Jesus Drives Out The Foul Spirits

January 29, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Mark 1:21-28

Not Like The Scribes Of The Law

1. Today's recitation of the gospel tells us about the events in the city named Capernaum, which is situated on the northern bank of the Sea of Galilee. It took place in a synagogue, one Sabbath day, when all were assembled.

2. That day, the place of worship where the people were gathered had an atmosphere completely different from a typical Sabbath. They had been listening to the message being given to them with facial expressions of utter amazement on everyone. The rabbi standing before them was obviously not a common person. They were listening to a message they had never heard till then. They were surprised "because he did not teach like the scribes of the law, but taught as one having authority," (verse twenty-two).

3. What does this mean that he was "not like the scribes of the law?" The main task of the scribes was to interpret the law. That is, [their job] was to interpret the words of the scriptures and to apply them to the situations of that day. With those interpretations, they conducted the education of the law to the people, or possibly they were involved in decisions in the courts. The important thing in this is that the people called the scribes of the law were always very much more than interpreters. As for the ultimate authority, the words of the scriptures themselves had it. That was clear to both the scribes and those who heard their interpretations.

4. However, it says that Jesus himself spoke "as one having authority." He was different from the scribes of the law. He was not just teaching on how "to apply the words of the scriptures to one's every day life in the real world." The words from Jesus and his presence there certainly meant a lot more than that.

5. Regretfully, even still today, there are not a few who only think of the Christian faith as "applying the words of the scriptures to one's every day life in the real world." We go to church to learn the morals and the life lessons which the Bible teaches. By propagating the teachings of the scriptures, the mission of Christianity is to build a better society with more moral people who keep the teachings of the Bible. We send our children to church school because we want them raised good kids.

6. Sometimes we might spot the words "Living The Bible" in a biblically related article. There are also books with titles like that. Pointing to a fine Christian, they always say, "That person is really living the Bible" or something like that. But, if "living the Bible" only means that one is just "living by practicing the teachings of the Bible," there were lots of people "living the Bible" before Jesus came. The scribes of the law were already experts on that. What the scribes of the law were truly aiming for was to teach, by the definition just given, how the people might "live the Bible."

7. But, in that synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus did not teach like the scribes of the law, but as one having authority. Jesus did not bring a mere application of the words of the scriptures. Jesus did not come as another scribe of the law.

As One Having Authority

8. But really now, what significance is there for us in that Jesus taught as one having authority? Let's look on after at the stuff that happens after this. Please look beginning at verse twenty-three. "At that time, there was a man seized with a foul spirit in the synagogue and he shouted, 'Jesus of Nazareth, don't mind us. Did you come to destroy us? We know your true character. You are the holy one from God.'," (verses twenty-three and twenty-four).

9. Everybody was assembled in the synagogue. They were worshipping and having a service. Jesus began to speak. While the people were in wonder at the words of Jesus, who was speaking as one having authority, they were taking in and listening to every single word, a new message hearing it for the first time ever. "At that time" -- exactly at that time, a bizarre screaming voice was heard around the synagogue. [It shouted,] "Jesus of Nazareth, don't mind us. Did you come to destroy us? We know your true character. You are the holy one from God." Can you picture this scene in your mind?

10. I have encountered a scene that resembled this when I was a seminarian. One day at an evening service, a person came in for the very first time. He was middle-aged, a little loaded up on alcohol, and feeling a bit too good. We brought that guy who was at the front of the train station to church. Well now, at first he was quietly participating in the worship service with us. The situation began to change gradually. Then, when the sermon began and after a little while, he began to shout turning towards the pastor who was preaching away. "You blankety blank idiot! You're spreading lies - you are a hypocrite, that's all you are!" Everybody's field of vision gathered on him. He made a surprised face. He had a lost look on him. He was perplexed as to what he should do. In an instant, the place froze.

11. I picture in my mind what is written here in this text as a similar such scene. However, Jesus' voice broke that frozen atmosphere up. The Lord reprimanded him in a loud voice, "Be silent!" Then, what did he say next? He shouted, "Get out!" But, it was not [said] to the man. Going by the original word order*, the Lord shouted, "Get out 'of him.'"

12. The people must have wanted "the man" to get out, [since] he was causing disruption in the service. But, "the man" was important to Jesus. He needed to be there. The man was to Jesus a sorrowful individual person being controlled by foul spirits. Unable to turn to God in a righteous manner, unable to worship God, he was being thrown around by a force that was superior to him, he was unable to take control of himself, he was no more than a sorrowful individual.

13. "Get out of this man!" -- That was a message of anger directed towards the foul spirits. But, at the same time, it was also a shout that gushed forth from Jesus' deep compassion for this individual. The Lord totally stood on the side of this man [against the common sense of the synagogue] and gave the command. He said, "Get out of this man" as if to protect this man by carrying him tenderly in his own arms. It was a display of Christ's passion and zeal, how that some way or another some how, he wanted to liberate this man from the foul spirits and restore him to the way he was truly supposed to be as a person turning to God.

