One Having Authority

Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
(Mark 1:21-28)

Scripture Study

1:21 Capernaum A village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Sabbath The traditional day of rest for the Jewish people as prescribed by the law (Exod 20:8–11; Deut 5:12–15). synagogue Usually refers to a building where a local community assembled. The synagogue was not a distinctively religious institution, as nonreligious activities also took place there.

1:22 scribes Refers to experts in the law of Moses. They served a religious function alongside the priests and Pharisees.

1:23 an unclean spirit The term used here links the idea of malevolent supernatural forces to the Jewish concern for purity and holiness. cried out Refers to the man with the unclean spirit. His next words, however, indicate that the unclean spirit is actually speaking through him, since a plural (“us”) is used.

1:24 I know who you are So far in Mark’s Gospel, only Jesus seems to know His true identity (Mark 1:11). Mark emphasizes the demons’ recognition of Jesus as the one God has set apart for a purpose. This highlights both human ignorance of who Jesus is and how fearful evil powers were of Him.

1:25 Quiet With this command, Jesus simultaneously neutralizes the spirit’s attempt to oppose Him and prevents His identity as the Messiah from becoming public knowledge.

1:27 they obey him Exorcists were common in the ancient Near East. For example, among the Dead Sea Scrolls (circa 250 bc–ad 50), a text containing an incantation formula designed to exorcise demons was discovered. Jesus distinguishes Himself from other exorcists in that He did not rely on complex incantations. He could simply command the demons and they would leave their hosts.

Scripture Reflection

The story of Jesus’ first exorcism portrays the forces of evil in a way that may appear to readers today as strikingly personal. For Mark, as for the whole New Testament, evil is not an impersonal force but is concentrated in invisible, malevolent beings who are bent on destroying human beings and hindering God’s plan of salvation. These evil spirits are responsible for various mental and even physical maladies. The Church has always taught that demons, are real spiritual beings, fallen angels who were created by God but became evil by their own free choice.

Anyone tempted to dismiss accounts of demons as fables does not have to look far to see evidence of their influence today. Such phenomena as “racial cleansing,” group suicides, and the sexual abuse of children show a more than merely human malice at work, seeking to destroy the image of God in man.

But as frightening and real as is the power of demons, the authority of Christ is infinitely superior. Through his cross and resurrection, Christ definitively conquered the powers of hell. For the present time, however, their malicious actions are permitted by God, who is able to work good out of every evil. The grace of baptism affords us protection from demons and the strength to resist their seductive influence.

– Mary Healy

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.