provide any details for what Jesus was teaching on this day. To Mark, what was being taught was unimportant, and I think we can learn something from that. We do not come to worship Jesus because of what He said or what He did. Those things are important, but what is most important is who He was – and who He is! What He taught and what He did emanate from who He is.
What Mark does provide is a detail that Jesus’ teaching was different (v. 22). Jesus was not discussing what others thought (which is what the Scribes usually did). Jesus taught as if He knew what Scripture really meant. Of course He did, because He is the living Word of God, just as Scripture is the written Word of God.
As we turn to the next section notice that happens while Jesus is teaching.
Side Note: So what gives me, or other teachers any authority today? This question is all the more valid because the Scribes knew far more about the Torah – the first five books in our Bible, than I may about any one part of the Bible. In fact, they were experts in the Torah, highly respected, and their word was binding. It has been suggested that their power was greater than the high priest – at least, in function. But what makes me different, and you as well if you have your faith in Jesus, is that they did not have the constant presence, if any presence, of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth (John 14.26). That does not mean that I understand everything perfectly, but it does mean that I, and you, can interpret the Scriptures by the same power that inspired them (2 Timothy 3.16).
Jesus had authority over demons.
While Jesus is teaching, a man, who is obviously demon-possessed, shows himself. Now what is important here is that Jesus was teaching, not looking for a fight. But this man, possessed by multiple demons (notice the word “us” in verse 24) appears to be infringed upon. The statement, “What have you to do with us?” is basically like saying, “Why are you here? We aren’t bothering anything.”
What we can gather is that this group of demons was comfortable in the synagogue. It was their home. Per the law, the man should not have even been in the synagogue because he was unclean. That was not a concern for these demons apparently or they would not have been so bold in this gathering place.
The demons refer to Jesus as the Holy One of God. This is very significant. One belief in that day was that the use of the name of a spiritual adversary gave you control over it. So, the demon states who Jesus is, correctly mind you, thinking they would have the upper hand against Jesus. However, Jesus reveals that true power does not require calling them by name. Nor does Jesus need any special incantations or magic phrases. He simply tells the demonic presence to be quiet and leave. This is not a request. Rather it is a strong command. The demon has no choice but to leave – and to be silent. The demons shriek, but it is not understandable. (I will cover this idea of silence below.)
So, Jesus was teaching and the devil was looking to disrupt the situation, but Jesus did the disrupting! If you are scoring at home, this makes the score – Jesus 2, Devil 0 (the first being in the wilderness).
Jesus had the authority to heal.
The next small part mentions the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. (This miracle is one reason that I believe that Peter is the story-teller in Mark’s account of the gospel.) The text provides evidence that Peter was married which makes the Catholic understanding (that priests must be single) more difficult to explain. A couple of Catholic resources I checked suggest that Peter had been married before Jesus called him, so, in essence, he was a widower and was not married when He began His journey with Christ. This sounds reasonable other than Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9, which suggests that a woman is present with Peter. Some Catholics suggest this was his sister, although one of the great early church leaders, Clement of Alexandria, writes that Peter was married, had children, and she was actually a martyr for her faith (which Peter witnessed).
Speculation aside, what we do know is that he did have a mother-in-law whether he was still married or a widower. We also know that Jesus healed her. This, too, is significant because she is female. HE (Jesus) touched HER (generally forbidden in those days, especially for a rabbi) and she was lifted up. The words “lifted up” are the same Greek word (egeiro) used of Jesus rising from the dead. The text does not say she was dead, but she may have been very ill, perhaps near death. But by the touch of Jesus, she was healed.
Her response to her healing? She began to serve. Some use this text to show that women should serve men. However, the word is the same word that Jesus uses in Mark 10.45 to show a purpose in His coming – to serve. Really, it is service that is the mark of discipleship as we will see later in Mark 9 and 10. We also musts not overlook that her service is on the Sabbath (see verse 21). In fact, we see, in verse 32, all kinds of people showed up to for healing after sundown. Why? Because they could not walk very far (nor expect to be healed) before the Sabbath ended, which brings us to our last portion of the this week’s teaching section.
