Mark 1:24 Commentary | What’s It To You, Jesus?

Mark Commentary

Text & Translation

24 λέγων, Τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς;c οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ.1

saying, “What do You have to with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God! (Mk 1:24, AT)

What’s It To Ya, Jesus?

The man possessed by an unclean spirit (i.e., a demon) interrupts Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum with this outburst.

A literal translation of the Greek text is: “What to us and to you?”2 This is an expression which, in Hebrew, means “Why are You interfering with us?” (cf. Mk 5:7; Mt 8:29, 27:19; Lk 8:28; Jn 2:4; cf. LXX Judg 11:12, 2 Sam 16:10, 19:23; 1 Ki 17:18;3 cf. 2 Ki 3:13; 2 Ch. 35:21; Is 3:15; 22:1; Jer 2:18; Hos 14:9)4

The demon is essentially saying, “Get out of my face!” or “Mind your own business!”5

Us could refer to multiple demons possessing the man.6 However, the demon is likely just speaking for all unclean spirits.7

Jesus is a threat not just to this unclean spirit, but to all demonic powers.

In Jesus’ day, names would be invoked to subdue spiritual powers.8 In various rituals, spells, and encantations, one would need to know the name of the spirit that one was trying to manipulate.9

Thus, the demon may be trying to subdue Jesus by invoking His name.10

That being said, the demon may just be acknowledging His authority and surrendering.11

In any case, if the conflict between the two sides was not clear enough during the temptation of Jesus (Mk 1:12-13), here Mark makes it obvious that Jesus is engaging in “spiritual combat”.12

The inbreaking kingdom of God is “invading” the kingdom of Satan.13

Who Is Jesus?

In Mark, people who seek healing from Jesus give Him titles such as “teacher” (Mk 9:17), “Son of David” (Mk 10:47-48), “rabbi” (Mk 10:51), or “lord” (meaning “good sir”; Mk 7:28).14

In stark contrast, demons give Him appropriate titles for the divine Son of God.15 For example:

Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” (Mk 3:11, NIV)16

He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mk 5:7-8, NIV)17

The demon knows both “Jesus’ earthly roots and his heavenly status”18 — He’s a small-town guy from Nazareth (Mk 1:9), and the Son of God from heaven (cf. Jn 3:13).

On the other hand, as we’ve said, in Mark we often see the crowds (Mk 2:12, 6:2-3, 7:37)19 and the disciples (Mk 4:41, 6:49-52, 8:17-21, 32-33)20 wondering about and struggling with who Jesus is.21

In chapter 6, after He teaches in the Nazareth synagogue, people are amazed and begin to ask:

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mk 6:2b-3, NIV)22

And, after Jesus calms the storm, His disciples wonder:

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mk 4:41b, NIV)23

Many people get Jesus’ identity plain wrong (Mk 3:20-22 esp Mk 3:22, 6:14-16, 8:27-8)24 (as they still do today!). Even after Peter’s great confession, it is clear that he does not fully understand (Mk 8:28-33).25

As we have mentioned, no human (cf. Mk 1:11;26 Mk 9:7) truly gets it until His crucifixion (Mk 15:39).27

Now in this cultural context, people acknowledged that demons had knowledge that was supernatural.28 It would not be surprising that the unclean spirits recognize Jesus’ divine identity.

The irony is that demons get it, but people don’t.29

Holy One of God

Holy One of God could be a messianic title (cf. Lk 4:34; Jn 6:69).30 Some see support for this view in Luke:

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35, NIV)31

And in John:

We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:69, NIV)32

Though this could be messianic (cf. Ac 3:14, 4:27;33 Ac 2:27, 13:35),34 Aaron (Ps 105:16 LXX | Eng: Ps 106:16, NRSV),35 Elisha (LXX 2 Ki 4:9),36 and Samson (LXX B Judg 16:17)37 are also called holy (ἅγιος | hagios).38

Also, though some doubt it…

“There may be an added correlation between Samson’s ‘Nazarite’ vow and the reference to Jesus from “Nazareth,” both of which stem from the same Hebrew root”.39

That being said, “Holy One” was usually a title for God40 (cf. Job 6:10, Ps 22:3, Prov 9:10, Is 40:25) as was “Holy One of Israel” (occurs 32 times in the Old Testament) (cf. Ps 71:22, Is 1:4).41

For example, Psalm 22, which Jesus quotes from the cross, begins:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises. (Ps 22:1-3, NIV)42

Later in the Psalter, Psalm 71 reads:

22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel (Ps 71:22, NIV)43

In Proverbs, in an echo of the book’s motto (Pr 1:7), Proverbs 9:10 says:

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Pr 9:10, NIV)44

Holy One of God could also mean something like “God’s right-hand agent”.45

In any case, Jesus is recognized as a unique, individual with divine authority46 and a special relationship with God.47

The unclean spirit recognizes the Holy One of God.48. And, Jesus  — Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:8) — will banish this unclean spirit.49

Conclusion

The demon who possesses the man in the synagogue at Capernaum recognizes Jesus’ divine credentials and His readiness for spiritual battle. In Mark, many people will struggle with Jesus’ identity — as they still do today! But even the demons know that Jesus is the Holy One, the Son of God.

