Power Encounter | Mark 1:21-28 Lesson [Slideshow+]

Mark Commentary


After defending Himself against Satan’s temptations/tests in the wilderness (Mk 1:12-13), Jesus now goes on the offensive.1

Jesus – the King — is destroying Satan’s kingdom, clearing the way for the kingdom of God that He proclaims (cf. Mk 1:14-15)2 – which will restore all creation3 from sin and death.

As with the call of His first disciples (Mk 1:16-20), in this episode, Jesus’ authority is made manifest.4 First with words (Mk 1:16-20), then with works (Mk 1:21-28).5

The One who calls with authority (Mk 1:16-20) also teaches6 and drives out demons with authority (Mk 1:21-28).

This exorcism in the synagogue in Capernaum is a power encounter.7

Verse-by-Verse Commentary

Marcan Miracles

Many Miracles

Most of Jesus’ miracles in Mark occur in the first half8 and make up almost half of the narrative (47%).9

Though the shortest of the gospels, Mark devotes more relative space to miracles than any other gospel.10

Depending on how one counts and classifies, Jesus’ performs 13,11 1712 or 18+ miracles in Mark13

Nine accounts record various miracles of healing (Mk 1:29–31, 40–45; 2:1–12; 3:1–6; 5:21–43 (two); Mk 7:31–37; 8:22–26; 10:46–52).14 Five others involve miracles of nature (Mk 4:35-41, 6:35-44, 45-52, 8:1-9, 11:12-14, 20-25)15

Finally, four miracle accounts record individual exorcisms (Mk 1:23-27; 5:1-20, 7:24-30, 9:14-29)16

Moreover, Christ’s exorcisms are also often mentioned in several summary statements (Mk 1:32-34, 39, 3:11, 22-30, 6:7).17 His disciples (Mk 6:13) and others (Mk 9:38) also drive out demons.18

Miracles of healing is a broad category that includes healing/restoring withered hands (Mk 3:1-6), the sick (Mk 1:29-31, 5:25-34), the leprous (Mk 1:40-45), the deaf and mute (Mk 7:31-37), the blind (Mk 8:22-26, 10:46-52), the paralyzed (Mk 2:1-12), and even the dead (Mk 5:21-24, 35-43).

Miracles of nature is also a broad category that includes not only walking on water (Mk 6:45-52) and calming a storm (Mk 4:35-41), but also feeding four (Mk 8:1-9) and five thousand people (Mk 6:35-44), and cursing a fig tree (Mk 11:12-14, 20-25).

I say that to say — at least if one does not categorize Christ’s miracles so broadly — exorcism is actually the most popular Marcan miracle.19

Refutable Evidence

Miracles create openness to faith, but not necessarily faith itself.20 For one can believe that Jesus can perform miracles and yet not believe in Jesus as the Son of God.21

As we’ve said, there is a difference between amazement at the miracles and faith in the Miracle Worker.

In Mark, Jesus often does not seek people out to heal them, but performs miracles in response to (faithful) requests.22 Jesus usually heals people who have (at least some) faith in Him already (cf. Mk 9:24).23

Miracles can increase the faith of those who already have it.24 Those without it can see a miracle and still try to kill Him (cf. Mk 3:5-6).

Witnessing a miracle is no guarantee that the witness will become a faithful witness for Christ.

Signs, Not the Center

“Miracles are not the main thrust of Jesus’ ministry”.25 He does so “sparingly and selectively”.26

Jesus’ healings are another form of His spiritual battle against the powers of death27 – and manifestations of the reign of God.28

Exorcisms are signs of the breaking down of the reign of Satan; miracles are signs of the inbreaking reign of God.29

By recounting this miracle first, Mark emphasizes that Jesus has come primarily for spiritual war.30

Spiritual Battle

The New Testament actually has much less about demons than other literature from this time.31

