Images of the Savior (12â€“ His Healing of the Man with an Unclean Spirit)
Before our Savior began his public ministry, during his probation in the wilderness, he utterly overcame the Devil, as we have before observed. It is no doubt at this time that he â€œbeheld Satan fall as lightning from heavenâ€ (Luke 10:18); indeed, he then bound him as one binds a strong man, so that he might enter his house and despoil him (see Matthew 12:28-29). From that point, no demon ventured to assault our Lord directly, but always trembled before him, and sought his leniency in servile fear. However, all the hosts of Satan were still mightily attempting to oppose the work of Christ; not by directly attacking him, but by bringing into bondage the sons of men, whom he had come to redeem and deliver. Now, it is certainly clear that Christ had not triumphed over Satan for his own sake; for he had, from eternity past, been sovereignly in control of the Serpentâ€™s actions, telling him what he may or may not do, and using even the Devilâ€™s brazen wickedness, but always for his own good purposes (see Job 1-2). In that he defeated him in the wilderness, then, he defeated him with respect to the control he had usurped over fallen mankind. He had succeeded where Adam had failed; and thus he was free to take the effects of his own great success, and to apply them to those who, without him, were hopelessly in bondage to the â€œgod of this worldâ€ (see II Corinthians 4:4). In our account in Mark, we see for the first of what would become innumerable instances, how he is willing to do just that.
We must be struck, in this account, with how mighty the word of Christ is, that it has always the ability to effect what it proclaims. Thus has it ever been with our Savior: for when God said, â€œLet there be light,â€ immediately there was light, brought into being through the mighty person of Christ, â€œby whom were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers...â€ (Colossians 1:16). How mighty was the word of Christ in creation, that it accomplished what it spoke! But mightier yet is his word in redemption: for redemption is a far greater thing than creation. It is glorious, by a mere word, to create all things from nothing; but it is more glorious yet, by a mere word, to re-create that which is evil and in bondage into that which is free and righteous. This great power belongs to Christ and Christ alone, who, by the word of his mouth, frees the captive and forgives the sinner; surely, â€œif the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeedâ€ (John 8:36). To what great power the word of Christ possesses, how it conquers demons and frees their captives, we will now turn our attention in more detail.
First, we may immediately discern, in this account, that the word of Christ is astonishing by virtue of its absolute authority. He was not as one of the scribes, who simply interpreted the authoritative word of another, and that with much obscurity and confusion. No, he spoke simply, clearly, with remarkable understanding and wisdom. And he did not derive his authority from another source, as did the teachers of the law. He was his own source of knowledge and authority. He was not simply the medium through which came the infallible word of God, as the Pharisees, and even Moses himself (see Galatians 3:19). On the contrary, he was in himself the sole spring and source of wisdom. His word could carry no greater authority than that it came from him. His word was as immutable and unchangeable as the law and the prophets, which indeed comprised the very word of God; and hence his authority did not rest on his agreement with the sacred scriptures, but was altogether equal with them as the foundation for all truth. This the people saw, and they marveled greatly (Mark 1:22).
The second astonishing thing that we encounter in this passage, concerning the word of Christ, is its power over the forces of Satan. When the demons, which held captive a man who was in the audience of Jesus, cried out at his teaching, it was not with a ferocious cry of battle and rebellion. Ah no, it was the trembling whimper of shame, the acknowledgment of subjection and defeat. They dared not to oppose themselves, but rather fearfully besought him to â€œleave them alone,â€ even recognizing in the clearest of terms that he was indeed the â€œHoly One of God,â€ the long-prophesied Messiah and Savior of the world. And well might the demons tremble indeed, when they find themselves face to face with the Redeemer. For no sooner had he encountered them than, with the word of his mouth, he silenced them and sent them forth from their abode in this son of Adam. And so will it ever be, until the consummation of the ages, when Christ finally and irrevocably sends all of his enemies to â€œthe everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angelsâ€ (Matthew 25:41). How glorious is our Savior, before whom no foe can stand, who will indeed slay all of his enemies with the sword of his mouth (see Revelation 19:21)! Thus the word of Christ is the foundation of truth, with all power to conquer his enemies. And we have one last point yet to make, which is,
The word of Christ is powerful to save the most hopeless of sinners. Consider this man, cut off from the presence of God by his own sinfulness, held captive by the power of the devil, utterly unable to be liberated from his bondage to sin and darkness. No human power could have freed him who was (as are all of us) unable â€œto come to Jesus, except the Father draw himâ€ (John 6:44). He was twofold the son of hopelessness and despair; for he was bound by his own sin, and held fast by the father of sin: no word of mere man could ever have sufficed to deliver him. But how different is the word of Jesus our Savior! For no sooner had he spoken, than his word shed abroad in this helpless manâ€™s heart â€œthe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christâ€ (II Corinthians 4:6), and so he was gloriously liberated from Satan. How comforting is this realization that, not only is the word of Christ powerful to conquer all who are enemies of him and his elect; but much more, it is powerful to heal and deliver those who belong to him. He is almighty to judge and avenge; but so is he almighty to bind up and heal. Oh how sweet it is to be loved by Jesus, in whom is all authority both to deliver us from our enemies, and also to â€œkeep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joyâ€ (Jude 24). So also are we instructed in the parallel account of Luke 4:35 that Christ, when he had sent the demons out of the man, did not at all permit them to hurt him. Thus we conclude our third and final point.
But before we finish, let us note the mighty effects of this great and glorious triumph of Christ, whose authoritative word both overcame his enemies and delivered the sinner whom he had chosen from among men. The result of this first great encounter with a demonic power was that it mightily demonstrated that the power of Christ is supreme indeed. The reaction of the demons here met with would prove to be the reaction of all those demons who were yet to meet Christ â€“ even those who by virtue of their strength had been able to resist the commands of the disciples (see Matthew 17:15-21). The power of Christâ€™s word was herewith vindicated, and will never again be in question, until he has accomplished all things. The second effect that we read of is the astonishment of the crowds, as the fame of Christ spread throughout the land â€“ and this is but the first taste of what will some day be a fully consummated reality, when every creature under heaven shall bow in amazement before the Savior (see Philippians 2:9-11)! At this time, all who heard of the mighty acts of Jesus were constrained to acknowledge his surpassing greatness; and thus will it be to an eminent degree, when he comes again in all his glory, to â€œbe revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that dayâ€ (II Thessalonians 1:7-10). Every created being will one day stand in awe before Christ: those who oppose him, with great dread and despair; and those who love him, with great admiration and rejoicing. God grant that we may be among the latter on that blessed day! Oh, let us be as the demon-possessed sinner who was saved by the grace of Christ, and not as that enemy whom he destroyed with fearful power! And thus may it be indeed with all who call upon the â€œonly name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be savedâ€ (Acts 4:12); which is the beautiful name of the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord!