Mark 1:21-28  Set Free By Christ

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. The Lord Jesus had called his first disciples by the shores of Galilee and he went into the town of Capernaum with them, which was situated on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee.  When the Sabbath came, immediately he began to teach in the synagogue of that town.  The biblical passage we are given for today tells us of the events that occurred in that synagogue.

Not Like The Scribes

2.  To begin, please look at verses twenty-one through twenty-two.

 "The group arrived in Capernaum.  Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach.  Many were very surprised at his teaching because he was not like the scribes, but taught as one having authority," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two).

3.  It wasn't a mere teacher of the law that they had seen there.  Of course the Lord Jesus was in conformance with Jewish customs as a Jew and began teaching in the synagogue just like other Jewish teachers.  But, many saw him there as more than the usual teacher.  [They saw] that he spoke with the authority of God.

4.  Matthew records the contents of what he said "as one having authority," at which the people were so surprised, in what we know as "The Sermon On The Mount" from chapters five to seven.  But, Mark doesn't record anything at all of what he had said there.  Instead, his lesson is tied in to the words of the Lord's preaching given in verse fifteen.  This is what it says there, "The time is ripe, the kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the gospel," (verse fifteen).  So, it did not only say that the Lord Jesus said that "the kingdom of God is near," or "the rule of God is near," but also that he truly spoke the words of his sermon with the authority of God.  That's why many were so surprised.  They were very surprised.

5.  In regards to their surprise, the text says, "because he was not like the scribes, but taught as one having authority," (verse twenty-two).  What does this say to us, that "he was not like the scribes?"  The main job of the scribes was in interpreting the law, that is, they interpreted the commands of the Bible and applied them into situations for their times.  With their interpretations they gave the people instruction in the law, or with their interpretations they influenced decisions in the courts of law.  Most importantly, it meant that since it was the law itself that had the ultimate authority, they were always no more than interpreters.  But, the Lord Jesus did not speak like those scribes, it says, but as one having authority.  That is, they meant that what the Lord said was not just an application of a Bible text to a contemporary situation.   the presence of the Lord Jesus there had certainly meant more than that.

6.  We should keep this in mind.  [I say this] because many people today still only think with the attitude that "A christian is someone who lives applying the text of the biblical commands to daily life."  Among Christians the phrase "to live the Bible" is often used.  We usually express a respected christian as "a person who really lives the Bible."  But, we had better be careful about that expression because there are cases where "to live the Bible" only means "to live by putting the Bible's commands into practice."  With that being the case, before the Lord Jesus came, the scribes were already specialists of that sort.  What the scribes really aimed at when they taught was in this sense of  people "living by the Bible."  But, the Lord taught as one having authority and not like the scribes.  It was not a simple application of the biblical text that the Lord brought forth.

As One Having Authority

7.  So, what meaning is there for us that the Lord Jesus taught as one having authority?  Let's look at the event that follows next.  Please look starting at verse twenty-three.

 "At that time, there was a man possessed by defiled spirits in the synagogue and he was shouting, "O Jesus of Nazareth, don't bother with us. Did you come to destroy us?  We know your true nature.  You are the holy one of God.'  When Jesus scolded, 'Be silent. Come out of him,' the defiled spirits made him have convulsions, shouted out loudly and came out.  Everyone was surprised and debated with each other. 'What is this! It is a new authoritative teaching.  When he commanded the defiled spirits, they heard him speak.'  Jesus' fame spread through out the region of Galilee to every corner," (verses twenty-three through twenty-eight).

8.  You might say this is one of the miracle stories of Christ.  But it is not on this miraculous activity where we are to put our focus.  We understand that from the words of verse twenty-seven, which says, "It is a new authoritative teaching."  It is this "new authoritative teaching" that we are to take thorough note of here.  It is "the kingdom of God' which is the substance of this "teaching."  This event is a sign that reveals the arrival of the proclaimed "kingdom of God."

9.  Please recall the setting.  There is a synagogue in it.  They are having a service.  The service in the synagogue consisted of prayer and the reading aloud of God's word, and an explanation of the word.  They did not have a regular preacher on staff to give the explanation.  Some kind of synagogue director designated a person with the ability to give an explanation.  It was the Lord Jesus who stood up for the explanation.  It was then a very strict time where the thoughts of the people were focused on the word and its explanation.  At that time [of concentration on the scriptures and its interpretation] one person in a place of worship began to shout out.  It looked like something all the people there might frown upon.  If we had been there in that place [of worship], what response might we have had?  I'm sure we would have cast a critical eye in the same situation when all's said and done.  This man clearly disturbed the service and made himself a big nuisance to the others.

