Have you ever been heckled while giving a talk or presentation? It happened to Jesus a lot. His listeners were awestruck (our first amazed) at his authoritative teaching. The atmosphere was electric, you could have heard a pin drop as everyone leaned in to really hear what Jesus was saying. Then it all kicks off. A man with an unclean spirit begins to cry out, “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!”
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 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!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 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.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.Mark 1:23-27 NIV
In Mark’s quick fire Gospel, the man crying out happens “immediately” after people were amazed. It’s Mark’s way of moving the narrative on. But it also the kind of reaction Jesus gets. George Whitefield was once asked how he knew he had preached a good sermon. He answered, “either someone got saved, or someone got angry!”
It was a thing at the time, when dealing with an evil Spirit to try and find out its’ name to gain control. Jesus rarely, if ever, did that. He didn’t need to. But this demon names him “Jesus of Nazareth” and the “Holy One of God.” It’s fascinating that the demons seemed to grasp Jesus identity quicker than men and women. His earthly roots and His heavenly status.
Although the demons acknowledge the divine authority of Christ, it is the right answer from the wrong source. Jesus rebukes it with authority. Jesus rebukes demons, fevers, Peter and storms. Not just gentle, meek and mild. He has a fiery authority.
“Shut up! would be a better translation, that may offend sensibilities. “Come out of him!” It’s an immediate awesome demonstration of Jesus’ authority – not just in word but deed and a manifestation of the Kingdom of God. In Matt 12:28 Jesus tells us “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you!”
Jesus didn’t tell the demon to be quiet because of the so-called “Messianic secret” motif than some scholars think is going on in Mark’s gospel. If it was Jesus didn’t do very well, because the secret spread fast Mark 1:28,45; 7:36. Jesus didn’t want fame as an exorcist, healer or conqueror, which many expected the Messiah to be. His main task was preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God and dying on the cross and rising again to bring it in.
The exorcists of the day did all sorts of weird things. Josephus (Ant. 8.2.5 §46–49) relates that one Eleazar was able to draw a demon out through the victim’s nostrils, by placing a ring and a piece of pungent baras root under the nose and by reciting an incantation thought to have been composed by Solomon. Josephus says he has seen Eleazar do this, with the departing demon tipping over a basin of water as proof of his exit. In contrast Jesus simply gives the order. The demon caused the man to convulse . Demons often caused a commotion on the way out. Maybe it is one last attempt to cause injury, and an indication of its exit.
The people are astonished – by the teaching and the practical demonstration of His authority.Mark will end his Gospel with a commission for us to go and do likewise… “And these signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues… they will place their hands on people who are ill and they will get well.”
Let’s get up and at ’em!