The Man with an Unclean Spirit

Eliminating the Influence of Evil

“And a highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. … No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there” (Isaiah 35:8,9 NASB).

by Russ Marten

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The book of Mark opens with an account of the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. Immediately after his baptism, Jesus
endured a 40-day experience in the wilderness. There, while meditating and praying over what the Father’s will was for his ministry, Jesus was confronted by Satan, who tried in vain to entice, deceive, and tempt him. Failing in this direct approach, the devil’s subsequent confrontations would include those possessed by evil spirits.

For much of his ministry, Jesus made the city of Capernaum the center of his activities in and around Galilee. Jesus’ reputation and notoriety grew slowly at first. Shortly after the Passover
in the first year of his ministry (AD 30), he called Simon, Andrew, James, and John while along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Upon hearing Jesus’ call to follow, they immediately left their fishing businesses to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The five then went to Capernaum, the major port city on the Sea
of Galilee.

Jesus’ healing of the man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue at Capernaum is recorded in both Luke 4:31-37 and Mark 1:21-34.

Jesus Teaching at the Synagogue

Mark 1:21 — “And they *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and began to teach. (22) And they were amazed at his teaching; for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (NASB).
What Jesus did was not a common practice either then or now. A stranger entered into the synagogue and began expounding on the scriptures without being invited or encouraged by the local rabbinical clergy. Today, most major religions would not allow a stranger to preach to their congregation. It was not common in Jesus’ day either. But as long as Jesus quoted and
reasoned on the Scriptures, he was tolerated.

At first, the attendees must have been startled at his boldness, but then became amazed at his teaching. To impress them with his clear understanding of the subjects he handled, he would have had to provide clear-cut and distinct reasoning and conclusions that were well proven by the testimonies of the Law and the Prophets. Thus, he would be convincing to the minds of his listeners. The scriptures are silent on his exact subject and content, but soon the actions of one listener would furnish a clue.

Mark 1:23 — “And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, (24) saying, “What do we have to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”

It appears that this outburst by the one with an unclean spirit was triggered by the content of our Lord’s discourse. Did Jesus prompt the outburst by condemning sin and those who
practiced and encouraged sin such as the evil spirits? Could he have been encouraging the people to reject sin, repent, and sacrifice their own ambitions and let God become the supreme desire of their hearts?

Possessed Man Responds

Whatever the motivation, this possessed individual responded to Jesus, “What do we have to do with you?” (NASB). The NIV says, “What do you want with us?” Rotherham renders it, “What have we in common with thee?” Through the man, the unclean spirit objected to Jesus’ teaching.

*Asterisks in the NASB mark verbs that are historical
presents in the Greek which have been translated with
an English past tense to conform to modern usage.

The content of Jesus’ preaching here was likely similar to his discourse at Nazareth and probably mentioned demonic possession. His message of the coming kingdom always provided a good measure of hope for mankind. All of mankind, who have suffered alienation from God and the increasing influence of sin and evil due to Adam’s fall, will experience total relief in His kingdom. Then, Jesus demonstrated the power of the healing that the kingdom would bring to the world. In that kingdom, the evil influence of Satan and the fallen angels will be eliminated, and man will be welcomed back into a relationship with their Heavenly Father.

It was common at that time to find those possessed by unclean spirits. Jesus commanded an evil spirit to leave a man in the fifth chapter of Mark (although that was not on the Sabbath).
Even in our day, some of the brutal, violent, hateful, and tragic events that we see in the news seem to be prompted by more than just mental illness. They may be satanically inspired, if not
directly caused by demonic possession.

Apparently, it is a consequence of how God created the human mind that it can be vulnerable to the attacks of these evil spirits. For possession to take place, however, the victim’s will must consent in some measure, so that he cannot be said to be wholly blameless. Nevertheless, few would consent if they fully understood what they were doing and what the consequences would be. The entertainment of evil thoughts and the practice of vicious habits can break down the will and give unclean and evil spirits an opportunity to increase their control of one’s will, the mind, and the body.

This unclean spirit, having heard of Jesus’ message of hope for mankind and of its own eventual judgment, could no longer contain himself. He exclaimed, “Have you come to destroy us?” This question implies that Satan and his demons expect a future time when the Lord’s interaction with mankind will result in
their destruction. This inquiry suggests the fallen angels did not know exactly when this would occur — then or at some time in the future.

Next, the unclean spirit said, “I know who you are — the Holy One of God!” With this statement, the controlling evil spirit not only acknowledged our Lord’s position but additionally, his standing with the Father. In rebuking the spirit, Jesus commanded the evil spirit’s obedience. There was no denial or delay in his following Jesus’ command.

Casting Out the Unclean Spirit

Mark 1:25 — “And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ (26) And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him.”

At Jesus’ command to leave, there was a short-lived period of convulsing as the separation of the man and the controlling evil spirit took place. Those present were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. They must have been astounded by the ease at which his mere words led to the expulsion of the unclean spirit. They had never
before witnessed such a mastery over the spirits. Jesus’ command over the spirit world must have been perceived as impregnable. His command, without ceremony or use of any symbols or mysterious utterance, was all it took. Immediately, the audience recognized Jesus as authorized by God to teach and command the power of God to bring the evil influence over this one man to an end.

With this single act, Jesus’ reputation among the people spread rapidly among both Jews and Gentiles. But there were more healings to come. Jesus cast out unclean spirits in many other instances as he went about his ministry. The need and opportunity for these healings continued with the apostles as recorded in Acts 8:7: “For in the case of many who had unclean
spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.”

Eliminating Evil Influence in Christ’s Kingdom

Our Lord’s first Sabbath healing seems to correlate to what must happen among mankind to heal them from the effects of 6,000 years of sin and evil — removing Satan’s and the fallen angels’ evil influence over the human family.

Since the time of the flood, the unseen evil influence of Satan over mankind, and the capturing of a human mind and putting it under the command of an evil spirit, have been formidable weapons in the hands of the devil. These have accelerated the decline of man’s morality and degraded his mental capacity to resist participation in evil activities. What was perceived by the race as evil or barbaric just a generation or two ago, seems now to be something which is accepted as just a “sign of the times.”

Christ’s kingdom will bring mankind to perfection and harmony with God in just one-sixth of the time that evil has had a chance to degrade it. This reversal will require many changes in man’s environment. But foremost will be the elimination of the influence that Satan and the evil spirits have over mankind.

Many among mankind deny that Satan and evil spirit beings exist. Satan and those evil spirits, who recognize that the establishment of God’s kingdom will bring their reign of evil
to an end, prefer it that way. But how could mankind make progress in rehabilitating their own character unless the influence of evil spirit beings over man is eliminated and man is given full opportunity to control their own actions? The elimination of evil influence and control, then, has to be among the first actions in the kingdom arrangement and rod-of-iron rule.

Thus, it is appropriate that Jesus’ first Sabbath healing would demonstrate this casting out of evil influence and spirits. The binding of Satan will bring an end to his many lines of influence including demonic possession. Mankind will no longer be deceived about what is good and what is evil. Media and entertainment will no longer glorify depraved and/or immoral acts. On the contrary, acts of goodness, gentleness, kindness, and compassion will dominate the news of the day. The inherent conflict between right and wrong, and between the haves and
have-nots, will cease. There will be no more of Satan’s stoking of the conflict between warring factions, racial and ethnic groups, political persuasions, religions, and nations.

Satanic influence began with our first parents in the garden. That influence and the resulting evil has been increasing ever since. For six thousand years, mankind has experienced a general growth in evil. As life goes on, individuals learn to tolerate and live with more and more evil.

However, the paradigm of the kingdom is just the opposite. Tolerance for Satan, his demons, and all evil will be no more until its manifestation among mankind is gone. The process
is described in the first three verses of the 20th chapter of Revelation. “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. (2)
And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time” (Revelation 20:1-3).

Not only must Satan’s deception and influence be eliminated, but the influence of all the fallen angels and demonic possession must also be eliminated, if mankind is to purge out the remnants of evil in their characters and transform their characters into Christ’s likeness.

Isaiah 35:8-9 tells us the result of these changes: “And a highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. (9) No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These
will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there” (NAS77).

Satan, pictured as the “lion,” and the fallen There will be a Highway of Holiness. angels, pictured as the “vicious beast,” will not be able to affect man’s progress up the Highway of Holiness. Progression up that highway will be somewhat hindered by the burden of past personal sins and evil influence, but unencumbered by the Devil and the evil spirits.

The last phrase of Revelation 20:3 tells us that after mankind has walked up that highway, they must be tested by Satan who then will be loosed. It will be a short testing period, a “little season” at the end of which the overwhelming majority of the world will delight in righteousness, reject Satan’s deception, maintain their
perfection, and enter into God’s everlasting kingdom (Revelation 20:7-10).

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