10.  But, even though he was a big nuisance fit to be criticized in the eyes of humans, in the eyes of Christ he did not appear that way.  For the Lord Jesus all he was was a pitiable man under the control of defiled spirits.  He was nothing but a sorrowful man alone unable to face God righteously, unable to worship God, driven about by a power that went beyond him, and unable to control himself on his own.  Thereupon, the Lord Jesus scolded [them] immediately, not him.  The Lord Jesus scolded the defiled spirits.  He rebuked the evil spirits that ruled over him.

11.  The Lord shouted, "Be silent!"  This is both at the same time a word that shows his anger towards the foul spirits as well as a shout that gushed out from his deep compassion for the man.  The Lord, in addition, cried out, "come out of him."  The Lord placed himself on the side of this man consistently and ordered, ""Come out of him."  We should really appreciate through these words how much Christ wanted to set him free from the defiled spirits and how he wanted to make him recover his original human state that looked to God, and the passion with which Christ burned for him.  Also, the words of Christ so filled with compassion and authority did set him free and made him recover his original state.  It was both the compassion of God for this man and the mighty power of God to set him free that was revealed there.  Through these, the rule of God came upon him instead of the rule of the defiled spirits.  As I mentioned before, this miracle is a sign that the kingdom of God was really coming to them there with Christ.

Set Free By Christ

12.  Well, I suppose the story of this healing, a tale in this form which goes particularly from verses twenty-three to twenty-six, was told repeatedly over and over in the early church.  In other words, Mark did not first write it down, but it is thought that in places of worship of the early church this settled into this particular short speech while used in sermons and lessons.  This is very important that it had been told and heard in places of worship; for, it means that this narrative was not just passed on as some saying that "Once upon a time the Lord Jesus did this."  That is, this is a narrative that ought to be heard in our relationship with the Christ who was crucified for us, rose again, and now lives.

13. Thus, when we read this narrative in relationship to us today, this setting seems not to be a special event under any unique conditions.  Of course, we generally may not be quite so familiar with what they call "demon possession" as seen in the man in this narrative.  In such a sense it would certainly be a unique item.  But, if you give it some careful consideration, you can't say that the man under the control of the defiled spirits is a special person unrelated to any of us; for, regardless of the distinction of whether we call it defiled spirits, or an evil spirit, or use another word his misery, in which he was driven by a power that went beyond him and he couldn't control himself, is in no small way the universal experience of us humans.  Humanity has actually seen this in the history of the battles and slaughtering among one nation and another and between one race and another.  Or in communities near us, in small families, and in the hearts of individuals, we too have experienced a power at work in which a person is helpless, haven't we?  Haven't we all bitterly experienced the fierceness of a controlling power where we were helpless as per our human will and intellect?

14.  But, this is a scene where Christ comes in amidst the rule of defiled spirits.  And the gospel account states in telling this story to us that the Lord now has come in with his authority.

15.  When Christ draws near, the defiled spirits cry out, "O Jesus of Nazareth, don't bother us."  Why do they do that?  Because the defiled spirits know who Christ is.  That's why they say, "Did you come to destroy us?  We know your true nature.  You are the holy one of God."  If this was against the scribes wouldn't it cause their opposition?  That is to say, if it were a matter of "Here is a good religious teaching.  It is a message of the commandments related to every day life.  Let's live and keep them," it would not cause that much of a big resistance against it.  But, when the authority comes near which causes the love of God and rule of grace, an intense resistance arises within a person.  The cry of "O Jesus of Nazareth, don't bother us" takes place.  He wants to set us free.  We want to be left the way we are.  This is often what a person experiences in a relationship with Christ.

16.  But, the Lord is concerned with us like that.  It is precisely because we are like that that he is concerned.  Why? Because it is not a person's original shape.  Because it is not a person's original shape to be controlled by evil forces and to oppose God.  It is not the authority of the law to set a person free from defiled spirits or restore one to the rule of God.  The words of religious commands do not set a person free.  The power of our determination and will that we follow do not deliver us either.  It is Christ who is alive right now who delivers us.  It is Christ who shows us compassion.  It is Christ who stands on our side and commands the defiled spirits, "He is mine.  He is a person I have redeemed with my blood.  Come out of him."

17.  As a result, since the cry of "O Jesus of Nazareth, don't bother us," rose up out of them, we must all the more place ourselves under the authority of Christ.  In that place where we surround the broken flesh of Christ and his shed blood, in that place where Christ promised to be with us, that is, in the place where we gather in the name of the Lord, we must place ourselves and turn ourselves over to the love and authority of Christ.  It is precisely because we are under him that we can live in God's rule.  It is precisely because we are under him that we can live as people who have recovered our original human image in a righteous relationship with God.

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