Jesus had authority over the Sabbath.
What a busy day! But that day was the Sabbath. It was permissible to teach, but the exorcism of demons and the healing of the woman should not have been. However, Jesus reveals His authority over the Sabbath with these healings. A closer look at how the Sabbath was understood at this time in history may help. The Sabbath had become a symbol of the true rest (eternal rest), and peace (shalom) that is to come – and will begin when the Messiah comes. Therefore, Jesus is showing that God’s peace and rest (the true Sabbath – or Shabbat) has come upon them. Sickness, disease, death, and demons are no match for the Kingdom of God. God created. God rested. But now God is restoring – and bringing in a perfect rest and peace – and doing so on the Shabbat).
As we conclude this passage, we see in verse 34 that, again, Jesus did not allow the demons to speak – “because they knew Him.” Doesn’t that seem a little odd? He says the same to some of the people He heals as well (see verse 44, next week). So why did Jesus tell the demons to be silent?
Some have suggested that it has to do with secrecy. In fact, one claim that pervaded much of the twentieth century was that Jesus did not know He was the Messiah. Except Jesus does say so later. My thought, and I am far from alone on this, has to do with the nature of demons. Remember demons are the minions of Satan, whom Jesus refers to elsewhere as the Father of Lies. So even though the demons rightfully know who Jesus is, being liars themselves, they would spread false testimony about Him.
As for the people being told to be quiet, Jesus did not want people to come to Him only for what they thought He might do for them (as a miracle-worker). Rather He wanted to be able to do what He truly came for – to have them believe in Him as the Son of God that they might be truly healed (redeemed) from their sin.
True Authority: Caesar or Jesus?
As we prepare to conclude this post, we have overlooked two key verses – 27 and 28. The people knew authority – or, at least, they think they did.
If you recall, on the first week of this series, I mentioned that Mark wrote this account of the gospel to the Romans. Thus, Mark was writing to a people who believed that all authority belonged to Caesar. Mark shows, however, that what man considers authority often lacks in comparison to what real authority is. God is the author, and therefore the author-ity is His. It was on full display in the person of Jesus. And it was unlike anything these people had imagined, for they exclaimed, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!”
They were amazed. Essentially, when Jesus speaks, something happens. His word and deed are one. The fame of this man spread quickly and people wanted to be near Him – whether for healing, for teaching, or some other perceived need – they wanted to see this man – Yeshua.
In Rome people would come out to see and worship Caesar. Likewise, in Galilee, people came from far and wide to see Jesus. But did they know Him? They believed He existed. They believed in what He could do. But was He their miracle man or their Savior? More importantly, who is He to you?
The reality is that Jesus was unknown to everyone at this time except the enemy. The disciples were learning who Jesus was. The debilitated and diseased knew He had power. And Jesus proved that no disease was beyond healing. But only the demons truly knew who He was. They addressed Him by title. Yet, they are still bound to hell.
So, the question for each of us is: Do you know about Him? Or do you know Him?
Our JOURNEY letter for today is: J – Jesus.
The authority Mark refers to is not just to prove that Jesus is God. It is to show that Jesus’ message, as we saw last week in verse 15, is real. “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s Kingdom had come. It was time to repent (turn from the old) and believe (turn to God). Satan has dominion over this world (2 Corinthians 4.3-4), but he is no match for God when His reign is realized.
Opportunity: Jesus authority did not prevent Him from showing compassion. People brought the sick and oppressed to Him because of what they saw in Him. How can our compassion toward others help them recognize the authority of Jesus?
So, what about our next steps? How can we maximize the opportunities God provides for us?
Learn – Determine the needs of others.
Live – Find ways to help meet the needs of others.
Love – Seek to understand the deeper need in each situation, including any spiritual need.
Lead – Find ways of meeting more the immediate needs by sharing Christ’s love.
(Leave) – Prepare those you are helping to properly care for themselves for when you are not there.
Jesus has the authority. The question is what do we do with that truth. What will you do today?