There’s a story about Queen Victoria that you’ve maybe heard before. The queen and her husband, Prince Albert, quarreled about something early in their marriage. Albert walked out of the room and went to his private quarters. Victoria followed, found the door locked, and began pounding on it.
“Who’s there?” Prince Albert asked.
“The Queen of England,” was the reply. But the door remained locked.
More pounding followed, but then there was a pause. The next sound was that of a gently tap.
“Who’s there?” Albert inquired.
The queen’s reply: “Your wife, Albert.”
Prince Albert opened the door immediately.
See, as the Queen of England, Victoria had less authority with her husband than she did as his wife. As his wife he would listen.
By what authority should we listen to Jesus and how does our authority effect our relationship with him. That’s what we’re going to dig into today. We’re going to look at the authority of Jesus in light of…
(1) The torment of the man (1:21–23)
(2) The acknowledgment by the demon (1:24)
(3) The commandment of the Lord (1:25–26)
(4) The amazement of the crowd (1:27–28)
The torment of the man (1:21–23)
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. A synagogue was a gathering place. Lots of towns had them. Every week they would invite someone to speak.
We aren’t told exactly what Jesus taught but whatever it was he said it with authority. When Jesus taught he never said “Thus says the Lord.” He was the Lord. He was the authority. The OT prophets always introduced prophecies with “Thus says the Lord” but Jesus often said “For I say unto you…” He doesn’t need to speak on God’s behalf because he is God!
The people were amazed. They were overwhelmed, astounded by Jesus’ authority. Apparently they had never heard anything quite like it before.
But in the audience there was a man who was being tormented by an evil, impure spirit. It must not have been obvious to the Jews that this man was possessed or they would have never let him in the synagogue.
But now it’s obvious because he cries out. This demon can’t hide any more, not in Jesus’ presence. Now if someone yelled out in church right now would we immediately think they were being tormented, possessed by and demon?
Probably not. I guess it depends upon what they said. We might think they were rude, but probably not possessed.
When we think about demons we usually respond in one of two ways. The first is to not even acknowledge they exist. This is probably just fine with the demon because if you don’t realize they exist then all the easier it is to deceive you.
C.S. Lewis said in his book written from the perspective of one demon named Screwtape to another demon in training named Wormwood:
My Dear Wormwood,
Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves…I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that “devils” are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that…he therefore cannot believe in you.
This is the problem we tend to have in the U.S. We like to explain demonic action away scientifically but in doing so we make ourselves more open to their influence.
But the opposite response is just as dangerous. We can focus on them too much. This is more common in third-world countries but it can happen to us too.
Some give them credit for just about everything gone bad, every disease. Everything is blamed on the devil, every disease, everything we don’t like…
But let’s just look at sickness for a second. Are they responsible for every sickness? Although, the Bible sometimes makes this connection more often it seems to distinguish between the two. Let me give you one example in Matthew 10…
1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction… 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.
So Jesus often puts the sick in a different category from those possessed with a demon. And at the very least we can say not every sickness is the result of demon possession.
In addition we must remember there is a difference between demon possession and demon influence Possession is total control over a person. This man in the synagogue was possessed by a demon. He had total control over him. He spoke through him. We don’t see that very often.
But influence is much more common. In fact, all of us are under some influence from the devil. He still tempts us. He can still influence us, but through the greater influence of the Holy Spirit we are able to resist.
So Demons exist. They stand in opposition to the authority of Jesus. They torment people but we must not worry or think about them more than we think about Christ. Jesus has authority over them. That’s the key. We need Jesus to be around. They don’t like Jesus and they want to stay away from him.
But even if they don’t want to be around him, they do acknowledge him.
The acknowledgment by the demon (1:24)
The demon says…
24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Ironically, it seems this demon knows more about Jesus than the others in the synagogue. The others are amazed, but they really don’t know what to make of him.
But the demon knows where Jesus has come from: from Nazareth as prophesies foretold. He knows why he’s come: to destroy them. And he knows who he is: He’s the Holy One of God.
That’s a lot of knowledge.
Apparently, this man with a demon had been attending synagogue for a while and sadly, it seems, he fit right in. But when Jesus showed up he couldn’t stand it.
God’s word is like that. It confronts and convicts. It challenges us to grow. If it isn’t doing that then something’s wrong. We probably aren’t spending enough time in it or we aren’t pondering it deeply enough. Yes, God’s word comforts, too, but that’s not all.
See Jesus and the devil don’t get along. Jesus is pure. This demon is impure. Jesus is light. Satan is darkness. They are total opposites. The demon acknowledges who Jesus is, he even acknowledges Jesus’ authority. The demon has knowledge, but no faith.
So one of them has to go…
The commandment of the Lord (1:25–26)
Jesus orders the demon to leave the man, and it does.
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
Jesus has the authority to send this demon away. He doesn’t need to say any magical words. He doesn’t need to gather all of the disciples around him and pray first. He just speaks. And the demon has to obey although he does so unwillingly. In doing this Jesus displays his authority and it is by this divine authority that the man is set free.
This reminds us of how salvation works. We are held captive by the devil until Jesus commands otherwise. We are at the mercy of God. This is what grace is all about. It’s undeserved, unearned mercy. It’s all God. That’s what John is getting at in 1 John 1:19…
19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.
Until we are given understanding we will remain under the control of the evil one. We are free to act in accordance with our sinful human nature but until Christ comes and sets us free from the grip of the devil we will never “know him who is true.”
If you are a child of God it’s because the Son of God has come and given you understanding, otherwise you will remain under the control of the evil one and not under the authority of God. Praise the Lord for his mercy.
The amazement of the crowd (1:27–28)
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
The people are once again amazed with Jesus’ authority, like they were back in verse 22. They were impressed but they didn’t know what to make of Him. What is this? They wonder.
Notice that there’s no mention of people coming to Christ. We can hope the man who had the demon cast out did, but we don’t know. The rest of the people are amazed, but not converted.
Let that be a reminder to us that Jesus himself could stand at this pulpit and preach the gospel and people would still not come to him. Jesus calls and saves but we are also held responsible if we reject him.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus says this about Capernaum in Matthew 11:
23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
It’s a tragedy that Capernaum had Jesus himself preaching to them yet they still rejected him. But our tragedy is that we still have God’s word in his Bible. Jesus still speaks to us yet we often don’t listen.
Are we amazed at Jesus but not allowing him to change us? We must not just sit here and be only amazed. Jesus must become the center, the authority, over our life or things will only get worse. This is what Jesus means in Matthew 12…
43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
What keeps the impure spirit from returning? What keeps Satan from being able to influence us? Jesus takes residence in us. He lives in us. The two cannot coexist.
So we’ve seen through the torment of the man, the acknowledgement by the demon, the commandment of the Lord, and the amazement of the crowd that Jesus has authority over all. But in what way does he have authority over us? Jesus had authority over the demon but the demon didn’t have faith. The demon didn’t trust in Jesus for salvation.
Some of us want Jesus to be by our side, to help us when we need help. But He has no real authority. He’s more like a personal assistant to us, one that we order around.
I heard an illustration the other day that we’ll close with.
A teacher said, "Let's assume the distance between the earth and the sun (92 million miles) was reduced to the thickness of this sheet of paper. If that is the case, then the distance between the earth and the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high. And the diameter of the galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high.
But the galaxy is just a speck of dust in the universe, yet Jesus holds the universe together by the word of his power. Now, is this the kind of person you ask into your life to be your assistant?"
No. That’s the kind of person you want to rule over your entire life, every bit of it.