Nonetheless, it tells us that the beginning of the reign of God is the beginning of the end of the reign of Satan.32 Jesus’ exorcisms are assaults by the Stronger One on the devil’s kingdom.33(cf. Mk 3:27;34 Mk 1:7).35

This is a cosmic battle, not a struggle of mere mortal authorities.36

The New Testament teaches that Jesus triumphs over Satan and the demonic powers on the cross37 (cf. Col 2:15. see this footnote for a more on spiritual warfare in Scripture–>).38and that the indwelling Holy Spirit protects God’s people.39

We are not in a spiritual battle alone.40 and the ultimate outcome is never in doubt.41 The decisive victory has already been won (Eph 1:19-23).

Two Extremes

Some people attribute everything (evil deeds, suffering, disease, etc.) to demons.42

This “the devil made me do it” theology can lead to the reduction of human accountability.43 Humans are not absolved of guilt just because we are influenced by evil spiritual beings44 (cf. Eph 2:1-3, esp. Eph 2:3b).

Some people attribute nothing to demons (or any spiritual forces),45 and live as practical atheists.46

For example, Thomas Jefferson apparently removed all of the supernatural from Scripture in his edition of the Bible. The Jefferson Bible was actually published after His death.48

Many, influenced by the rationalism of the 18th century “Enlightenment,” believe that only that which can be empirically verified scientifically is true.49 Ironically, this view cannot be empirically verified!

Natural science is about studying natural phenomena — not spiritual phenomena.

Just because demons don’t show up on human X-rays does not mean they are not real.50 A microphone can’t record video. It is not equipped to do so.51

Do we have so much faith in the technology of human beings that we think it equipped to detect spiritual beings? Do we have so much faith in our human senses that we think them equipped to sense spiritual reality?

As it’s been said, “the greatest achievement of the powers of evil would be to persuade us that they do not exist.”52

Now imagine if someone did not believe in burglars. Would they secure their house? Disbelieving could leave one more vulnerable.

Let’s not be too preoccupied with the demonic — and risk becoming a little more demonic.53 Let’s be focused on Christ who defeats the demonic — and become a lot more Christ-like.54

Let’s neither overemphasize nor underemphasize evil spiritual forces.

Main Points

  • Jesus’ authority is greater than that of the scribes; His authority is divine not derivative.
  • When Jesus gives the order, demons obey.55 Satan’s power is no match.56
  • This prompts the all-important question: Who is this Jesus?57 People are amazed at His authority.58 But amazement does not = faith!
  • Jesus’ authority as the Messiah (Christ) and Son of God is revealed to Marks’ readers from the outset (Mk 1:1), recognized by John the Baptist as the fulfillment of Scriptures (Mk 1:2-8), recognized by God Himself after His baptism (Mk 1:9-11),59 and demonstrated by withstanding Satan in the wilderness (Mk 1:12-13).
  • Jesus proclaims the Good News of the inbreaking kingdom of God – with authority (Mk 1:14-15)60 and demonstrates His authority by summoning His first disciples (Mk 1:16-20).61
  • Jesus then demonstrates His authority in this power encounter with the powers of Satan,62 manifesting the inbreaking kingdom of God63 – which triumphs over demonic forces and restores humanity.64
  • His teaching is not merely about principles, but the power of the King.65 We still have access to His powerful teaching.66
  • For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12, NIV).67 Put on the Full Armor of God (Eph 6:10-20)!


To download a .PDF version of this slideshow, please click –> Mark 1:21-28 Bible Study | Power Encounter

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.


