Speaking with Authority: Mark 1:14-28

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Continuing forward in Mark’s gospel, Mark describes how Jesus starts His ministry off strong by teaching, healing, and calling some people to follow Him. In the next verses we will focus in on, we see both an overview for the message of Jesus’ ministry, and the impact this message has on the people listening.

Our passage is found in Mark, chapter 1, and we will read from the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 14, Mark tells us that:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee. He preached the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Turn away from your sins and believe the good news!”

Pausing briefly, whenever I read these two verses, I am impressed that Jesus’ message about God’s kingdom being near is both amazing because Jesus Himself said this, and it is amazing because I believe this is a message for every time and every generation since Jesus shared it. With every day that passes, we come one day closer to Jesus returning, and we are called to get ready for Jesus’ return by turning away from our sins and believing the good news.

Looking at this one verse gives us a good overview of Jesus’ message – especially Jesus’ message at the start of His ministry. But our passage isn’t finished yet. Continuing in verse 16, Mark tells us:

16 One day Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. There he saw Simon and his brother Andrew. They were throwing a net into the lake. They were fishermen. 17 “Come and follow me,” Jesus said. “I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 Then Jesus walked a little farther. As he did, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat preparing their nets. 20 Right away he called out to them. They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men. Then they followed Jesus.

Pausing briefly again, when reading Matthew or Mark’s gospel, we might get the impression that Simon, Andrew, James, and John abandoned everything to follow a complete stranger. While this isn’t too far from the truth, Luke and John describe a little more details around how these first disciples were a little more familiar with Jesus’ message and ministry before Jesus calls them specifically, and Luke specifically includes a miracle that prompts these men to pay attention.

But Mark doesn’t include any of the back-story for these disciples. Instead, Mark emphasizes how these men dropped everything and followed Jesus when they were invited. When God calls us, we might not be called to drop everything and everyone, but it is possible we will be called to leave something we have been focusing energy and attention on. Depending on where we are in life, we might be called to end friendships that aren’t positive, or distance ourselves from toxic people, or we may be challenged to give up something that had been important in our lives before the point God invited us to follow. However, as Mark will share later in his gospel, when we leave something for Jesus because He has called us to, Jesus has much better things in our future and we will be blessed with significantly more than what we have given up. And above all of that, the blessings God gives us are positive things in our lives, and not negatives like the things God has called us to give up.

Continuing our passage, after summarizing Jesus’ early messages and introducing us to the early small group of disciples, Mark then tells us in verse 21 that:

21 Jesus and those with him went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue. There he began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching. That’s because he taught them like one who had authority. He did not talk like the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue cried out. He was controlled by an evil spirit. He said, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus firmly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man wildly. Then it came out of him with a scream.

27 All the people were amazed. So they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching! And with so much authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits, and they obey him.” 28 News about Jesus spread quickly all over Galilee.

During one of the first Sabbath’s Jesus spoke at the synagogue in Capernaum, we discover that Jesus had a different way of teaching God’s Word. Mark describes Jesus’ method of teaching in verse 22 when he tells us Jesus “taught them like one who had authority. He did not talk like the teachers of the law.

I’m not sure if you caught that little distinction or not, but Jesus did not talk like the teachers of the law and Jesus taught the people like One who had authority. With these two details present, this prompts me to conclude that prior to this point, the teachers and synagogue leaders all spoke in ways that did not sound authoritative or perhaps even confident. At the very least, the people had not heard an authoritative message in their synagogue for a very long time.

However, what happened after Jesus’ preaching amazed the people helped solidify Jesus’ authority. Whether Satan was trying to derail Jesus or whether God held Satan back until this point, a man controlled by an evil spirit shouts out in the synagogue and oddly enough identifies Jesus as the Holy One of God.

Jesus tells the spirit to be quiet and to leave the man.

If Jesus’ message and words did not sound authoritative to some of those present before this point, they definitely sounded authoritative after seeing the evil spirit leave this man. With just a few words, Jesus’ command is obeyed by evil spirits, even if these commands were obeyed unwillingly.

However, why would Jesus command the evil spirit to be silent, especially if the evil spirit actually was speaking the truth?

I believe there are two reasons. First, while the evil spirit technically was speaking truth, evil spirits have a way of twisting truth and lies and it is never safe or wise to even listen to the arguments of evil spirits. One fraction of a lie in a whole set of truth is just as dangerous as a drop of poison in a cup of clean water. The best way to discern whether a message is worth listening to, or even paying attention to, is whether it is approved or condemned by the clear message of the Bible. The Bible is clear there are some messages that are never okay to entertain, and listening to evil spirits is one of these messages we should always avoid and reject.

The other big reason is that while the evil spirit was technically speaking the truth, the message that the evil spirit shared did not mean the same thing to the people present as it did to Jesus’ understanding of scripture. The people were expecting a military leader messiah to overthrow the Romans, Jesus came as a suffering Messiah to take the sin of the world to the cross. If the people rallied together believing Jesus to be the Messiah they expected Him to be, it had the power to derail the Messiah Jesus came to be, and it would have stopped the cross from happening in the way God had planned for it to happen.

This misunderstanding of the role of the Messiah was one of the biggest challenges Jesus faced in His ministry, and it was something that even His own disciples didn’t fully understand until after the cross and the resurrection. Jesus was tempted and challenged on every angle imaginable, and Jesus pushed back the temptation and avoided the challenges throughout His ministry leading to the cross.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, intentionally seek God first and place Jesus first in your life. Choose to place your faith, your hope, your belief, and your trust in Jesus and lean on Him for your salvation. Understand that Jesus came to take our sins and our punishment on Himself and He did this to make the way available for us to accept His life and His reward for a perfect life. This is the great news of the gospel message, and it is a gift we are called to accept.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself, to learn and grow closer to God each day. Through prayer and studying the Bible, fall in love with the God who loves you enough to give up Himself for you on the cross, and the God who was willing to take your punishment on Himself to redeem you from the sins and mistakes you made.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 2: As Mark begins telling us about Jesus’ ministry, discover some details Mark uses to lay the foundation of his focus on Jesus’ life in how those who listened to Him reacted to His style of speaking.

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