The Kingdom Actions of Jesus: A Word and Deed Ministry (Mark 1:21–28)

Date: 1/28/2018
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Mark 1:21–28 - They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22 They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “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!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

This passage is recognized as a pericope (a group of verses that forms a unit, e.g., for lectionary reading). It has a parallel structure, emphasizing the power (exousia) of Jesus and that people were “amazed” or “astonished” (ekplesso) at Jesus’ teaching. They were also “fearfully amazed” or “awed” (thambeo, 10:32) at His power over demonic forces.

[The context (synagogue) (v 21)]
   Hearers of His teaching were amazed (ekplesso, v 22)
       Amazing word-power in exorcism (vv 23-27)
   Viewers of His power were amazed (thambeo, v 27)
[The context (news spread) (v 28)]

Kingdom Actions - Previously in Mark we are told of the start of Jesus’ ministry in His declaration, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (1:15). In this passage we see the kingdom “involves the deliverance from demonic forces . . . [thus] the kingdom (or reign) of God is God’s power (authority) in action” (Hurtado, UBC). This kingdom unfolds in a range of actions. This small pericope (1:21-28) initiates Jesus’ healing ministry in the context of the synagogue in Capernaum. Fast-moving kingdom-coming activity is highlighted by Mark. Before we finish the first chapter, Jesus is baptized, victorious against Satan, preaching the kingdom, calling the disciples, casting out demons, healing Peter’s mother-n-law, healing those with various diseases, and especially a leper.  

Kingdom Teaching - An important action of Jesus is His teaching “with authority.” In Mark, His teaching is referenced about 15 times and Jesus is called a teacher about 12 times. “The combination of teaching and miracle in [this] account shows that Jesus was powerful in both word and deed” (Brooks, NAC). In this first case of healing, “the power exercised by Jesus over the demon legitimates his teaching” (Collins, Hermeneia). The “deed explains the word” (Gnilka, cf. WBC).

Kingdom Healing - At the center of this passage is the exorcism. “‘Unclean spirit’ (pneuma akatharton) is a common Jewish designation for a demon (Harrington, Sacra). In contrast to Jewish and pagan attempts(?) at exorcism (e.g., Testament of Solomon, The Greek Magical Papyri), “Jesus needed no magical formulas to exorcise the demon” (Wessle, EBC). While Jesus does not reveal His identity early in His ministry (e.g., the Messianic “secret”), the demon asserts the very purpose and title of Jesus: “Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God!” (1:24). “The demon, in contrast with most people, recognized Jesus’ true character and identity as the Holy One of God (cf. 3:11; 5:7), the One empowered by the Holy Spirit” (Grassmick, BKC). This first exorcism is to “indicate the eschatological character of Jesus’ action in defeating the Satanic forces” (Guelich, WBC). Indeed, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1Jn. 3:8; also Mt. 12:29, ). He came to disarm “the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col. 2:15).


Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more