  1. Evans, 94
  2. Evans, 94
  3. Bock, 414
  4. Kernaghan, 45; Witherington, 87
  5. Brooks, 51; cf. Stein, 83
  6. Garland, 70
  7. France, 99
  8. Bock, 413
  9. Witherington, 92 cf. Bock, 413
  10. Brooks, 51
  11. Bock, 413
  12. Brooks, 51
  13. cf. Stein, 83. Many miracles are also mentioned in summary statements.
  14. Stein, 83
  15. Stein, 83
  16. France, 100 cf. Witherington, 92; Bock, 413; Stein, 83
  17. Stein, 83
  18. Stein, 83
  19. cf. Bock, 413; Witherington, 92
  20. Witherington, 92
  21. Witherington, 92
  22. Witherington, 92
  23. Cole, 115
  24. Witherington, 92 cf. Brooks, 51
  25. Witherington, 92
  26. Cole, 115
  27. English, 56; Witherington, 95; Garland, 71
  28. Stein, 83
  29. Brooks, 51
  30. Witherington, 90; Lane, 75; Strauss, 94; cf. Edwards, 56; Stein, 85
  31. Garland, 80; English, 55
  32. Garland, 80
  33. Garland, 81
  34. Guelich, 59; cf. Edwards, 57
  35. Stein, 88; cf. Strauss, 88
  36. Strauss, 94
  37. English, 56
  38. Strauss, 96; Garland, 80. As Strauss, writes:

    Mark’s perspective on spiritual warfare is in line with the biblical worldview. In the OT, Yahweh exercises supreme authority over all powers, whether physical or spiritual. He created them, and they must do his bidding. The most powerful kings of the earth are mere pawns in his hands…Though spiritual forces may act in opposition to God, they are ultimately subject to his authority…

    The Lord limits Satan’s power over Job (1:12; 2:6) and sends a malevolent spirit to torment Saul (1 Sam 16:14–16). Leviathan and Rahab, the awesome creatures of the deep (Job 3:8–9; 41:12–34), are playthings of God that must do his bidding (Pss 74:14; 104:26). All such forces of chaos will be crushed in the end (Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps 89:9–10; Isa 27:1; 51:9)…

    In the NT the victory of God over all spiritual forces is achieved through the inbreaking power of the kingdom and the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Jesus is the Stronger One, who through his exorcisms and healings is binding Satan and plundering his house (Mark 3:26–27). According to Paul, Jesus’ death and resurrection disarmed the spiritual powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them (Col 2:15). In the Apocalypse, John affirms that the victory of the Lamb who was slain results in the defeat and ultimate destruction of Satan, the great serpent of old (Rev 7:12; 12:9; 20:2, 10; cf. Rom 16:20).(Strauss, 94-95)

  39. Garland, 80
  40. Garland, 80
  41. Strauss, 94
  42. English, 56; Garland, 79; Strauss, 96
  43. English, 56; Strauss, 96; cf. Witherington, 95
  44. Witherington, 95
  45. English, 56; Garland, 79; Strauss, 96
  46. Strauss, 96
  47. “See The Jefferson Bible (ed. O. I. A. Roche; New York: Potter, 1964).”47Strauss, 95 FN
  48. cf. Strauss, 95
  49. cf. Garland, 79
  50. Illustration modified from Dinesh D’Souza’s summary of Kant’s argument in What’s So Great About Christianity (2007), Regnery Publishing, Kindle Edition, 172.
  51. English, 56 cf. Witherington, 95
  52. Garland, 81
  53. Twelftree argues that the contemporary church “would do well to follow the example of the early Church—not to ignore the demonic, but to focus attention on Jesus the healer who defeats the demonic.” He cites the warning of Karl Barth: the theologian … must not linger or become too deeply engrossed [in the demonic, as] … there is the imminent danger that in so doing we ourselves might become just a little or more than a little demonic. (Garland, 81)

  54. Evans, 96
  55. Strauss, 94
  56. France, 106
  57. Stein, 90
  58. cf. Evans, 96
  59. Evans, 96
  60. Evans, 96
  61. Evans, 96
  62. Garland, 81
  63. Edwards, 58
  64. cf. Garland, 81; Edwards, 56
  65. Garland, 81
  66. Strauss, 94
About @DannyScottonJr 241 Articles
Imperfect Servant ✝📖⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist