Authority over Satan

Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness by rejecting his temptations and instead submitting to the will of God. The effects were demonstrated when he exercised authority over demonic forces in the village of Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. The first incident occurred in the local synagogue where the Jews would gather to study the Torah and pray.

The institution of the synagogue is not found in the Torah, though it possibly originated during the Babylonian Captivity. It would become central to the practice of rabbinical Judaism after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Capernaum - Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash
[Capernaum - Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash]

  • (Mark 1:21-28) - “And immediately, on the Sabbath, entering the synagogue, he began teaching. And they were being struck with astonishment at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one having authority and not as the Scribes. And straightway, there was in their synagogue a man in an unclean spirit, and he cried out aloud, saying: What have we in common with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you, who you are, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Silence, and depart from him! And the unclean spirit, tearing him and calling out with a loud voice, departed. And they were amazed, one and all, so that they began to discuss among themselves, saying: What is this new teaching! With authority to the unclean spirits also he gives orders, and they obey him!

The men present that day were amazed by the authoritative way Jesus taught. The Scribes expounded the Law by citing oral traditions and legal precedents, the “Tradition of the Elders,” but they did not make pronouncements on their authority.

In contrast, Jesus taught decisively and with practical applications based on his Messianic authority. He was the “Son of Man” portrayed in the Book of Daniel who received authority and dominion from the “Ancient of Days” – (Daniel 7:13-14).

Of the thirteen miracles recorded in Mark, four were exorcisms, the most frequent type of healing in his account. Eleven times Mark refers to demons as “unclean spirits.” Four times the verbal form of the Greek term for “demons” is used to denote someone who was “demonized” or oppressed by demons. In the present passage, “unclean” refers to the state of ritual defilement of demonic spirits.

Why was the demonized man allowed in the synagogue despite his “unclean” state? In Mark, the synagogue is frequently the place where demons are present, religious authorities are antagonistic to the Messiah, and their hardness of heart is the rule rather than the exception. Like the Temple, the synagogue became an arena of conflict whenever Jesus began to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God - (Mark 1:39, 3:1, 6:2, 12:39, 13:9).

This demon spoke through the man using the plural pronoun, “we”: “What have WE in common with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” The unclean spirit represented all the demonic forces that were present. This confrontation was a foretaste of the larger conflict between Jesus and the satanic forces that would culminate in his arrest, trial, and execution in Jerusalem.

The demon acknowledged Jesus as the “Holy One of God.” Though hidden from men, the “unclean spirit” knew who he was.  By identifying him in public, the spirit could discredit him and his mission, therefore, Jesus commanded the demon to remain silent.

The words of Jesus emphasized his superior authority over the authority of the Scribes, and his exorcisms validated his command over the Devil and his forces. He taught by the same authority by which he expelled demonic forces from the children of God.

His exorcisms demonstrated conclusively that the “Coming One” announced by John the Baptist was now reconquering territory from Satan’s realm for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God was now demonstrably present and moving on the face of the Earth.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Forerunner - (John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah, the herald of the Good News of the Kingdom of God – Mark 1:4-8)
  • Son of Man - (The one like a Son of Man in Daniel is the source of Christ’s self-designation as the Son of Man and his authority)
  • His Authority - (Jesus is the Son of Man foreseen by Daniel, the Messiah who has absolute authority from Yahweh over the peoples of the Earth)


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