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

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:24.
  2. UBS, 49; Strauss, 92
  3. UBS, 49; cf. Bock, 412; Witherington, 90
  4. Lane, 73 (FN); cf. Brooks, 50; Guelich, 56; France, 103; Edwards, 57; Stein, 87; Schnabel, 58; Strauss, 92
  5. Strauss, 92
  6. France, 103; Edwards, 57; cf. UBS, 49
  7. UBS, 49; Witherington, 90; Guelich, 56; France, 103; Edwards, 57; Stein, 88; Schnabel, 58; Strauss, 92
  8. Keener, 131; Bock, 413; Lane, 74; Garland, 71; France, 103; Evans, 95; Strauss, 92
  9. Evans, 95; Strauss, 92
  10. Keener, 131; Evans, 95; Bock, 413; Witherington, 90; Lane, 74; Brooks, 50; Garland, 71; Guelich, 57; Edwards, 57; Schnabel, 58; Strauss, 92; contra Stein, 88
  11. Evans, 95; Garland, 71; Guelich, 57; Stein, 88; Strauss, 92
  12. Bock, 413; cf. English, 55; Witherington, 90; Garland, 70; Edwards, 57
  13. Strauss, 92. (Though it is surprising that the demon is in a synagogue on the Sabbath! (Witherington, 90-91)
  14. Witherington, 91; cf. Lane, 74
  15. Lane, 74
  16. Hurtado, 27; Witherington, 91; Lane, 74; Guelich, 58; France, 104; Stein, 88; Strauss, 92
  17. Hurtado, 27; Witherington, 91; Lane, 74; Guelich, 58; France, 104; Stein, 88; Strauss, 92
  18. English, 55; cf. Garland, 71
  19. Hurtado, 28
  20. Hurtado, 28
  21. Hurtado, 28
  22. Hurtado, 28
  23. Hurtado, 28
  24. Hurtado, 28
  25. Hurtado, 28
  26. Edwards, 57
  27. Brooks, 50; cf. Hurtado, 28
  28. Keener, 131
  29. Keener, 131; English, 56; Garland, 70; Stein, 88
  30. UBS, 50; but little evidence, Brooks, 50; contra Evans, 96
  31. Evans, 96; France, 104; cf. Lk 4:41; Stein, 88
  32. Evans, 96; Witherington, 91; Guelich, 57; France, 104
  33. Evans, 96; France, 104
  34. Strauss, 92)
  35. Evans, 96; Bock, 413; France, 104; Strauss, 92
  36. Evans, 96; Bock, 413; France, 104; Strauss, 92
  37. Evans, 96; Edwards, 57
  38. Guelich, 57.

    “In LXX A Judg. 13:5, 7, and 16:17, however, the word for holy is naziraios. which transliterates the underlying Hebrew nazîr. The epithet may originally have been a play on words in Hebrew: ‘You are Jesus the Nazarene [nazîr] … the holy one [nazîr].’ (Evans, 96)

  39. Edwards, 58.

    “The radicals behind Nazareth (נצר, nṣr) and “holy one” (נזיר, nzyr) lend themselves to such a wordplay. But even the LXX translates נזיר, nāzîr, in two ways (ναζιραῖον Θεοῦ, Judg 13:7…”(Guelich, 57)

    “Attempts to see this title as arising from a play on the Semitic words for Nazareth (nṣrt) and “holy one” (nzyr) would have been meaningless for Mark’s Greek audience (contra Guelich 1989: 57).” (Stein, 88-89)

  40. Keener, 131; Brooks, 50
  41. Strauss, 92
  42. Strauss, 92
  43. Strauss, 92
  44. Strauss, 92
  45. Keener, 131
  46. Witherington, 91
  47. Brooks, 50; Guelich, 57; France, 104
  48. Bock, 413; Witherington, 90; Lane, 73; Garland, 71; Guelich, 57; France, 104
  49. Garland, 80; France, 104
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