Kingdom Authority (Mark 1:21-28)
I took RJ to see President George W. Bush many years ago. I’ve always been interested in American history and having the opportunity to take my son to see the President of the United States was not one I was going to miss.
Security, as you might well imagine, was tight. As we were waiting to go through security, we watched sharpshooters gather on the roof of the arena where the President would be speaking. We went through metal detectors in single file, one by one. Secret service agents were swarming all over the place. While President Bush spoke, agents stood at attention all around him.
After the President left, RJ and I exited the arena, and an ambulance was parked right outside the door. I got the bright idea that we would make good time if we walked on the other side of the ambulance, and we started to make our way around the ambulance. A secret service agent was standing there, and he said, “Sir, I need you to stay on the other side of the ambulance, please.” I listened and quickly got on the side of the ambulance where he wanted me. I wasn’t going to argue when a secret service agent told me what to do.
I’m confident that each of you has had someone in authority tell you what to do and you listened and obeyed. Maybe you got a summons for jury duty; I’m sure you didn’t throw it away and ignore it. If you’ve ever had a cop turn on his lights behind you, I seriously doubt you sped up and tried to get away instead of pulling over. If you had a professor assign a paper on a specific date, I hope you turned it in on that day. When someone has authority over you, it’s wise to set up, take notice, and do what you’re asked.
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, and it’s soon recognized that Jesus had great authority. The authority of Jesus is the point of this passage. Mark used a literary device known as inclusio to demonstrate Jesus’s authority. Let me explain:
- Inclusio is simply a fancy, scholarly word for “bookend.” The word “authority” occurs at both the beginning and the end of this section.
- In the first century, many folks were illiterate, and they would, therefore, hear Scripture as someone read it to them.
- Inclusio would allow those who heard Scripture to remember what they heard and to understand the point of a passage.
- So, when the people who first listened to Mark’s Gospel heard this section, they would readily have understood that Mark was pointing to Jesus’s authority.
As we come to this text to understand it as the early church would have done so, we see a simple truth: “Jesus Christ has great authority.” Jesus demonstrated his authority with his teaching and over Satan’s demons. Let’s explore this text and see Jesus’s great authority.
Scripture (Mark 1:21-28)
On the Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue at Capernaum and began to teach. Synagogues were congregating places for the Jews, and on the Sabbath day especially, they would gather to hear the Scriptures explained. The synagogue’s leaders would often invite visiting teachers to address the people; it’s not hard to imagine that Jesus was already a well-known teacher, and he was invited to speak.
The people were amazed at his teaching. The Greek tense of “amazed” corresponds to the tense of “began to teach.” The idea is that as long as Jesus was teaching, the people were amazed at what he taught.
The people were amazed because Jesus taught as one with authority and not as the teachers of the law. The teachers of the law would try to explain the Scriptures by giving the proper way to translate or apply it; they also would appeal to the traditions which had been handed down. Jesus doesn’t do any of that. Rather, it’s obvious to those who hear him that Jesus has great authority.
“Just then”—as the people were marveling at Jesus’s teaching—a man with an “impure spirit” cried out. A careful reading of the Scriptures leads to the conclusion that demon possession was limited to the period of Jesus’s ministry and immediately thereafter; demon possession seems to have been a last-ditch effort by Satan to stop Jesus’s ministry from gaining traction.
This man cried out and identified Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth” and “the Holy One of God.” In the first century, demons were associated with magicians, and magicians would often try to gain power over spiritual forces by invoking the name of the one they sought to subdue. It’s very possible that the demon here was attempting to subdue Jesus in this way. Well, that fails and fails miserably; since Jesus has all authority, no demon could gain power over him.
Jesus ordered the demon to shut up and to come out of the man. The man shook violently—Tales of exorcisms in the first century often involved a demon’s violent exit from a body. This demon acted precisely how the crowd in the synagogue would have expected.
The people are again amazed by Jesus’s authoritative teaching. They were further amazed by Jesus’s authority over demons—that he could simply order a demon to leave a man and the demon obeyed.
News about Jesus spread all over Galilee. The villages of Galilee were close together, so it didn’t take long for rumors or news to spread throughout the region.
From this morning’s text, we learn that “Jesus Christ has great authority.” The Lord demonstrated that authority through his unusual teaching and by commanding a demon to leave a man.
“Jesus Christ has great authority” today, too. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph 1:22).
Because Jesus Christ has great authority, you need to SURRENDER to Jesus.
Since Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, you need to live in obedience to his commands. Matthew 7:24-27. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (Jn 14:23).
How well are you surrendering to Jesus this morning?
- Are you spending time studying the words of Jesus so that you know what he expects from you?
- Is there a part of your life you have not yet surrendered to Jesus?
- Are you trying to surrender part of your life to Jesus, but you find yourself needing help?
- Do you have a secret that doesn’t allow you to surrender fully to Jesus?
- What do you need to do to surrender all the way to Jesus?
Jesus expects that we will fully, completely, and humbly surrender our lives to him: Luke 14:26-27. What do you need to surender to Jesus this very morning?
Because Jesus Christ has great authority, you need to SHARE Jesus.
That’s what the folks in Galilee did, and soon the whole region knew about Jesus. Sharing Jesus with others is one of the most important things you could ever do. “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).
Who in your life need to hear about Jesus? Think about the consequences of not sharing Jesus with that person:
- What are the consequences for Jesus?
- His authority is not honored in that person’s life.
- He died on the cross for that person, but that individual hasn’t received the salvation Jesus so freely offers.
- What are the consequences for you?
- You’re not submitting to the authority of Jesus.
- Should that person die you would know that friend or loved one went to Torment and you did nothing to stop it.
- What are the consequences for that lost soul?
- He or she has no hope in this world.
- He or she is trapped in sin with no way out.
How can you take the gospel of Jesus Christ to that precious soul? How can you share the amazing authority of Jesus? How can you help bring that person to submit to Jesus’s authority? If the elders or I can help you, please let us know.
Are you submitting to the authority of Jesus this morning? Do you need to come and submit to his authority this very day?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.