14. When Jesus reprimanded the dirty spirits like that, the Bible says, that "The foul spirits made him convulse, raised his voice aloud, and went out." In this way then, the works of Jesus, who spoke as one having authority, liberated this man and restored him to the original way he was supposed to be. Instead of the rule of foul spirits, the rule of God came upon him. Do you remember the words from Jesus' preaching, which are written in the passage that we read last week? "The time is full. The kingdom of God is near." That was the announcement from Jesus. The reality of the kingdom of God was manifested plainly upon this individual person. It was manifested through the words of Jesus. Jesus' presence and his words did not merely manufacture a moral person who would put the words of the scriptures into practice. He brought down the kingdom of God upon this individual.

The Liberation That Comes From Christ

15. So, this healing narrative, this form of the text as arranged especially from verse twenty-three to verse twenty-six, was quite likely repeatedly told in the early church. In the places of early church services, where it was being handed down verbally, [scholars] think that [they] arranged it to be a brief part of the text. Why do you think it had been told in places of worship services? It wasn't just to tell us, "Here's what Jesus once did." It wasn't for that, rather it must have been to tell us the kind of person Jesus was as he worshipped there. In other words, this is not just a story to tell us of past events, but is also a story to tell us of how Christ was crucified for us, and that he rose from the dead and still lives now. It is also a story to tell us how Christ, whom we worship, is related to us.

16. Thus, when we read this story in relationship to ourselves today, we can see that this scene is not some special event in a unique situation. The person controlled by the foul spirits was not some special person unrelated to us at all. [That's] because the sorrows, by which we are thrown about by invisible forces and by which we are unable to take command of ourselves, are in no small measure universal experiences of us humans, apart from whether we call them foul spirits, or evil spirits, or even by some other term.

17. In the history of battles and massacres between nations and races, we humans have actually seen the control of foul spirits [upon us], haven't we? Or perhaps, in the communities we are familiar with, in our small homes, and in our individual hearts, we have also experienced a power at work which humans cannot do anything about, haven't we? We have actually experienced to a bitter degree the raging force of a controlling power against which we can do nothing through human will or wisdom, haven't we? By that definition, the individual character described in this text does seem to have everything to do with us after all.

18. But, this scene is one that says that Christ did come in amid the rule of these foul spirits. Also, by telling us this story, the gospel states that Jesus Christ has come into our lives with that same authority even now.

19. When Jesus come in, conflicts will arise there. It says that and it is written that way in today's passage of scripture. When Jesus stood as one having authority the befouled spirits shouted, "Jesus of Nazareth, don't mind us." Why [did they shout that]? Because the befouled spirits knew who Jesus was. Therefore, they said, "Did you come to destroy us. We know your true character. You are the holy one from God."

20. Were Jesus one of the mere scribes of the law, one would not have expected that to happen. If it were just a matter of "[I] have some good religious teaching here. [I] have messages from the commandments related to every day living. Let's live by observing them," not much of a great resistance to that would arise. Were Christianity only to say, "Let's put the words of the scriptures into practice," no huge conflicts would arise over it. But, when Christ draws near with authority, severe conflicts and resistance arises among people. The shout, "Jesus of Nazareth, don't mind us" has been arising. We want to let them go. We want things to stay the same. But, Jesus persistently has been involving himself with us. It is precisely because we are like that that he has been involved. -- Because that is not the way we humans are supposed to be originally. -- Because the way humans are, such that they are controlled by foul spirits and with their backs against God, is not the original way for humans to be. -- Because it is not the original way for humans to be when they keep placing themselves into the darkness by turning down the Christ.

21. It is not the authority of the law that sets a person free from foul spirits and restores him or her under God's rule. Religious commandments and moral words do not set one free. Furthermore, the power of our determination and will to obey does not set us free. The one who sets us free is Christ, who still lives now. He is the Christ who has compassion on us. He is the Christ who stands on our side, [saying], "This person is mine. This person is one whom I have redeemed with my own blood," and commands the foul spirits to "Get out of this person." It is either one or the other for us: Will we remain under the rule of the foul spirits by turning down Christ just as the foul spirits said? Or, will we turn ourselves over to this one with authority by seeking Christ in order to be liberated from the foul spirits?

22. To be a Christian is nothing other than to live with Christ and to continue to place ourselves under Christ's authority as he comes into our lives and involves himself with us. A specific manifestation of that is when we continue to place ourselves in a place of worship where we gather in the name of the Lord. We are not here to learn moral lessons. The reason we are here is to place ourselves under Christ's authority and to place ourselves in fellowship with Christ. It is by continuing to place ourselves in Him that we perpetually turn back to God and we can live the way we were originally meant to be, which is, in a righteous relationship with God.

*Translator's Note: In the Japanese version of the scriptures it says "out of him" first, that is, "out of him get out," which is normal Japanese word order.