RSS Feed

Ministry in Capernaum: Mark 1:21-34

Posted by Gary Labels: , ,

They went into Capernaum. As soon as the Sabbath came, he went into the synagogue and taught. They were astonished at his manner of teaching, for he taught them with power, unlike the scribes. Suddenly, a man was possessed by an evil spirit in their synagogue! He shouted: "What the hell do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?! Have you come to destroy us?! We know who you are -- God's Holy One!"

Jesus rebuked it: "Be quiet and come out of him!" The evil spirit threw the man into convulsions, and then, with a very loud scream, it came out of the man. Everybody marveled and murmured among themselves: "What's this?! A new teaching with power? He even commands the evil spirits, and they obey him!" This rumor about him immediately spread everywhere in the entire area surrounding Galilee.

Just as they left the synagogue, he went to Simon and Andrew's house with Jacob and John. Simon's mother-in-law lay bedridden with a fever, and they immediately told him about her. So he approached her and took her hand. Immediately the fever left her, and she waited on them.

When evening came, when the sun had set, they brought to him all those who were afflicted or demon-possessed. The whole city was gathered at the door! He healed many, who had various illnesses, and he also cast out several demons. He didn't allow the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Translation Notes
1. "Manner of teaching" (v 22). While there is no "style of" or "approach to" there in Greek, I believe this is the idea referred to. Translating it as "teaching" would give readers the impression that the new thing is the content of his message. While that is unique, the focus of the passage is how he taught. If a straightforward reading of "teaching" gives the wrong impression, then it's better to insert words for clarity, IMO. I could be wrong.
2. "Power" (vv 22, 27). It's not that I think the more usual "authority" is inaccurate here. It's just that the idea is supernatural, miraculous authority. Since we aren't usually accustomed to the idea of miracles as having authority over something, I just think "power" sounds like more natural English.
3. Verse 23: I can't tell if Mark is saying that someone in the synagogue was suddenly possessed, or if someone already possessed just suddenly ran into the synagogue.
3. "Evil spirit" (vv 23, 26f). In Greek it's literally "unclean spirit(s)." I don't know enough about this issue to deviate from traditional translation here, though. I'd like to find an answer to why it's usually rendered "evil spirit."
4. As far as I can understand this Greek idiom, it seems that "what between you and me" is an expression of hostility or defensiveness. As it so happens, the best English equivalent has profanity in it. Should we be surprised that a demon would say that? I don't think so. I would render Jesus' response to Mary in John 2:4 differently, and that's another story.
5. "rumor spread" (v 28). "This report went out" just doesn't work. It's clearly word-of-mouth, informal spread of rumor rather than a spy's formal report. Oh, and rumors don't have to be false. The point is that Jesus became well-known among the populace by word of mouth.
6. "Bedridden" (v 30). It's clearly implied that she couldn't move around. Keep in mind that the English word bedridden doesn't necessarily mean you're in a bed. It just means you can't move around.
7. "She waited on them" (v 31). Mostly following NIV here. The idea is that she made them a meal and such, and so I could say "entertained them [as guests]" but I don't like brackets. Specifically, she made them dinner since it was nighttime, but since Mark isn't being that specific, neither will I.
8. "Demon-possessed" (v 32). Again following the NIV. I wonder if perhaps this includes not just outright possession but also lesser torments such as nightmares, etc. I don't know just how much of difficulty is linked with demonic activity, so it's hard to say.

With this section we see the continuation of spiritual warfare. Last time, Mark briefly mentions the temptation in the desert, where Jesus stands firm against Satan's attacks. Retreating with his tail between his legs, he sends his minions to harass Jesus while he teaches in the synagogue. Instead of trying to say that Jesus is not the Messiah, the demon tries to reveal Jesus. Since people don't yet understand that the Messiah is a passover lamb and not a Romans-conquering lion, this would be detrimental for Jesus' ministry.

But he keeps himself and the situation under control. There's no stopping the spread of his teaching of repentance, nor the powerful style of his teaching. The people are utterly astonished.

Mark moves us along quickly to the next incident, a rather quick mention of healing various people, and refusing to allow demons to reveal him. I think the point of this section is to show the results of the synagogue exorcism: "the entire city" was gathered at the door, since "this rumor immediately spread everywhere." Because of experience with his first exorcism, Jesus knew to not let the demons speak -- and preventing their speech was completely within his power.

Mark is such a sudden gospel! I have no idea how many times the word "immediately" occur, but it's quite a lot. Also the exaggeration of "everyone" or "the whole city" or "everywhere." Mark is just intense and dramatic. Wonderful.


  1. Sammie

    thank you Gary. that means a lot.

  1. Gary

    I meant it. Hey, guess what? I'm talking with Jenn again. And it's good to get a response from you.

    I hope I can provide a little encouragement now and again.