Jesus - Lord over the powers of evil

Reflections on Mark 1:21-28
This story told by Mark asserts the authority of Jesus in teaching and action, an authority which amazed and shocked people experiencing him (v.22), and made him famous immediately (v.28). (Martin Luther translates 'shocked' where many English translations have 'astounded' or 'amazed'.) While today we are still familiar with the impact his word makes on us, the stories about unclean spirits and demons seem somewhat foreign to 20th century culture and require interpretation to become meaningful for our daily lives.

In some peoples minds, anything strange can be associated with being demonic, unclean, possessed, even when the source of the strange behavior is God:
Matth. 11:18+19 (John); 12:24 (Jesus); 10:25 (disciples);

  • John 7:20 (persecution mania); 10:20-21 (madness).

    But it is clear that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament didn't share this view. For them, demons were powerful, enslaving spiritual forces which cause people to act, against their own will, in a way harmful to themselves or others:

  • 1. Sam. 16:14; 19:9-10 (an evil spirit of the Lord);
  • Mark 5:2-5 (bruising himself, no one had the strength to subdue him);
  • Luke 13:11+16 (a spirit causing longterm illness; whom Satan bound);
  • Rom. 6:16-23 (you are slaves of whom you obey; wages of sin is death);
  • Acts 5:3 (Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart).

    Satanic spirits are at work converting good things into harmful ones by transgressing the limits of what is appropriate in the eyes of God:

  • 1. Tim 4:1-5 (teachings of demons; everything created is good);
  • Matth. 4:1-11 (the devil misuses God's word);
  • Luke 22:3 (Judas);
  • Luke 22:24+31-34 (Peter; Satan demanded to sift you).

    We need constant awareness and discrimination, so that we don't get addicted to Satan's false but attractive promises carefully aimed at our weaknesses:

  • Gen. 6:4-6 (luring Eva into eating the forbidden fruit);
  • 2. Thess. 2:9-12 (the evil will come with powerful pretended signs);
  • Eph. 6:10-12 (fighting against wicked spiritual forces);
  • 1. Peter 5:8 (Be alert; the devil looks for someone to devour);
  • 1. John 4:1 (test the spirits to see whether they are of God).
  • James 4:7 (resist the devil and he will flee from you).

    Be aware of the beginnings; passions may slowly and silently turn into addictions, and suddenly we find ourselves in chains:

  • James 1:14-16 (trapped by his own evil desire; gives birth to death).

    The authority of Jesus has the power to free us from addictions and the onsets of new enslaving habits:

  • John 8:31-36 (the Son makes you free);
  • 1. Cor 6:12 (but I will not be enslaved by anything);
  • 2. Cor. 3:17 (where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom);
  • Gal. 5:1 (do not allow yourselves to become slaves again).

    Being free and remaining free involves not attaching oneself to the luxuries of this life:

  • Phil. 3:7 (whatever gain I had, I counted as loss);
  • Phil. 4:11-13 (I learnt to be content in all circumstances);
  • 2. Tim. 2:4 (a soldier in active service does not get mixed up in daily affairs).

    And if the satanic forces recede in the name of Christ, don't become proud of it, and stay on the watch:

  • Luke 10:17-20 (do not rejoice in this);
  • Luke 11:24-26 (an evil spirit tries to return).
  • 1. Cor. 10:12 (whoever stands, be careful not to fall).


    Gedanken zum Leben als Christ
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    Arnold Neumaier (Arnold.Neumaier@univie.ac.at)