Mark 1:21-28 - Convulsing into righteousness

Updated: Mar 7

Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.


In this reading found early in Mark’s Gospel [the story told by Simon Peter], it is good to see that Jesus began his ministry by “preaching the good news of God” in Galilee [where the Greek “kēryssōn to euangelion tou Theou” is found in Mark 1:14], the word “euangelion” must be read as “truth,” because that becomes the “good” factor of Scripture. Many people can read the words and come away without seeing the truth being exposed to them. Jesus then went through Galilee spread the truth of God’s word, bringing clarity to that element.

When we read this took place on “the sabbath” and inside a “synagogue” in the city of Capernaum [where Jesus had recently moved], he was welcomed as a newcomer Jew, thus one who brought a fresh voice to the meaning of the readings on the sabbath. As a teacher in a synagogue, Jesus was recognized as a rabbi.

When the translation says, “They were astonished at his teaching,” the Greek word “exeplēssonto” is translated as “astonished.” Strong’s states the root word (“ekpléssó”) to be defined as “to strike out, hence to strike with panic, to amaze.” This should not be read as a good response to the truth Jesus taught the Jews in the synagogue in Capernaum. The meaning says the truth shocked them, making them be aghast at what Jesus said, because no one had ever said such things before.

This means that when we read “he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes,” that means the Jews in that synagogue in Capernaum expected Jesus to be approved by those in the Temple of Jerusalem to teach as a rabbi, such that he had been given the power to act as were all other rabbis. All the other rabbis had been taught by the scribes what the words of Scripture said, proposing a meaning, but more often proposing a way to use those words in false ways, sidestepping the truth. Therefore, Jesus taught that sabbath lesson with a confidence that expressed the assuredness of having authority to say what he said; but, nothing he said matched what had been said before, by those rabbis having learned from the scribes.

One has to then see this past history as being why “immediately [from “euthys”] there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.” As soon as Jesus spoke the truth in convincing ways [leaving the Jews with absolutely nothing they could say in retort, thus speechless], one in the congregation stood as a reflection of what not teaching the truth in a holy house will do – it will fill the seats with sinners pretending to be clean of sin. The man who rose to speak was probably a leader in that synagogue and not some newcomer like Jesus. He was probably expected to speak for those Jews in Capernaum, committed to challenge anyone who threatened what they had come to believe. That makes this man be [albeit unstated clearly] a false shepherd who had something to protect by lying to the congregation.

We then read: “[The unclean spirit within the man] 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.” In this, a lead Jew in Capernaum knows Jesus is from Nazareth. Nazareth was a place where the Essene sect of Judaism thrived. The Essenes were seen as zealots, who did things differently than the Pharisees and Sadducees. As such, the question “What have you to do with us?” is asking, “Why are you here and not with other Essenes?” The question asking, “Have you come to destroy us?” is related to the astonishment that what Jesus taught caused. He was saying that to believe what Jesus said would mean the destruction of Judaism altogether. While the exclamation, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” appears to be an unclean spirit knowing who Jesus is, the reality is the man stated he knew who Jesus was proposing to be, which was the Messiah. That he said as an exclamation that nobody can ever be that holy. When Jews were led by false shepherds, he was asking, “How can anyone ever be the Holy one of God?”

This is where it is important to recall how Mark 1:14 had begun by stating, “After John was put in prison.” That was the beginning of the transfer of power from John the baptizer to Jesus the baptizer with truth, from the Holy Spirit. John, like Jesus, was an Essene. John did not teach as a rabbi in synagogues because the synagogues denied him entrance. Because John did not preach what the scribes taught, John was forced to go into the rivers, in the wilderness. Rather than dress like a highfalutin rabbi and act wealthy because of the Law, John dressed like a Wildman. Since Jesus was of the same sect as was John, he was just as unwelcome as an Essene; but Jesus did not act like John, so he was allowed into the synagogue in Capernaum.

When the translation states, “Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” the Greek word “epetimēsen” is translated as “rebuked,” but also means, “to mete out due measure, hence to censure.” As such, Jesus refused to allow this man [leader of Capernaum Jews] to have any voice in that place of reverence to God. The unclean spirit had just blasphemed God by denying Jesus was His Son [even though the man did not know it]. Therefore, when Jesus spoke to the man is was stern, as a firm warning to “Be silent!” That was God speaking through the Son, as a Commandment. The man would have immediately stopped talking. Then God spoke through Jesus saying, “Come out of him,” which was a command to the unclean spirit. It, likewise, did as God Commanded.

