Jesus' Power Over Evil Spirits
Nov. 7, 1999 Gospel of Mark
1. Setting the Stage for Victory (1:12-13)
2. A Priority in His Ministry (1:21ff)
3. A Continuing Concern in His Ministry (1:32-34)
4. The Question of His Authority (3:22ff)
5. Power Against Overwhelming Odds (5:1ff)
6. Assignment of Authority (6:7-13)
7. Evil in the Heart (7:1ff)
8. The Effectiveness of Humble Faith (7:24-30)
9. The Necessity of Prayer and Faith (9:14-29)
10. The Importance of Attitude (9:38ff)
Jesus and Satan were having a contest about who was better on his computer. They had been going at it for days, and God wanted to call the question. So finally God said, “I am going to set up a test that will run two hours and I will judge who does the better job.”
So down sat Satan and Jesus at the keyboards and typed away. They moused. They did spreadsheets. They wrote reports. They sent faxes. They sent e-mail. They sent out e-mail with attachments. They downloaded. They did some genealogy reports. They made cards. They did every known job.
But ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, the rain poured and, of course, the electricity went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every cuss word known to the underworld. Jesus just sighed. The electricity finally flickered back on, and each of them restarted their computers.
Satan started searching frantically, screaming “It’s gone! It’s all gone! I lost everything when the power went out!”
Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours. Satan observed this and became irate “Wait! He cheated, how did he do it?”
God shrugged and said, “Jesus saves.”
B. His Power over Evil Spirits
As if sin were not bad enough as a human problem, we understand intuitively and from Scripture that there are other forces at work that try to involve us in their opposition to God.
Satan is the prince or ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2). But Jesus has power over him (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 – the prince of this world will be driven out, has no hold on me, and now stands condemned).
Our battles are spiritual in nature (Eph. 6:11-12; 2Cor. 10:3-5). Mark’s Roman Gentile readers are rightfully afraid of the evil forces that surround them, but Mark wants us all to know first hand about the One who holds the ultimate power over evil forces.
Even though we see from other places in Scripture (i.e. Rev. 12) that Satan has much power, the power of Jesus is much greater. All Satan can do is lose. All Jesus can do is save. In fact he will lose none of all the Father gives him. He will raise them up at the last day (John 6:39).
1. Setting the Stage for Victory
Even before Jesus begins his ministry he is taken by the Spirit into the desert to be tested for forty days.
He was in the barren desolation and danger of the desert, Satan’s territory, Paradise lost. This is a desert of sin so to speak, with the beasts representative of the spiritual forces he encountered.
Mark portrays this as one big clash with Satan, the most dangerous beast of all. But now Satan must contend with a new Adam who has the power of heaven and angels at his side.
This is the first round of many throughout Jesus’ ministry to follow in his struggle with evil. But this round puts him at the head of the game for the decisive confrontation to come at the cross.
2. A Priority in His Ministry
The first ministry miracle that Mark relates to us after Jesus has called his first disciples is the casting out of a demon right there in the synagogue at Capernaum (1:21ff). It is interesting to note that it was in the synagogue where Jesus had his first ministry of demonic deliverance.
Jesus had already amazed the people with his words of teaching and now he amazes them with the power behind his words.
The demon speaks through the man and dares to question what Jesus wants with them all. Then the demon answers his own question because he knows who Jesus is. This implies that the demon knows that Jesus has the power to destroy him.
Jesus has already made a name for himself in the desert of testing. Here is a case of true spiritual powers in mutual recognition.
But Jesus has the upper hand, commands the demon to be quiet, and casts him out. The demon shrieks and obeys. He cannot help but obey. And this begins Jesus ministry over evil spiritual powers.
3. A Continuing Concern in His Ministry
In 1:32-34 Jesus continues his healing there in Capernaum with virtually the whole town gathered at the door of the house where he was staying.
The casting out of the demon from the synagogue made an impression with the people, and he now drives out many more demons from those who come to him for divine healing.
