“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” Mark 1.21-28
Have you ever looked through a kaleidoscope? You slowly turn it and various shapes and colors fill your view. But in order for you to see anything, you must have a light source behind it—otherwise it’s all just dark.
In the same way, Jesus comes to a synagogue in Capernaum and begins to teach the people. His teaching brings light—and suddenly for everyone present the experience becomes a living kaleidoscope. New understandings and shades of meaning fill their minds, causing two kinds of uproar.
A man who is apparently possessed causes a disturbance. Through him the demon cries out in protest at the presence of Jesus who silences it and casts it out. The man is set free—and then just as suddenly as he appeared on the pages of Scripture he seems to forever disappear…
Next, we see the general crowd being amazed at the production that is unfolding before their eyes. They’re amazed at the exorcism, but notice the height of their attention is given to Jesus’ authoritative teachings. In this episode we are not given the content of what Jesus said, but it must’ve been exemplary and game-changing.
And that brings us to the key we need to unlock and apply this episode in the Gospel of Mark to our lives today. In this story, Jesus is the X-Factor. He is the unpredictable Game-Changer. Basically, what he does is spectacular and amazing—and unexpected.
Does this mean that everything he will do in your life will be spectacular and amazing? Yes and no…
“Yes” in the sense that in Christ you (like the man in the story) are now set free from the dark powers that saturate our world. Negativity and toxic thinking no longer need to hold you captive. Disappointment and despair no longer can hold you hostage. Light has come to your darkness—even if at first it seems so bright that your eyes must squint a bit.
And “yes” in the sense that Jesus’ teaching continues in each of our lives—and that is nothing short of amazing. His teaching is not listed here because it continues even to this very moment. By the Holy Spirit, he is guiding every person who has surrendered to follow him no matter what the cost. This is truly amazing—something fresh and new for every day!
“No” in the sense that the man who was set free is apparently never heard from again—and we can only assume goes on his way, back to making a living and paying bills. He has been set free—and in the Gospel of Mark one is set free for service. Service to God sometimes is spectacular and crowd-gathering. But more often than not, it is simple and mundane—doing everyday things as best as you can trusting that God is pleased with your dedication and faithfulness.
But think about that man for a second. Perhaps he went back to a mundane or “normal” life. Let’s say for a moment that he was a farmer. He goes back to toiling in the hot son, planting, waiting, and finally harvesting. On the surface nothing has changed. But like the seed in the ground, everything has changed.
Now when he works, he does so out of thankfulness and joy. He is forever thankful to Jesus for setting him free. Now he can successfully work for the welfare of his family and community. And he is laboring out of joy—knowing that he is contributing to the welfare of mankind by his work.
The amazing factor we must keep in mind is really simple: sometimes how we define “amazing” is not how God does…
It might be amazing to be a great Bible teacher who wows the crowds with your teaching and erudition in Scripture. But it could be more amazing that you are working out of thankfulness and joy every day, even in the “little things” that no one else seems to notice.
But the point is this: God does take notice. And just as we are the unseen spectator in this Gospel of Mark, so God is the Unseen Spectator in our lives. He’s watching and reading every page—what will you write today in the story of your life?
1. If you were in the synagogue watching this story unfold, how would you have walked home differently—as a different person?
2. In what ways do you need God to do “amazing” things in your life?
3. In what ways do you need to redefine the word “amazing” in your life?