When Mark wrote, “the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him,” it is easy to see this scene with one’s mind’s eye, but it is not as easy to see this Command from God [through the Son] being to a man who had a soul of life that had been joined to an unclean spirit – a soul of death – a possession of a demon that was bad. The clarity of truth that must be seen is the man [a leader of the Jews in Capernaum] had his soul married to the soul of an evil being that had departed this world, entering his soul because he was weak and powerless to deny that unclean spirit entrance. The marriage had worldly benefits to that leader, such that he fell in love with his inner self, which whispered sweet nothings into his brain, which caused him to sin, time and again. However, when God told that dead soul to leave that body immediately, the convulsions were not unlike having a tooth pulled or local surgery without anesthesia. The unclean soul had become so much a part of the man that it was like tearing a part of him off, with the unclean soul knowing it had to leave, but the weak soul fighting to hold on.

When the man was left a weakened body of flesh, trembling on the floor or in a chair, the people are then said to say: ““What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” That must be seen as a synagogue of Jews, all who had been taught to memorize Scripture their whole lives, but none knowing anything of value behind the words they learned to recite, none of them had ever come to know God [YHWH]. Just like when God sent manna from heaven [manna was the truth the Israelites needed to consume daily, in order to know God], they asked, “What is it?” [the meaning of “manna” or “μάννα”]. The Jews in Capernaum had never been fed spiritual food – the manna from heaven – the truth of God’s Word [the Gospel]. They had never experienced the authority of God’s presence among them, as they only knew false shepherds. They had never had a leader who could teach them all the truth of Scripture, thereby keeping all who entered that building clean in spirit and soul. They never had a good shepherd who could spot one with an unclean spirit and cast it out, with the authority of the Holy Spirit.

When this reading closes by stating, “At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee,” a better way of translating the Greek is as: “Went out the news of him immediately , everywhere into the surrounding region of Galilee .” In this, the Greek word “akoē” is translated as “fame” or “news.” This has to be seen as a word that is comparative to the word “euangelion,” where the word “akoē” does not demand the truth be told. It is thus “rumor” or second-hand scuttlebutt, while some truth would become embellished by things made up, which are not the truth. This should then be seen as how the truth being told to someone is as lasting as is a ripple made in calm water. As soon as the truth is told, things change to cover it up and make it seem like there never was a ripple. This is why Scripture is not the truth that can be learned from listening to others, because everything becomes hearsay and hearsay is often filthy with make believe and untruths. This means crowds began to follow Jesus because they heard he did some stuff, not because they too wanted to do the things Jesus did, which demanded knowing the truth of God’s Word by being a Son of God.

What is told by Mark in these verses are not seen for what happened afterwards. The man who had the unclean spirit cast out of him was forever changed. God had spoke to him directly, through Jesus. The unclean spirit left him, leaving him not only a clean soul, but one who had become touched by God’s Holy Spirit. While names were not used, and this man was not named as a rabbi or leader of a synagogue, it would be him who went to find Jesus where he had to begin preaching (by the sea) because the synagogues had banned him. It would be that leader of a synagogue whose daughter was ill and dying, who went to have Jesus heal her. These loose parts can be seen connecting, as the truth untold, only seen when one is led by the Holy Spirit to see and know the truth. Therefore, Jesus is not limited to being only one man, as God sent Jesus to die and be reborn in many, many men and women.


Now, this reading is read during the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, in Episcopal churches. These verse speak loudly to the parallel ways that modern Christian churches have become, compared to that ancient Jewish synagogue in Capernaum. Christian church leaders speak just like men and women filled with unclean spirits – a false shepherds, who deny the truth of Scripture ever be known. They do not know the truth, because they have unclean spirits, and they do not want anyone who comes [never looking like Jesus of Nazareth] teaching with authority. They ask, “Where did you get a diploma to preach?” knowing a true Saint never needs a seminary to teach him – they only know what scribes know.

While there was Jesus of Nazareth walking into that synagogue, way back then, who taught the truth like it had neve been taught, and it made the jaws of Jews drop agape, the physical body of that Jesus left the world long ago. Jesus of Nazareth can only appear in a Christian church today as a Saint reborn in the name of Jesus Christ. A Saint, like Jesus, speaks the Commands of God, and all souls hear that voice. Saints are very rare these days.

Still, the truth of what Mark wrote is always there. It is in the Word. Anyone can read the Word and find Jesus of Nazareth speaking to him or her, just as Jesus spoke to the man with an unclean spirit. You become one with an unclean spirit who sees oneself in the Word, to the point that one prays to God to make you clean again. That might mean a long time of prayer; but one day, if one is truly committed to being married to God and being reborn as His Son, then suddenly one will hear the Command, “Be silent! Come out!” Then, be prepared to fight like heck to keep from changing – from filthy sinner to righteous Jesus reborn.

R. T. Tippett