In 1:39 Jesus proceeds throughout Galilee in a continuing ministry of preaching and delivering the oppressed from demons.
In fact he leaves Capernaum because the people have become so pressing and because he desires his ministry to be to a much wider audience. His power is not local but universal in scope.
The press of the crowds continue on into Galilee (3:7). In these crowds are many who are possessed by evil spirits (3:11) and whenever they saw Jesus they fell down before him and confessed his power over them.
Soon Jesus went up on a mountainside and appointed twelve of his disciples as apostles (3:13ff) in order that they also might be sent out to preach. And he also gave to them the authority he had to drive out demons for the deliverance of the people.
4. The Question of His Authority
In 3:22 the teachers of the law from Jerusalem accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan.
To this Jesus responds wisely and authoritatively that it is not part of Satan’s program to oppose himself, therefore the power that opposed him must be from God.
In implying that Satan is the ‘strong man’ whom Jesus ties up to rob him of his possessions, Jesus is saying that he himself is stronger.
Nothing but the consequences of unbelief remain for any who refuse to accept the truth of Jesus power over Satan that he has through the Holy Spirit of God.
This is the Spirit that resides in Jesus, not the evil spirit that they accused him of. It is this Holy Spirit that descended upon him at his baptism (1:10) and upon him was pronounced the pleasure of God (1:11).
5. Power Against Overwhelming Odds
Jesus seems to make a purposeful trip to the far side of the Sea of Galilee just to deliver a demon possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes (5:1ff). It is a land of Gentiles which shows the universal intent of Jesus power and compassion.
The description of the man who lives in the tombs gives us a graphic idea of what demon possession is all about. It is a living death controlled by Satan. It is the curse of all who will descend into hell.
He could not even be bound with chains which shows the extent of Satan’s power over the human soul he inhabits. The man’s self-mutilation and loud crying expresses the extent of his torment.
But once again, in the presence of Jesus, the demons fall before Jesus and confess their knowledge of his power over them, even to torture them.
This is not only one or two demons that Jesus confronts, but many (even 6,000 as in a legion). Jesus opposes them as a victorious one-man army.
They beg Jesus not to send them out of the area which implies their territorial control. It might be assumed that in the land of the Gentiles there is even more demon possession than in Israel.
Jesus sends them into the pigs and this describes the rightful place of their unclean nature. And the drowning of the pigs in the lake testifies to the absolute victory of Jesus over evil.
Amazingly the people of the area who came to see what happened begin to fear Jesus and his power more than they feared the demons. They could not understand such awesome power and begged Jesus to leave.
They were more comfortable with what they were used to. And so it is with so many who do not understand freedom enough to desire it even when they see it.
But the demoniac now freed understood freedom and wanted to devote his life to Jesus who had the power to deliver him. Jesus told him to tell of the Lord’s mercy to him, and he went and obeyed.
6. Assignment of Authority
Once again, Jesus calls the Twelve to him (6:7-13), and he renews their authority over evil spirits that he gave them in 3:14-15.
This time he sends them out two by two with instructions to take basically nothing with them except the power he gave them. They were to be completely dependent upon God.
And they were successful in driving out demons by that power. With Jesus, the one who strengthens us, we can do anything he gives us the power to do. But we must always remember that the power is his.
7. Evil in the Heart
Even though Jesus displays his power of deliverance from evil spirits with compassion, knowing that many who have been possessed are helpless to help themselves, he does not leave us guiltless.
In 7:1ff the Pharisees and teachers of the law question Jesus and his disciples about ceremonial washing before they eat, accusing them of not following tradition.
In 7:15 Jesus ends his response to them by teaching that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes out.
He explains his teaching further to his disciples (7:17-23) that it is not unwashed hands that separate men from God by making them unclean, it is unwashed hearts.
He then lists many evil things that dwell within men’s hearts. These things make them unclean when they come out of their hearts and they act on them.
