Mark 1:21-28—The authority of identity – who you are. With authority Jesus teaches and drives out an unclean spirit. After calling four disciples, Jesus begins his ministry by teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. The people are impressed by His authoritative teaching compared with the teaching of the scribes. A man in the congregation has an evil spirit, which addresses Jesus and knows Him to be the Messiah. With authority, Jesus commands the demon to leave the man. At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus comes into contact with evil powers. As God’s Son, He conquers the evil spirit. He does it by exercising His authority as God’s Son.
The word “immediately” (vv.21, 23) is a word Mark will often use. It has theological significance. It denotes a sense of urgency and importance. The Kingdom cannot wait. There is no place for laxity or procrastination. One must work while it is day before the night comes. The fields are white unto harvest. Jesus has a world to save in three years! He has the whole truth of God to reveal. He needs to set up a movement to carry on His work when He leaves. The church today needs to imitate Christ in this matter to overcome lethargy.
This man was worshiping and listening to a sermon by the best preacher ever to come on earth. An “unclean” person is one possessed by an evil spirit. Is it strange he would be in worship? This reminds us that evil is present in people who are faithful, religious persons. The devil can exist even in the church. Christians are not perfect people. The church is not a museum of saints but a hospital of diseased people in need of a cure. Here Jesus, the great physician comes with a cure for both the body as well as the soul.
Almighty God, You know we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. Grant strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 Collect for Epiphany 4, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Illustration from a woodcut by Baron Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld, 1794-1872, a distinguished German artist known especially for his book, The Book of Books in Pictures. © WELS used by permission for personal and congregational use.