They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority.
C.S. Lewis said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors…”
Perhaps the culture of Jesus’ day had the same errors to address. Surely, among the people of Israel, there were those who refused to believe in a real enemy (Satan) and his minions (the demons). More likely, there were those who knew of their existence and lived in fear of their capabilities.
Our passage today addresses their generation and ours. It seems wherever we turn there’s an unhealthy interest in darkness—ghost hunters, vampires, evil spirits, and hauntings. Yet, there are still those who don’t believe.
The Gospel writers challenge both ends of the spectrum in this story that establishes two very strong points. First, demons are very real. They’re a part of the epic struggle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. They serve as Satan’s henchmen, doing their best to destroy what God has established.
The second, and far more important, reality? Jesus rules and His authority is undeniable. It began with the people of Capernaum, who instantly recognized that Jesus was no ordinary teacher. He was His own authority when it came to speaking in area synagogues.
Then, of course, there was the demon-possessed member of the synagogue. His presence as a member of the local religious institution reminds us that moral behavior and obedience to ritual can’t save you from what evil intends. His demon possession didn’t stop him from being a religious person.
We’re reminded, when Jesus showed up on the scene with His authority, that religion ends and relationships are restored with the one true God. The demon inside the man announced what the people already recognized: Jesus is the Messiah and His purpose is to destroy evil and glorify His Father.
The demon knew His future was eternal damnation. His only question was, “Are you here to destroy me now…or later?”
The Jesus of the Gospels still rules over darkness with the same authority today. He speaks and darkness flees. He commands and the enemy must obey. For now, Satan is allowed to tempt and try, but today’s story reminds us that some day—perhaps very soon—his days will end, his reign will be abolished by the all-powerful, never-ending authority of the Savior.
This demonstration of power shows Christ’s authority to set sinners free from the enemy. By His death on the cross, He redeemed us for Himself and allows us to share in His victory over the darkness.
Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant reformation, attested to that power with the words to his famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God:”
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him,
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
- Of the two errors mentioned in the quote by C. S. Lewis, in which direction do your personal beliefs lean—no belief or too much interest? How does this Gospel story address your potential errors?
- What’s your personal faith truly about? A religion based on moral actions or a relationship based on Jesus’ authority over your life?
- How does this story give you comfort as you face evil?