Jesus began His ministry with the news that the kingdom of God had come in Himself. That meant that He would be operating with Kingdom authority in the various aspects of His ministry. God’s power would be at work through Him. In this passage we see this authority being exercised in His teaching and in His ministry.
1). THE AUTHORITY IN JESUS’ TEACHING. The authority in Jesus’ teaching came from God, Mark 1:22) They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. People recognised that His message wasn’t a second hand message, telling people what other scholars had written. They were amazed at the authority with which He spoke. It was as though God Himself was speaking through the lips of Jesus. That’s what Jesus said, was in fact happening, John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. His teaching came from the mind of God and not just His own thoughts. Jesus was imparting the words the Father wanted Him to speak. How? Because of the intimacy of their relationship as Jesus said, John 14;11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. It was amazing that people could hear Jesus speaking the words God had given Him to speak, but many rejected Him. In rejecting Him and His words they were rejecting God Himself.
Today humans in their free-will can close their ears and their minds to the word of God in the Bible. They can also close their hearts to Jesus, and in doing so, to the living God.
2). THE AUTHORITY IN JESUS’ MINISTRY. A man with an unclean spirit interrupted His teaching, Mark 1:23-24, Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24) and 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.” It was the demon, or the evil spirit speaking through the man. It’s as though the demon was challenging Jesus’ authority, for the words can mean, “Why do you interfere with us?” or “Mind your own business.” Evil spirits recognised who Jesus was. This one called Jesus “the Holy One of God.” But Jesus did not let the truth about Himself declared by the powers of darkness go unchallenged, Mark 1:25-26, But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26) And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
A spiritual power encounter had taken place. Jesus commanded the spirit to “be muzzled”, to be silent, and to come out of the man, and it came out. The people were again amazed, Mk 1:27) They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching–with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” What an exciting, scary time for those who were there. Here was Jesus operating with kingdom authority in His teaching and with kingdom authority and power in delivering the man of a demon.
The late Professor C.S. Lewis saw 2 dangers as we read a story like this. We can either deny the existence of the powers of darkness. Or we can take an unhealthy interest in them. In doing the latter we take our focus off God and put it in the wrong place, on the devil and his cohorts. As we focus on the powers of darkness we give them more power than they really have. These two warnings are relevant today, for there are many who have gone too far in both extremes, and lost the balance of Scripture.
3). THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS OVER THE POWERS OF DARKNESS TODAY. People today can come under (or are already under) various degrees of control by the powers of darkness. This is seen in many areas of life.
i). People can be blinded to the gospel message. Paul wrote of some people who did not know the gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Satan has blinded the minds of all those who don’t believe. They don’t realise they are spiritually blind. They don’t give Jesus His rightful place in their lives because they don’t understand Who Jesus is or the significance of His death and resurrection. We need to realise that it includes those who are in outright rebellion against God. But it may also include our dear loved ones, our close friends and other fine people who haven’t yet come to trust in Jesus. They simply don’t understand how wonderful God is. We need to pray that God would open their blind eyes to enable them to see who He is and to come to know Him and to love and serve Him.
ii). People can be under the power of Satan and his demons. God said through the apostle John, 1John 5:19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. People may not realise it but they are under the devil’s power. They think they are “calling the shots” for their lives, but He has control over them. St Paul was sent by God to preach to the Gentiles like those of us who do not have a Jewish background, Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Praise God that in His love for us from gentile backgrounds He has opened our eyes to understand the truth; He has given us power over the evil one; He has forgiven us in Christ and He has accepted us in His Son.
iii). People many actually be doing what the devil wants rather than what God wants. Paul saw that many people had been deceived by Satan and had come under his power. They needed God to touch their lives so that they would repent, 2Timothy 2:26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. Such people may not realise they are “snared”. They may not realise that they are captives to do Satan’s will and not their own will or God’s will. They need spiritual enlightenment and release by God. We need to pray for all our loved ones that they might be set free from any power of evil in their lives. Then and only then can they know and experience God’s power in their lives.
Victory is possible for those who seek it. We see it in Paul’s teaching, where he states that the powers of darkness have been dealt a mortal blow. For example, he reminded the Colossians that when Christ died on the cross, He not only died to take away sins so that forgiveness might be available to the people of God, but He also disarmed the principalities and powers. (Col 2:13) And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14) erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
The cross was the placarding, the public proof, that He had defeated the powers of darkness. These powers need no longer have the power they once had in human lives. Victory is ours through the victory Christ won on the cross and made available to the people of God.
iv). People may be in bondage to the evil one by allowing Satan to have footholds in their lives. It may be opening their lives to the powers of evil by continuing in anger and unforgiveness, Eph 4:26 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry–but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. 27) Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life (NIV). Or the door might be opened to the powers of darkness by getting involved in any of the things that are taboo for the believer, such as the occult or pornography. A young fellow in his early 20’s once came to see me. When I asked him how I might be able to help him, he replied that he was a Bible Study leader in his church, but in recent times had not been able to say the name of J J J J. When he could not get the word out I said, “Jesus?” He nodded. It turned out that he had been heavily involved in pornography and his mind was filled continually with all the images he had seen with a longing to see even more. He was addicted to porn. But now he saw the need to be set free.
I told him that the way out of bondage to freedom involved 4 things. The first one is repentance. God commands us to repent of all known sin in our lives by confessing it before Him, and asking for His forgiveness and turning to follow Him.
The second step is renunciation. The word means to forsake, to cast off, have nothing to do with. If we have tapped into supernatural powers through our own wrongful activities, it’s to say, “I’m handing all this over to God. I no longer want any part of it. I’m renouncing it, forsaking it.” It is saying to God, “I don’t want anything to do with the powers of darkness. Please set me free”.
The third step is to submit oneself completely to the Lord, so that He can do in our lives what He wants to do as He ministers to us in Kingdom power. It means asking Christ to be the Lord of every part of our lives, the past, the present and the future.
The fourth step is to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It means asking God to fill us with His presence so that we live by the power of the Spirit of God. It means allowing Him to set us free of any wrong supernatural power in our lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
That is what he did in all sincerity. He repented of his sin. He renounced the powers of darkness. As he tried to pray “Lord Jesus, be the Lord of my life” he got stuck on the “J J J J J” again. But as we continued to pray, he struggled to eventually say loudly, “Jesus is Lord, and I want you Lord Jesus to be my Lord”. As he said those words, he was set free. God had released him from the power of the evil one. Some months later he brought back a Christian friend who had also been heavily involved in pornography. He too was set free as he followed the same steps of repentance, renunciation, submission to Christ and asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
What God did in Jesus’ day through His ministry, He does today through Christian ministry which is based upon His word and is open the guidance and leading (and empowering) of the Holy Spirit. It means that if we have friends, neighbours, even family members who are under some sort of control by the powers of darkness, they can be set free. They don’t have to stay as they are. We don’t have to give up on them as a lost cause. They too can walk in Christian freedom. As Jesus said, “If the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed” John 8:36. It’s as true today as it was then. The victory is there in Christ. But we have to personally appropriate that victory through faith in Him.
(In a later article No.057 we look at a suggested prayer for being released from the powers of darkness.)
Blog No.056. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 29th January 2012.