It is our own evil nature that allows Satan to take control in the first place. If it is Satan we want, it is Satan we get.
But now they must begin to understand that Jesus came not only to cast out demons, but he brings up the issue of the evil in men’s hearts to ultimately proclaim his power over that as well.
It will be possible to supplant evil with righteousness by faith in his power. Demon strongholds need never be re-inhabited.
But just like it is his power, it will be his righteousness. And it will be life transforming.
8. The Effectiveness of Humble Faith
Perhaps in response to the Pharisees who are more interested in matters of the law than matters of the heart, Jesus goes to the Gentile vicinity of Tyre (7:24-30) where he was found by a Gentile woman who came as soon as she heard about Jesus.
She had probably been seeking deliverance for her demon-possessed daughter for some time. She senses power and healing in Jesus. But Jesus seems to put her off, implying that her needs as a Gentile are not his ministry priority.
But her humble response of faith to Jesus, telling him she is willing to take whatever crumbs she can get, wins his heart and his action.
Her daughter was delivered at home even as she was making her request before Jesus. His power is much more than even direct confrontation with evil.
His word and his will carry universal weight for any who would seek him out and come to him even with the crumbs of faith. Even what constitutes the crumbs or leftovers of his power (if we dare speak this way) are enough to deliver us from evil.
9. The Necessity of Prayer and Faith
The rest of the disciples are left to themselves for the six days that Peter, James, and John are with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.
When Jesus came down he found an intense situation where the disciples could not cast out a demon from a boy that had been made deaf and mute (9:14-29).
The demon had inhabited the boy from childhood and abused him with seizures, even trying to kill him by throwing him into fire or water.
Jesus rebuked them harshly for their unsuccess due to their lack of faith. The father begged Jesus for help and brought the boy as Jesus requested.
Now the problem must have had something to do with lack of faith even on the part of the father since he said to Jesus, “If you can do anything --- help us.” Jesus calls his faith to account and the father asks for help to overcome his unbelief.
This is the natural human condition and it is where all of us must begin when coming to Jesus. We need help with our unbelief because faith is a gift of God.
Jesus even has that power to help us come to him for help. He helps us at our most basic point of need and gives us the faith in which he chooses to work.
The spirit leaves with a shriek at Jesus command and is told to depart forever. The corpse-like appearance of the boy after Jesus casts out the demon demonstrates the degree to which demon possession can take over.
But notice that this spirit does not identify Jesus or babble on like many of the other spirits. This deaf and mute spirit was one that shut off all communication.
And this may be the key to Jesus’ later comment to the disciples when they ask him why they couldn’t drive it out. He tells them that ‘this kind’ can only come out by prayer.
Since it was a spirit of non-verbal communication it would not respond to a verbal command to depart. But prayer is spiritual communication to invoke the power of God, in this case against evil.
Jesus could cast it out by verbal command because he is God. Once again, the power of Jesus over evil is seen because of who he is.
If we want to do his work, we must seek his power. Now in his absence, prayer is the only means to accomplish this, and it is effective when done in faith.
10. The Importance of Attitude
On the heels of this experience comes another issue that may explain the unsuccess of the disciples against the deaf and mute spirit (9:38ff).
They are jealous of another man, not part of their group, who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus.
Jesus essentially rebukes them on this as well, telling them not to hinder anyone doing his work in his name.
The disciples, like us, had the all too human tendency to strive in the power of the flesh rather than in the power of Jesus. We not only fail when we act on our own, we fail others, and we fail Jesus.
His kingdom and his power are wider than our little group. When we truly work for him, we truly work together.
He has ordained that all his resources oppose evil. All those who believe in him together proclaim his power and become a mighty victorious force in his name.
The insidious nature of our evil enemy demands every cooperation with the One who holds the key to his undoing.
"Pigs in the Parlor" and Gal. 5:22-25 (fruit of the Spirit)