Mark 1:23-26 “Just then, a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!’ ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”
Demons are not creatures to trifle with. Though the devil and his demons are less powerful than God’s good angels, we can see how superior their strength is to ours when we look at the story of Job. There we see what the devil did to destroy his property, his family and his health. We can see frightening power in the way they invaded the bodies of unsuspecting people in Jesus day and took control of them.
One of these sworn enemies of God even had the gall to enter a house of God and challenge God’s Son. “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” With his questions he is staking out this territory for himself, asserting his right to this place and this body. It implies that Jesus is the unwelcome intruder, the one who is out of place, the one who is sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong.
You see, so long as the devil and his demons can lull the people to sleep and poison their minds with false teachings, so long as they can use a house of God to puff people up with pride and divert their faith from God’s grace to their own goodness, they are willing to let peace prevail and keep silent. But nothing stirs them up like Christ and his gospel. There is nothing they fear more than people coming to believe that Jesus is their Savior, and that salvation is God’s free gift. The demon had to speak.
Now, see the power Jesus exerts over it: “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” Jesus spoke just six words. He performed no fancy rituals. He didn’t struggle with the demon for days, or hours, or even minutes. Six calm, simple, powerful words force the fiend to flee.
“Be quiet!” Jesus commands, and we hear no more from the demon. “Put a muzzle on it!” is a little more literal. Jesus doesn’t engage it in a conversation or initiate a discussion about the issues the demon has raised. He certainly isn’t going to get into a debate about its “right” to the body it has possessed. The demons, like their boss, are nothing but cheats and liars. You can’t reason with them. If only Adam and Eve had taken this approach thousands of years earlier. If only we would refuse to get into conversations with tempters today, whether spiritual or human.
“Come out of him!” We need the demons’ presence even less than we need their words. And though this demon is something of a drama queen, shaking the man’s body and screaming as it goes, it has no choice but to obey. The amazing authority with which our Savior speaks even applies to them. Demonic enemies can’t oppose him.
Twenty-First Century Americans don’t see much of this kind of open activity by the evil spirits. That’s not because they have gone away. Rather, they get more faith-destroying mileage out of giving people the impression that there is no spirit world in our context. If they can create the illusion that there are no spirits, then it is a short step to convincing people there is no God.
Whether we see them or not, the authority with which our Savior speaks, even to them, is still a comfort. Jesus’ words have the power to deliver us from their temptations and their lies as well as from their control. Jesus can deliver, and he can have any soul he wants any time, and there is nothing the enemy can do about it.
Jesus’ assault on the demonic powers is ongoing. The Book of Revelation depicts it like this: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:10-11).
The devil and his demons would like nothing more than to accuse us, to pin our sins on us, and to get God to condemn us. They want you and me to despair. But the blood of Jesus promises that every sin has been covered and washed away. It silences every accusation. It still speaks a word even the demons can’t oppose.