Add a bookmarkAdd and edit notesShare this commentary

Mark 1:23-28 meaning

While Jesus is teaching in a Capernaum synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit begins crying out, identifying Jesus as the Holy One of God. Jesus swiftly rebukes the spirit to keep quiet and leave the man. It does. The crowd's amazement at Jesus's authority increases because He not only teaches with authority, He even commands unclean spirits and they obey Him. News of this amazing event spread all throughout the district of Galilee.

The parallel gospel account for this event is Luke 4:34-37.

The previous verses (Mark 1:21-22) serve as Mark's introduction to this event. The Gospel writer tells us that on the Sabbath, Jesus taught in the synagogue of Capernaum and the Jews in attendance were amazed at the authority with which He taught.

Mark continues with the action.

Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit (v 23)

A person with an unclean spirit would be a disturbing sight to behold at any time and any place. But for Jews seeing such a possessed man on the Sabbath in their synagogue likely brought on an extra level of distress. Many Jews at that time believed that some places and/or times were more or less prone to the presence of unclean spirits.

The Sabbath was believed to offer some protection from demons. So would a synagogue. And yet here was a man in their synagogue on the Sabbath who was clearly disturbed by an unclean spirit. If a man could be plagued by an unclean spirit in a synagogue, he presumably could be plagued by one just about anywhere or any time. Troubling indeed.

Either as Jesus was teaching, or just as He finished teaching a man with an unclean spirit cried out. This man was demon-possessed. The things he cried out were from his mouth, but it does not appear that it was the man who was speaking, but rather it was the unclean spirit who was speaking through his body. The demon-possessed man cried out,

"What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!" (v 24).

The man with an unclean spirit cried out two questions and one declaration.

The first question was: What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth?

The evil spirit also referred to Jesus by His human title: Jesus of Nazareth. It is not exactly clear why the unclean spirit addressed Jesus this way. It may have been trying to minimize, or insult, or blaspheme God by speaking to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, a mortal human instead of almighty and eternal God. In any case the unclean spirit was clearly speaking to Jesus.

The question he asked appears to be rhetorical. The expected response was that Jesus and the unclean spirit have nothing to do with each other. God is holy. The unclean spirit was evil. It instantly perceived the total contrast of Jesus's righteousness and its own unrighteousness.

Consequently, this unclean spirit immediately recognized Jesus for who He was—the Holy One of God. The unclean spirit was a member of the kingdom of darkness and was likely a fallen angel who rebelled with Satan before the earth was formed. As God, Jesus "is light and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). The unclean spirit's first question highlighted the contrast between it and Jesus.

The unclean spirit's first question also appears to have a sense of fear and surprise. What business do we have with each other could be a way of saying: "What are you doing here?"

The demon's fear and surprise carry over to his second question. The unclean spirit's second question was: Have You come to destroy us? (v 24).

This question appears to be genuine (and not rhetorical). The unclean spirit recognized the power and purity of Jesus. The demon appears to have been startled to see the Holy One of God on earth.

Since Adam's disobedience in the Garden of Eden, when he abdicated his divinely assigned authority over creation, the physical world has been under the usurped rule of Satan and his legions (Psalm 8). That is why the devil and his demons are described as the rulers of this age (John 12:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2). Satan's rule as a usurping tyrant will one day come to an end. When the Holy One of God returns and destroys him and his demons (Revelation 19:11-21).

This unclean spirit may have understood this. And the unclean spirit may have been terrified that the Holy One of God had come now to destroy him.

The Holy One of God had indeed come. And the unclean spirit correctly recognized Jesus for who He was as God's Holy One. But Jesus did not come to earth the first time to destroy Satan once and for all. God sent His Son to reclaim and redeem His creation (John 3:16-17). The business He came for was to first defeat sin and death and to invite all mankind unto Himself (John 12:31).

Had the Jews recognized Jesus as the Holy One of God and accepted Him and His kingdom when He first came, perhaps Jesus would also have come to destroy the unclean spirit and its ilk. However, Jesus was rejected by His own (Matthew 27:22-25, John 1:11) and He did not fully inaugurate His kingdom at the end of His first coming.

The next time Jesus comes, His business will be to destroy Satan and his legions (Revelation 20:10). This unclean spirit now seems to fear that this is that time.

After asking these two questions, the unclean spirit made a bold declaration: I know who You are—the Holy One of God! (v 24).

Once again, the demon instantly recognized Jesus's identity as the Messiah and God, even if men were slow or unable to see this truth.

When the unclean spirit said this, Jesus rebuked the spirit by saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" (v 25).

There were two parts to Jesus's stern rebuke of the unclean spirit.

The first part of His rebuke was: Be quiet.

Jesus did not want the unclean spirit revealing His identity to others for several reasons. He wanted to give people the opportunity to come to Him and know Him by faith. Jesus also likely did not want evil spirits vouching for Him because it falsely gave the impression that they were working together. They were absolute enemies. They had NO business with each other. If Jesus allowed the demons to speak for Him people might draw the wrong conclusions.

The second part of Jesus's rebuke of the unclean spirit was: and come out of him! This part of the rebuke was to command the unclean spirit to leave and depart the troubled man he was controlling.

Instantly, the unclean spirit began throwing the man into convulsions and cried out with a loud voice and came out of him (v 26).

The demon left him violently. It was throwing him into convulsions. Luke records, "the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people" (Luke 4:35). But with a physician's concern, Luke adds, how the unclean spirit "came out of him without doing him any harm" (Luke 4:35b).

The man was healed and free.

The casting out of unclean spirits at that time was typically left to religious professionals who specialized in exorcisms. Jewish exorcists used elaborate rituals and formulaic incantations to offer protections against evil spirits and exorcize demons.

Jesus, remarkably, neither performs a ritual nor speaks an incantation in this case. He simply issues a command and the unclean spirit surrenders.

The people in the synagogue were all amazed (v 27).

Mark tells us that after they witnessed this amazing sight, they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him" (v 27).

First, they were all "amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22).

Now they were all amazed at His authority to command even the unclean spirits who obey Him.

Mark concludes his record of this amazing encounter about the rapid and immediate response it had throughout the district of Galilee.

Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee (v 28).

The district of Galilee was the northernmost Roman district of the province of Judea. It included the entire northern and western shoreline of the sea of Galilee. (See Map)

The people who witnessed this event were so amazed that they continued talking about it after they left the synagogue. Word spread fast throughout not only the city of Capernaum, but also throughout the wider district.

The news spread so quickly, that Mark tells us "When evening came, after the sun had set [i.e. when the Sabbath had ended and its work restrictions had expired], they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door" (Mark 1:32-33).

But before this happened Jesus performed another miracle in the home of Simon, where he was staying. This miracle is described in the next passage (Mark 1:29-31).

Select Language
AaSelect font sizeDark ModeSet to dark mode
This website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalized content. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies as described in our Privacy Policy.